Gate City's Tihlee Anderson runs past a Lebanon defender at Legion Field Saturday. Photo by Erica Yoon.
GATE CITY — The autumn leaves around Gate City created a picturesque view but the dominant colors at Legion Stadium Saturday were blue and white.
Gate City (8-3) turned the tables on Lebanon (8-3) in the Region D, Division 2 semifinals, winning 31-22 on the strength of a relentless, gang-tackling defense.
The Blue Devils will play Powell Valley for the regional title as part of a doubleheader next Saturday at Virginia-Wise.
The Blue Devils had lost to Lebanon 33-13 in early September as Skyler Musick made it a track meet..
Gate City’s revenge theme was: “Stop the Musick!’’
Nick Colobro’s team did exactly that. The Big Blue limited the 185-pound tailback to 53 yards on 12 carries.
“They stopped him,’’ Lebanon coach John Adams said. “They took him out of the game.’’
There was no shortage of hard licks.
“This was the best defensive game we’ve played all year,’’ Gate City tailback Tyler Parks said. “We showed Musick how Gate City football is played. We shut him down.’’
Lebanon had Parks in its crosshairs. He gained 73 yards on 16 carries. However, it was Parks’ heads-up play that ignited an unstoppable momentum.
After quarterback Tarrell Lee’s 24-yard pass to Jerome Cobb opened a 7-0 lead for the Pioneers, Parks scooped up a fumble and ran 34 yards to tie the score.
“I didn’t know whether to jump on the ball or pick it up and run,’’ Parks said. “I knew it was a big game, so I told myself, ‘I’m going for it.’ Owen Franklin hit Musick to cause the fumble, and I just happened to be there at the right time to get it.’’
Payton Jenkins raced 63 yards for Gate City’s go-ahead touchdown. “Parks threw a great block near the corner and Eric Hutchins kicked the end out,’’ Jenkins said. “I think everybody was on the ground behind me.’’
Quarterback Tihlee Anderson added a 9-yard TD run.
Lee collaborated with Cobb again on a 44-yard scoring pass to cut Gate City’s lead to 21-14.
The Devils salted away the win with a 31-yard field goal by Ked Byrd and Anderson’s 18-yard TD run.
Musick finally found the end zone on a 1-yard run with 1:43 left to play.
Jenkins rushed for 116 yards on 14 carries and Anderson got 97 on nine runs.
It was defense that set the tone.
“Our defensive coaches had a good package put together,’’ Colobro said. “We loaded up to stop the run. We’ve still got to play versus the pass. Tyler’s fumble return gave us a big lift. It sort of broke the ice.’’
Reflecting on the first meeting with Lebanon, he noted: “(The Pioneers) were pretty well seasoned when we were trying to find our way. It took us a while to find out what we could do best.’’
Byrd had missed a 36-yard field goal as time elapsed in the second quarter. “I wanted to redeem myself,’’ he said. “I slipped on the first one.’’
Adams said the Devils’ line play was superior: “They whipped us up front. We got outhit and outplayed. You’re not going to win games in November turning the ball over. We lost three fumbles. We had (the Devils) where we wanted them. All of a sudden, they’re going to halftime with momentum.’’