by David Grindstaff
The Cougar JV squandered a 14 point second half lead as visiting Hendersonville used two 4th quarter interceptions to turn the tide and escape the Pit with a 28-24 Western Highlands Conference victory.
Heritage grabbed an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter following a 77 yard drive that culminated with a 30 yard Maleek Smith scamper. The two point throw from Bryson Cooper to Michael Austin was true and Heritage enjoyed an early advantage.
Hendersonville trimmed the lead to 8-6 on their first possession when Michael Cook got behind the Cougar defense and hauled in a 69 yard TD pass on the final play of the opening stanza.
After failing to pick up a first down on their next possession, the Cougar defense bowed its back and forced a Bearcat punt. Starting from the Cougar 40 yard line, Heritage strung together seven plays to reach the end zone. Maleek Smith carried the rock for the final 39 yards as the sophomore standout broke several tackles on his way to pay dirt. Smith then added the two point run and Heritage seemed to be in control, leading 16-6 midway through the second quarter.
Smith added to the Cougar lead following a Hendersonville turnover. Corey Presnell recovered a fumble caused by teammate Levi Robinson at the Heritage 22 yard line. Bryson Copper then hooked up with running back Justin Kenner down to the Bearcat 20 and from there Smith did the rest. The Cougars led 24-6 following the two point run by Smith.
Hendersonville exploited the Heritage pass defense again to score on a 68 yard TD throw to cut the Cougar advantage to ten points at the intermission.
Heritage blew an opportunity to go even further ahead at the half when they failed to score after turning the ball over on downs at the Bearcat one yard line just before the break.
After forcing the Cougars three and out to start the third quarter, Hendersonville put together an impressive 11 play, 74 yard drive to trim the Heritage lead to three points.
The Bearcat defense dominated in the second half, holding the Cougars scoreless while picking off two Cooper passes, the first at the Heritage 34 to set up the winning touchdown. Hendersonville strung together eight plays to score on a 33 yard TD pass with five minutes left to play.
The Bearcats picked off a second pass near midfield on the Cougar’s next possession and then ran out the clock to escape with a 28-24 victory.
Heritage will hope to even their WHC record on a trip to Polk County this Thursday. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.