The Mt. Juliet football senior class was honored Friday night and added to their impressive resume with a win over Hendersonville.
The Bears held off a resilient Commandos team in a 28-13 victory, clinching their third straight region title and their second straight undefeated regular season. The team has a 27-game regular season winning streak.
“It is special,” said Mt. Juliet Head Coach Trey Perry after the game. “I told them just a second ago let’s enjoy this, it’s a special thing.”
Conditions weren’t ideal. Not only was Mt. Juliet playing a Hendersonville team that was also undefeated in the district, but there was a constant drizzle falling all night on an already muddy field.
“It was nasty,” said Perry. “I thought both teams did a great job [with the conditions].” Perry also applauded the officials who made sure the game balls were dry the entire game.
It didn’t look like the game was going to be close in the first half, as Mt. Juliet moved up and down the field on the Commandos. On their second drive, Connor Ruzek found the corner on a 12-yard touchdown run. That was set up by a 29-yard pass from Mixon to Malik Bowen. The extra point was blocked, but the Bears led 6-0.
Hendersonville fumbled on the second play of their next drive, and the Bears wasted no time. Mixon threw it up to the back of the end zone and Bowen went up over two Hendersonville defenders to come down with the touchdown. Bryan Aiken would catch the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Mt. Juliet would get one more score before the half, another 12-yard run by Ruzek, to make it 21-0 going into the break.
The momentum seemed to be all in the Bears favor coming out for the second half, but Hendersonville was undefeated in the region for a reason. They used their big, bruising runners like quarterback Drew Hohenbrink and running back Dalton Jones to march down the field. Jones scored the first Hendersonville touchdown and after a Mt. Juliet punt, Hohenbrink would add the second. On that touchdown, Colby Martin came up big with blocking the extra point to keep it an 8-point game.
With 3:57 left in the third, the Bears needed to chew some clock, get stops on defense, and hopefully get one more score. They did all those things, starting with eating up a lot of clock. The Bears gave the ball over to Justin Harrigan to batter the Hendersonville defense. Harrigan took the first five runs on the drive right at the Commando defense, and even though it didn’t result in points, it wound the clock down.
“He’s a sledgehammer,” said Perry of Harrigan.
After that drive, it was time for the Bear defense to do their job. They started with a three-and-out, then on the next two Hendersonville drives, Junior Derek Miller put the Commandos in a hole on the first play of each. Miller caught the running back in the backfield for a loss on the first. He would start the next Hendersonville drive with a sack, which pretty much sealed the game. That is because the Bears scored another touchdown before that, a 26-yard touchdown by Martin. That Miller sack was followed by a Ronnie Kramer sack, and the Commandos were not able to get on the board again.
The win moves the Bears into the playoffs. Mt. Juliet will host Cookeville (5-5) Friday night at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will move on to face the winner of the Blackman-Lebanon game.
Story and photo by Kenny Howell