Raiders end 2022 football season at McKenzie

The Raiders will lose four seniors this year (front row, from left to right) Blake Bradford, Will Baker, Isaiah Petty, and Landon Brann. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Reed)

MCKENZIE, Tenn. — They say the road to the TSSAA Class A State Football Championship goes through McKenzie, Tennessee. On Friday night, with a Rebel roster filled with 16 seniors who won 2021-22 state runner up, that felt true enough.

Moore County kept pace with the Rebels through the first quarter but then allowed McKenzie to score 28 unanswered in the second and third quarters. In the end, Moore County ended their season with a 56-21 loss while McKenzie is now headed to a Class 1A shoot out with Fayetteville this Friday.

Score tied at the end of the first quarter 7-7

Both teams went three and out on their first possession, then Moore County drew first blood when QB Dawson White connected with Alex Copeland on a clutch catch that the receiver returned all the way to 15 yard line. Moore County then managed two false start flags for negative yardage before White connected with senior Will Baker in the end zone for Moore County’s first six points. Blake Bradford’s PAT gave the Raiders an early 7-0 lead.

McKenzie answered quickly when their Mr. Football finalist Jackson Cassidy called his own number on second at 10 for six points. The score ticked exactly 26 seconds off the clock. The Rebel PAT tied the score 7-7.

The first quarter ended with the Raiders driving near midfield. 

Rebels score 14 unanswered in second quarter

Moore County finished what they started on their first possession of the second half in much the same way they did in the first. QB White connected with Keller Morey for a quick five yard gain then tucked it on third and one for the Raider first down. Logan Hegwood got the Raiders to third and five, then White ran through Jackson Cassidy for a first down. Hegwood managed positive yardage again then, on fourth and two White found Baker again for six points.

Before the half, the Rebels mounted two unanswered scores to head into the locker room with a 28-14 lead. Moore County failed to score in the third quarter while allowing 14 Rebel points.

Moore County did score one fourth quarter touchdown. Isaiah Petty, Logan Hegwood, and Alex Copeland managed positive yards to get the Raiders into Rebel territory before Dawson White powered forward for the final Moore County score of the evening. At the final buzzer, Moore County fell to the Rebels 56-21.

Senior Will Baker led with two touchdowns

Senior leadership is key in the playoffs and Friday’s game was no exception. Senior wide receiver Will Baker led for Moore County with two touchdowns. Option QB Dawson White followed with a rushing TD. Senior kicker Blake Bradford kicked a perfect three of three. Both White and running back Logan Hegwood mounted over 100 total yards in the game.

On defense, Peyton Martin led with seven total tackles followed by Landon Smith with six.

Moore County should be experienced next season

The good news is that Moore County will only lose four seniors this year. Sure, the Raiders will miss senior receivers Will Baker, Isaiah Petty and Landon Brann as well as kicker Blake Bradford but the upcoming senior class is full of play makers with plenty of snaps under their belt.

On offense, the Raiders option QB Dawson White and running back Logan Hegwood will return. According to the final stats, they scored 41 of the Raiders’ 65 touchdowns this season. Alex Copeland, Keller Morey, Will Parker, and Wes Clifton each added touchdowns and will continue to develop in the offseason.

The receiving corps look promising for 2023-24 as well. Top underclassmen receivers Alex Copeland, and Keller Morey will both return for another season in the Columbia blue. Will Parker, Brantley Hill, and Bryson Carter should also develop over the off season as well. An experienced center is always a crucial piece to the puzzle and upcoming senior Sawyer Parks will anchor the Raiders next year. Moore County will also return an offensive line with plenty of game time experience.

The defense always seems to be the unsung heroes of any successful playoff run and this year felt like no exception. Raider fans will miss Blake Bradford but should be able to continue to depend on this season’s top tacklers: Peyton Martin (107), Landon Smith (93), Wes Clifton (73), and Logan Cashion (50). Stats for both Landon Jolley (28) and Aydan Blair (25) were both modest for the year but both missed games due to injuries. Alex Copeland, Keller Morey, Bryson Carter, Dawson White, Will Parker, Logan Hegwood, James Laster, and Dillon Sherrill all managed double digits tackles this season and all should return in 2023-24. •

{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.}