KINGSPORT — Spectators who like hard-hitting defense must have loved this epic struggle.
No. 7-ranked Bearden defeated Dobyns-Bennett for the first time in history Friday night, winning 8-7 in overtime.
The Indians had beaten Bearden in 14 previous outings.
Slam-bang defense was the order of the evening, with neither Big East Conference team consistently being able to move the football.
Regulation ended in a 0-0 tie, and D-B (1-2, 0-1) scored first in overtime on a 14-yard pass from Bart Ring to Lane Dukart. Craig Mitcham kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Bearden (3-0, 1-0) bounced back with a touchdown. Two running plays and a pass put the Bulldogs in a do-or-die situation on fourth down at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Dawson Halliday ran around right end for the score.
The unexpected then happened on the conversion attempt. Brandon Reagan lined up to kick for a tie. Center Wes Moore gave Halliday, the holder, a low snap. Halliday picked the ball out of the dirt, rose to his feet and sprinted around right end for two points to win the game.
That touched off a wild celebration at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
“I was considering all the possibilities before it happened,’’ Halliday said. “You have to think something like that can happen and I guess I was wishing it would. I knew if the snap wasn’t just right I was going to take off running. But our defense won this game.’’
Brad Taylor, who was named head coach when Bill Wilson died of a heart attack before the season started, said of Halliday: “Luckily, we’ve got a heck of a playmaker. You kind of like to put the ball in his hands. He’s special.’’
Bearden was picked to win the Big East, which D-B has dominated for years.
“That should never have been,’’ D-B defensive end Zack Fleming said. “We’re supposed to win it every year. We’re not through yet.’’
Both offenses stayed bottled up. The wall-to-wall defense was such that Bearden rushed for only 69 yards and D-B got just 59 on the ground.
“People were everywhere around me,’’ D-B halfback Robert Hogg said. “It was like a jungle out there.’’
Torey Works, Bearden’s top runner, left the game banged up with 6:32 remaining.
D-B’s Justin Sylvester, Hogg and Reed King each picked off a pass to prevent Bearden from moving the ball.
“It was a great defensive game,’’ Indians coach Graham Clark said. “If we’d played offense in the first half — when we had field position — like we did in the second, we would have scored some points. We didn’t get it done. We should have scored earlier.
“I don’t think we’ll see a better team than Bearden the rest of the year. (The Bulldogs) were more physical than William Blount.’’
The only true scoring opportunities before overtime were missed field goals by D-B’s Mitcham (33-yarder, 11:47 left in fourth quarter) and Bearden’s Reagan (42-yarder, 2.1 seconds to go in same quarter).
D-B was forced to punt — stopping a fourth-quarter drive — when an inadvertent flag erased a 12-yard keeper by Ring.
What occurred in overtime sparked pandemonium on Bearden’s side of the field.
“It’s for Coach Wilson!’’ the players chanted.
“We definitely had somebody watching over us tonight,” Taylor said. “We’re trying to finish a movie that (Wilson) started.
Halliday said his TD run was set up to be a pass play.
“I didn’t intend to pass,” the Bearden QB said. “My adrenaline was going and I had it in my head I was going to run with the ball.’’
His two-point conversion put 6,000 fans in shock.
“We cover that situation in practice more than anything else on earth,’’ Clark said.
Sylvester, Dukart, King and Austin Morrison sealed off the airways and linebackers Clayton Kilgore, Lane Taylor and Jason Michael gave Bearden ball carriers no place to run in regulation.
“Both teams played hard,’’ Kilgore said. “We got some tough breaks near the end. Luck wasn’t with us tonight. But we have plenty of fight left in us. It’s back to the drawing board to get ready for Oak Ridge.’’
Oak Ridge, the Tribe’s opponent next Friday, defeated Bradley Central 53-26.