Behind those big performances, the Indians romped to a 35-7 win over William Blount in the TSSAA Class 6A playoffs at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
“Zane Whitson is a player now. The defense thinks they’ve got him and he’s like a magician back there; now you see him, now you don’t,” Tribe coach Joey Christian said. “He’s always able to get out of bad situations and make something out of it.
“He’s a playmaker and then our guys controlled the line of scrimmage. This time of year, when it gets cold, it seems the air comes out of the ball and you have to be able to control the line of scrimmage.”
The Indians (9-2) will play Bearden, a 23-6 winner over McMinn County, in the second round of the playoffs at home. D-B beat Bearden 39-14 during the regular season.
📸 View the photo gallery from the game
Whitson was 15-of-20 passing for 223 yards and the four scores. Incredibly efficient, the junior quarterback has 21 touchdown passes to just one interception for the season.
“I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at throwing and my teammates do a great job catching the ball,” Whitson said. “Whenever you’re looking to make plays, it’s great to have those guys. Rayshawn Simmons is one who was out there really working hard in practice and it was great to see him make a big play tonight.”
Armitage powered ahead with 19 rushes for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also made five catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Armitage credited the offensive line, particularly Aiden Neale. Neale returned to his left guard position after dealing with some injuries.
“It was nice having Aiden Neale back on the offensive line,” Armitage said. “It’s nice seeing him pulling and running behind him.
“Everybody worked so hard this week and we were like, ‘Let’s get right to it.’ The last couple of weeks losing hurt us a little bit, but we were ready to bounce back tonight.”
After forcing William Blount (4-7) to punt on the first possession, the Indians marched down the field on a seven-play, 64-yard drive. Whitson hit Armitage on a screen pass for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After getting the ball back on their own 20 with 3:34 left in the half, the Indians went 80 yards in eight plays. Whitson hit Dalton Harkleroad in the right corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left in the half for a 14-0 halftime lead.
TRIBE KEEPS ROLLING
Whitson showed the “magician-like” ability to escape from the defense on the Indians’ next score. He avoided a sack by spinning away from a Blount defender who had grabbed his jersey, to hit a wide-open Armitage in the right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Indians needed just one play to score on their next drive, getting a 41-yard touchdown pass from Whitson to Simmons to open a 28-0 lead.
William Blount got on the scoreboard with seven minutes left in the game when Trey Clemmer found Job Matossian streaking down the right sideline for a 45-yard pass play.
D-B’s final score came on an 18-yard run by Armitage.
Harkleroad, back from an injury suffered in the Science Hill game, had seven receptions for 64 yards and tight end Ben McCluskey had a pair of catches for 30 yards.
Clemmer completed 18 of 31 passes for 155 yards, but the D-B defense kept the Governors one-dimensional. The Indians held William Blount to minus-18 rushing yards in the first half and minus-6 for the game.
“We play well together and we knew their game plan going in,” junior linebacker Nate Whitley said. “They had to start passing where we had them at negative yards rushing. We felt there was nothing they could do to stop us.”