SAM COWAN – Sports Writer
The Whitwell Tigers beat the Jo Red Devils 35-8 at home Friday for their third win of the season.
The Tigers scored the first 20 points of the game to establish control early and shut out the Red Devils after the halftime break to pick up their third straight victory to start the year.
Whitwell head football coach Rocky Stephenson said that his team showed improvement from a close victory over Greenback the week before.
“We played a little bit better than we did the previous week. We wanted to work on minimizing our mistakes,” he said. “I felt like some of our players did a better job of hanging onto the ball and not making as many mental errors.”
The Tigers got their first points of the day with about seven minutes left in the opening period as Brandon Easterly scored on a four-yard run to give Whitwell an early 6-0 advantage.
Bennett McDougal would add to the lead with 9:54 remaining in the first half as he scored on a short rushing touchdown to make it a 12-0 game.
The Tigers scored one more time in the first half with Easterly finding the end zone on a six-yard run and Ryan Scott adding a two-point conversion to put the deficit at an even 20 points with 2:56 remaining in the half.
The Red Devils were able to respond before halftime as they moved down the field and scored what would be their only touchdown of the contest with 32 seconds left in the second quarter to put the score at 20-8.
The Tigers led 20-8 at halftime.
The Tigers wasted little time in boosting their lead back up in the third quarter as Easterly broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run about two minutes into the second half. Adam McDougal scored on the ensuing two-point conversion to push their advantage to 28-8.
The Tigers quickly got the ball back and produced another long touchdown run with Wyatt Davis taking the ball into the end zone from 43 yards out to make it a 35-8 game with 8:19 to play in the third quarter.
Neither team would score for the remaining 20 minutes of game time as the Tigers easily finished off the 27-point victory.
Easterly carried the ball five times for 86 yards in the contest. Davis followed closely behind with 83 rushing yards on seven carries.
Bennett McDougal completed three passes for 33 yards and rushed for 32 yards on nine carries.
Ryan Scott had 20 rushing yards on two carries and 12 receiving yards on one catch.
Tregon Kilgore racked up 21 rushing yards on six carries, and Boe Cannon carried the ball seven times for 18 yards.
Rounding out the rushers for the Tigers were Kannan Smith with nine yards and Theron Mordecai and Braedon Bull with eight yards each.
Garrett Miller and Adam McDougal caught one pass each for 15 yards and six yards, respectively.
Whitwell’s defense was all over the Red Devils throughout the game as the Tigers forced four total turnovers in the contest. Landon Smith picked off three Jo Byrns passes for the day while Kannan Smith forced a fumble which was recovered by Kirk Antal.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 3-0 on the season.
They will next play Friday at home against Lookout Valley High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Stephenson said that the wins his team has picked up so far should serve the Tigers well as they prepare to play regional games each of the next three weeks.
“I feel like our confidence is building as we go along. Those were some important wins,” he said, referring to the games his team has played so far before later discussing the work the Tigers still need to be prepared for. “We still need to try to get better each week and build momentum going into these region games.”