By MARLON SCOTT, Correspondent
CLARKSVILLE -- Overcoming five turnovers and surviving four overtime periods, Mt. Juliet mustered just enough to defeat Kenwood 42-35 Friday night — remaining undefeated in 6, 4A competition at 4-0.
"It was a battle," Bears coach Roger Perry said. "We played in spurts. I think we played well at times. We continually made mistakes and Kenwood capitalized on those. We were just blessed to come out with a victory here at the end."
Three first half turnovers put Mt. Juliet behind 7-0 at halftime.
Their opening drive ended abruptly when Reed Gurchiek’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Kenwood’s David Hale.
The Bear defense kept the Knights from the end zone in the first quarter, but a fumble by Brady Earnhardt recovered by the Knights set up the first touchdown of the game.
Kenwood running back Marquette Gray dashed 26 yards for a touchdown with eight minutes left before halftime.
Earnhardt made up some ground when he plowed through several Knights for a 25 yard gain at the 3:30 mark. But another interception, this time by Kenwood’s Antono Spates, ended the Bears opportunity to score before halftime.
Gurchiek turned his game around in the second half.
At the 3:50 mark in the third quarter, he completed a 44 yard pass to Vaughn Cornelia that put the Bears in Knights territory.
In the same drive, Gurchiek sprinted eight yards to convert a fourth down. Gurchiek continued to scramble and set up a first and ten on the Knights ten yard line. Danny Valensic completed the drive with a ten-yard dash to the end zone.
The momentum continued in the Bears favor when Kenwood’s Rick Johnson fumbled the ball with 9:21 left in the game.
The Bears recovered and it only took two plays to take advantage of the opportunity. Brady Earnhardt went through the middle of the defense and emerged untouched to run 40 yards for a touchdown.
It looked like the game was over when Kenwood failed to convert a fourth down with 2:30 left in the game.
However, as the Bears tried to run out the clock by running the ball, Mt. Juliet fumbled and the Knights recovered at midfield.
Two plays later, Triston Mcafee launched a 50 yard bomb to Jeremiah Rutledge in the end zone.
Tied 14-14, the Knights caught another break when the Bears committed their fifth turnover of the game.
They recovered a fumble by Cornelia and took over at the Bears 38 yard line. But the Knights couldn’t score and the game progressed to overtime.
In overtime, the Knights relied on Gray and he didn’t let them down. For three straight overtime possessions, Gray found the end zone and the extra points were good.
Gurchiek kept the game extended for the Bears. He completed two passes to Vaughn for overtime scores, and dove for the end zone twice himself. The last score proved to be enough.
Too far from the end zone for a run, the Knights were forced to try and pass for another tie and failed.
Mt. Juliet improved to 4-3 on the season, heading into an Oct. 17 game in Shackle Island against Region 6, 4A rival Beech High School.
Kenwood fell to 1-6 overall / 1-3 in the region.