Let’s go Raiders: Gritty Moore County pushes past Bledsoe County in 33-24 victory

Logan Hegwood (#23) evades a Bledsoe County tackler on his way to six points on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. –– It’s fourth and nine and the Raider home crowd stands on their feet. “Let’s go Raiders,” they chant repeatedly. It’s an energy that oozes down the stands into the Raider sideline. With 2:07 remaining, the Moore County defense knows it’s do or die time here in Lynchburg.

On a Bledsoe County first down, the Raider defensive line hassles the Warrior QB –– forcing him to throw over the head of his intended receiver. No gain. As the clock clicks under the two minute mark, the Raider line smothers another running play. Play for a loss. With time ticking down and leading by nine, the Raiders double down. On third and 11, Moore County tackles the Warrior receiver as soon as he catches the short pass. One more play and they can relax. On fourth and three, Moore County’s Peyton Martin dials in on the runner — executing a textbook tackle at the knees to turn the ball over on downs with around a minute to play. Forty seven second later the Moore County Raiders notch victory number two of the 2022-23 to the absolutely delight of the home crowd.

Punch, counter punch first half

The first quarter played out like a prize fight between two heavyweights. The Warriors won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Bledsoe County got on the board first with a long, sustained drive that ate nearly seven minutes off the clock. After converting five first downs, the Warriors caught the left edge and side stepped their way into the end zone. The PAT missed giving them an early 6-0 lead with 1:01 to play in the first quarter.

The lead lasted just 17 seconds. On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors kicked off in the direction of Moore County’s Dawson White — a mistake they did not make twice. White started right and then cut left for a quick six points. Blake Bradford’s PAT gave Moore County a 7-6 lead with just :47 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

But the Warriors counterpunched. On first and 10 at the 36 with 28 seconds to play in the quarter, the Warriors scored and converted a two point conversion to take back the lead, 14-7.

The Raiders needed to score twice on their next possession to earn the points. On a first and 10, the refs called Moore County for holding making it first and 15. Then, QB White connected with Logan Hegwood, who caught the right edge and scrabbled to the end zone. Refs called the play back for holding — requiring the Raiders to try again. Then, Keller Morey earned a Raider first down, setting up a Moore County second and one for White who muscled his way forward for six more Raiders points. The PAT sailed wide making it Moore County 13 and Bledsoe County 14 with 7:52 to play in the half.

The two teams then traded possessions — forcing the other to turn over the ball on downs. Then with 1:46 to play in the half, the Raiders got beat on a long pass by the the Warriors QB to give Bledsoe County six more points.They led 21-19 with 1:33 to play in the quarter.

Physical second half

Moore County Head Coach Kris White likely challenged his team to play aggressive in the second half and that’s exactly what they did. Moore County held the Warriors to a field goal on their first possession –– a play that set the momentum for the rest of the game.

The Raiders executed a methodical, 10-play drive that ate nearly five minutes off the clock and resulted in another Raider touchdown.

On first and 10 at the 35, QB White connected with Landon Brann for a seven yard gain then threw under pressure to Isaiah Petty for the first down. An option play for no gain set up second and 10, then a determined Alex Copeland fought for and caught White’s long pass for a Raider first down.

On the next play, White scrambled in the backfield while the Warriors swarmed. Not one to give up on a play, a determined White scrambled before throwing a shuffle pass to Logan Hegwood for eight yards. They repeated the exact same play seconds later to earn the Raider first down. With 5:04 to play in the third quarter, Hegwood zigged left then cut right — running all the way to first and goal before a holding call negated his second TD of the night. It didn’t matter. Seconds later, QB White handed off to Peyton Martin who muscled his way forward for a Raider touchdown. Blake Bradford’s PAT gave Moore County a two point lead with 3:48 to play in the third stanza.

The Raiders and Warriors traded possessions for the next three minutes with Bledsoe County driving as time expired in the third quarter.

With four fingers held high, the gritty Raiders knuckled down for the last stanza. After converting two first downs, refs flagged Bledsoe County for false start — a penalty that changed the momentum of the drive. On second an 11, Moore County’s Ayden Blair put a tough lick on the Warrior runner bringing up third and five. Coach White then got the aggression he was looking for. On the next play, the Raider defensive line swarmed Bledsoe County — forcing a fumble. The Warriors recovered but now faced fourth and five. Moore County then dialed in on the Warrior runner — getting the stop and forcing a turnover on downs with around six minutes left to play.

Raider QB White then called his own number for three straight plays to earn third and four. Bledsoe County got the third down stop but Moore County went for it on fourth and four with 4:35 to play. White threw a short yardage pass to Logan Hegwood, who ran north putting the final nail in the Warriors coffins. Blake Bradford PAT made it 33-24 with less than four minutes to play.

The Raider D came to play on the next series. Wes Clifton and Landon Brann managed a shoe lace tackle to prevent the big play on the first down. On second and four, Dillion Sherrill cut inside to stop the long gain again.

It was bend-but-don’t-break defensive from there. The Warriors earned the first down but Moore County could smell blood in the water. The Raider defensive line brought pressure on the next play — forcing the Bledsoe County center to bumble the snap. The misstep allowed the Raiders’ Wes Clifton enough to time to pursue inside — forcing Bledsoe County to settle for a one yard gain.

On second an nine Raider Logan Cashion batted downs the Warrior pass for no gain, then Logan Hegwood nearly snagged the Bledsoe County pass for an INT.

Moore County called a time out. As they headed to the sidelines, the Moore crowd stood for a standing ovation as they chanted, “Let’s go Raiders. Let’s go Raiders.” Four plays later on fourth and three, Peyton Martin tackled a Warrior in the back field for loss — giving Moore County back the ball with less than a minute to play.

With a nine point cushion, Moore County took a knee in victory formation for the next four plays. At the final buzzer, Moore County earned a crucial 33-24 victory and a 2-0 record for the 2022-23 season.

In the post game huddle, Coach White told his players he’d never been more proud of a team effort.

“Guys, I’m a little bit lost for words, because I didn’t expect this,” he said to much jeering from his team. “I asked you to grow up and that’s what you did. You took a big step as both a player and a team. I’m the most proud that’s been since I’ve been here.”

Moore County will move on to their third home game and first district game next Friday against Eagleville, who will come in the game with a 1-1 record after a 55-24 loss at Forrest and a 34-8 win at Houston County. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}