Bucs make Semi-fnals
Pic is interception and return by Heath Crabtree in first quarter of game.
Story by Zach Womble
SPRING HILL – For the first time since 2009, Beech High School will host a Final Four semifinal contest at Shackle Island Stadium. The Bucs defeated Summit High School 21-16 in the Class 5 A quarterfinals on Friday night, advancing to the school’s third ever Final Four game.
Kaemon Dunlap led the Bucs offense with 30 carries for 189 yards and scored all three Beech touchdowns, but it was the defense that really stepped up Friday night to secure the victory.
This game marked the first time the Bucs (13-0) had to travel for their playoff game. It was a different atmosphere, but that was no excuse for the lack of flow shown by the Bucs offense, according to head coach Anthony Crabtree.
“It is different playing on the road but that is no excuse for the way our offense played tonight,” he said. “We just made a lot of mental errors, stuttered early even though we got a couple scores. We just never really hit a rhythm on offense. We just stumped our toe all night and we are very fortunate our defense played extremely well. That is what won the game for us.”
Beech jumped out early 7-0 on its first drive of the game when Dunlap found the end zone for six, less than six minutes into the opening frame.
Following a turnover-on-downs, the Bucs defense forced the only turnover of the night when senior linebacker Heath Crabtree stepped in front a Spartan pass, intercepting the ball and giving Beech excellent field position at the opposition’s 20-yard line. The Bucs needed just four plays before Dunlap pushed the lead to 14-0 on a 2-yard run up the gut. David Johnson connected on all three of his extra point attempts.
With 8:49 left in the half, the game looked like it would get ugly quick, but credit the Spartans, as they never hung their head and slowly chipped away at the Bucs lead.
“There is credit to be given to Summit,” Crabtree said. “They did some good things, they are a good football team, and they played their tail off. We knew they were going to, but we just hoped that we would do a little better job of finding rhythm on offense and we didn’t do that.”
The Spartans started their first touchdown drive with excellent field position following a kickoff out of bounds that put the ball at midfield. Following a 27-yard run, Summit scored on an 11-yard run with 6:03 remaining in the first half, bringing the score to 14-7.
Facing fourth-and-2 from their own 28, the Bucs elected to go for the first down, but were ultimately stopped for a turnover-on-downs, giving Summit great field position with nearly five minutes left until halftime.
The Spartans were unable to score six, but added three more points to cut the deficit to 14-10, where it stayed until halftime.
The defense again bailed Beech out after a fumble on the kickoff on their own 46-yard line. After a false start and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Spartans, Summit was forced to punt away a golden opportunity. Beech capitalized.
Taking over at the 45-yard line, Dunlap carried the ball six out of seven times before bursting through the line for a 32-yard score, his longest run of the night, to put the Bucs up 21-10 with seven minutes left in the third quarter.
The teams exchanged punts until the Spartans were able to put together a lengthy drive which set up a possible 27-yard field goal to cut the lead to just one. However, a great push by the Beech defensive line allowed multiple Bucs to bust through and block the would-be three-point play to end the third quarter.
On its next drive, Summit drove 68 yards on nine plays before surging in for the 1-yard touchdown with 3:39 remaining in the game. Electing to go for two, Summit ran a jet sweep, but the Bucs defense was having no part of it, stopping them short of the goal line by nearly 4 yards.
Trailing 21-16, Summit elected to kick deep, putting the game on its defense to get a stop and give the offense one last shot at glory. The defense did its job, forcing a three-and-out, but the Spartans were unable to move the football as Garrett Butler deflected a would-be first down throw with just over a minute remaining to seal the victory and a trip to the Final Four.
“We are definitely going to go back and tighten down a bit more,” Crabtree said of his team’s preparation over the next week. “Practice the last few weeks hasn’t been where we wanted it to be. We are going to pick up the intensity and focus and see if we can do a better job of preparing.”
Beech will host Brighton Friday night at Shackle Island Stadium with a shot at Class 5 A title game in Cookeville on the line.
“This is a great experience for our guys,” Crabtree said after the game. “Beech High School has hosted only one semifinal game (2009), in the history of the school. It’s a great experience and it’s always a lot of fun. There are very few football teams still playing. It’s a big holiday with Thanksgiving and people being in town. Hopefully, we will have a great turnout and it will be a great environment getting to play on our own field and in our own stadium. Our guys are excited about that opportunity.”