The Cannon County defense stymied the Owls all game long during the Lions 32-10 win Thursday in Cookeville.
COOKEVILLE — Because of bad weather and a water-logged football field, Smith County moved Friday night’s game to the artificial surface of Tennessee Tech on Thursday night. It's a decision they now probably regret having made.
If there was any concern about the Lions playing on Tech’s turf, the Lions dispelled the fear by outplaying Smith County on both sides of the line of scrimmage in their come-from-behind, 32-10 region win.
The Lions were looking to recover from last week’s loss to non-region Scott County. Cannon faced region-leading Smith County (7-1 record, 3-0 district) in a very important region game that had playoff implications.
In a light mist, the Owls received the opening kick off. Smith realized the Lions had come to play as the defensive unit shut down their high-powered offense.
The first quarter was characterized by hard-hitting, from the Lions, that jarred the ball loose on several pass plays. With 1:21 left in the first, Damon Collette wrestled the ball away from an Owl receiver for the first of four Lion interceptions.
At the 9:44 mark of the second quarter, Smith County intercepted a QB Lee Cooper pass. Their first play from scrimmage was a 55-yard touchdown pass that was called back because of a holding penalty.
Cannon’s defense kept the Owls out of the end zone, but Smith was able to put points on the board with a 32-yard field goal, taking a 3-0 lead. The Lions were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt to Smith County with 5:19 left in the first half.
Smith County’s quarterback led the team down the field, but a sack by Patrick Gerdes put them at third down. The Owls completed a 34-yard pass, and ended the drive with a 4-yard TD pass. With the extra point, the Owls took a 10-0 lead with 1:57 left in the quarter.
The Lions were unable to move the ball on their next possession, but a 65-yard punt by Cooper put Smith County at their 20-yard line. On the first Owl play, Daniel Woodin stepped in front of the receiver, intercepting the ball at the Cannon 49-yard line with 1:06 left.
QB Cooper dropped back to pass, but unable to find an open receiver, avoided being sacked as he reversed his field three times and headed down the sidelines. With Emby Mills and Andrew Woodin knocking Owls out of the way, Cooper ended his 51-yard run in the end zone, cutting the Owls lead to 10-6 after the missed two-point conversion.
The Lions returned to the field after half time, fired up and ready to play. Cannon received the kickoff and started their drive at their own 25 yard line. The Lions had the ball, fourth and three, at the Cannon 32 yard line. The Owls were caught off guard when Cooper faked the punt and completed a 29-yard pass to Andrew Woodin. A pass interference call against Smith put the ball at the Owl 15 yard line.
Cooper ended the drive with a 14-yard pass to Collette who juggled the ball, but caught it on his back, in the end zone, putting Cannon ahead, 12-10.
The Lion defense dominated the game completely shutting down the Owls. “It was the hardest we hit all year,” said Emby Mills.
Cannon took possession with 4:52 remaining in the third. The drive was highlighted by Daniel Woodin, who burst through a gaping hole created by the offensive line, on his way to a 46-yard touchdown run. Andrew Woodin added the two-point conversion, extending the Lion lead to 20-10.
Cannon County Coach Joel Shrenck said, “They shut down the screens, but we finally were able to run the ball.”
The Lion defense continued to make life miserable for the Owls. Thomas Stone sacked the quarterback, putting them in long yardage on third down, and when Smith finally completed a pass, Cooper unloaded on the pass receiver, causing a fumble that was recovered by Daniel Woodin.
The fourth quarter saw both teams struggle offensively. The Lions got back on track after an Andrew Woodin interception at the Cannon County 38 yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, Daniel Woodin slid to the outside working his way down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed, but the Lions had increased their lead to 26-10 with 8:22 remaining.
Smith Co. was forced to go to the air as the game was winding down. The Lions defense, including Cesar Wilson, Gerdes, Mills, Tyler Jacobs, Stone, Collette, Gabriel Walkup, and Dillon Collette, put pressure on the Owl QB which led to an arrant pass picked off by Andrew Woodin, his second of the night, at the Cannon 37 yard line.
The final drive of the night for the Lions started with 2:33 left in the game, after another QB sack by Stone on the Owls fourth down play. The Lions started their drive at the Smith 24 yard line. After two short runs by Daniel Woodin, Cooper found Thomas Agee on a post route, hitting him for a 24-yard TD pass, making the final score 32-10.
The Lions had one of their best offensive games with 345 yards total offense. QB Lee Cooper, the mid-state’s leading passer, connected on 10 of 22 passes for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 6 times for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. The leading rusher for the Lions was Daniel Woodin who carried the ball 20 times for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“I knew we would either get blown out, or we would blow them out,” said Coach Shrenck. “We played all phases of the game great tonight.”
“I think they overlooked us,” said Daniel Woodin. “This is a new Cannon County.”
The Lions are looking forward to a week off to get some of their injured players back on the field. In two weeks, the Lions close out their season against the Upperman Bees, hoping to clench a region championship.
Cannon now stands on top of the region with a 3-1 record, 5-4 overall. With the win over Smith County, the Lions are playoff eligible for the first time since 1995, which was also the last year the Lions defeated Smith County.