By Ed Greif
On a wet, dreary Tuesday night, The Crab Orchard Tigers defeated the South Rebels 26-12 on Holder Field to claim the 2012 county elementary football title and first championship since the county went to divisional play in 2007.
Crab Orchard (3-0, 8-0) won the eastern division championship, while South Cumberland (3-0, 3-5) won the western division, finishing the regular season with three straight wins, including a season-ending win over 2011 champion Martin.
"I thought South came out fired up and had an excellent game plan. They really made us work to stop them. Our players were able to make the necessary adjustments to make some big plays as the game progressed.
I felt like we were able to do a better job controlling the game in the second half. Our team had a target on them all year long and met every challenge. I want to give a special thank you to all of our Crab Orchard fans that came out and supported us in the weather during the championship game," said Tiger Coach Eddie Raper Wednesday afternoon.
Crab Orchard scored on their opening, a seven-play, 51-yard march, capped by a Jared Debord's 15-yard run with 4:47 left in the first quarter. Austin Seiber tallied the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
DeBord, Seiber and Jas Kemmer combined for 51-yards rushing on seven plays for the score.
Tristan Partridge returned the ensuing kick 14 yards to the South 29. It took just three plays for the Rebels to march 71 yards for the score. Quarterback Hayden Woody was involved in all three plays — a six-yard pass to Partridge and two carries for 65 yards, including a 31-yarder for the Rebel score. The two-point conversion was no good.
Seiber ripped off a 55-yard kickoff return to the South five-yard line, but he was sacked by the Rebel defense for a three-yard loss. Debord scored an eight-yard run with 2:55 left for a 14-6 lead. The two-point conversion was no good.
South took over at their 34-yard line after the ensuing kick and mixed running with the passing of Woody to take the pigskin inside Tiger territory, but were stopped on downs at the Tiger 40 with seconds left in the first quarter.
The big play was a 22-yard run by Woody, after picking up a bad snap on the punt.
The Tigers took over at their 40 on the last play of the first quarter, and used the running of Seiber and Debord to take the football into South territory, before the Tiger defense held on downs at the South 18.
Woody passed 17 yards to Patridge for a first down to open the drive, but Sam Boles was sacked by Debord for a four-yard loss to the South 31.
A pass from Woody to Boles for 35 yards gave the Rebels a first down at their 29; however, a quarterback sack by Hunter Kendrick helped stall the drive at the Tiger 29 two plays later.
The Tigers ran out the clock on three plays.
South's first posession of the second half was stopped on downs at their 43, after the Tiger defense forced four incomplete passes.
Crab Orchard's running game toted the pigskin into South territory, before ending on an incomplete pass by quarterback Dylan Dishman.
South's next possession started at the Tiger 24-yard line after a fumble, but the Rebels held the Tigers on downs at the South 39.
After a couple of possession changes, the Rebels took over at their 20, but penalties and another quarterback sack doomed the western division winners at their one-yard line, where the Tigers took over.
After a holding penalty, Debord scored from 11-yard run with 2:26 left in the game, to give the Tigers a 20-6 lead, but the two-point conversion again failed.
Crab Orchard scored a late fourth-quarter TD on a 16-yard run by Woody for a 26-6 lead. The two-point conversion was no good.
Seiber raced 68 yards with 26.7 seconds left to make the final margin 26-12, as the two-point conversion was no good.
Crab Orchard ran out the clock for the victory.