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High School Football

Playoff Football: Page pumped for Thanksgiving, more football after historic win

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Playoff Football – Page at Green Hill

Colin Hurd and Cavin Ashman of Page deliver a hit on Green Hill quarterback Cade Mahoney during the Patriots 31-14 Class 5A quarterfinal win. 

MT. JULIET – Page High School quarterback Jake McNamara and lineman Ronan O’Connell see things from different perspectives during a football game. But their motivation is the same – victory.

And Thanksgiving breakfast.

One led to the other Friday night, as the Patriots improved to 12-1 overall and ended the season – and an 11-game winning streak – for upstart Green Hill High School (11-2) by beating the Hawks 31-14 on the road.

The win pushed Page into the Class 5A state semifinals where they will host Henry County (8-5) on Friday night in the program's third appearance in the semis and first since 1998. It also set up a special Thanksgiving breakfast for the team.

“On Thursday, having breakfast with the team, I’m just so excited,” O’Connell said after a standout performance that included picking up a fumble he forced late in the third quarter to slam the door on the Hawks. “We’ll get after it in practice this week.”

“We’re having breakfast as a team next Thursday. It’s going to be an awesome day,” agreed McNamara, who helped engineer the win, throwing for 250 yards in the victory.

Page took a 9-0 lead into the halftime locker room on a 1-yard Ethan Cunningham touchdown run and a 2-point safety, awarded when the defensive line forced Green Hill quarterback Cade Mahoney to throw the ball away from the end zone, leading to an intentional grounding penalty.

Page got the ball to start the second half, hoping to stretch the lead to three scores, but fumbled the ball on the return, one of three turnovers on the night. The Hawks pounced, covering 19 yards in two plays to cut the lead to two.

Rather than fold, Page responded.

On the ensuing kickoff, Cason Walker took the ball at the 25-yard line, slipped left to the Green Hill sideline and raced 75 yards to put the lead back at nine points, 16-7.

“I wasn’t that nervous about the turnovers,” McNamara said after the game. “I have full confidence in our guys. We’ll have setbacks, we just have to answer them. They came out at half and knocked on the door with an early touchdown off a turnover, but then what did we do? Came right back and punched them in the mouth and knocked out their momentum right away.

"We just had to keep answering their blows.”

That might have been the key play of the game, according to Page head coach Charles Rathbone.

“I think that was the backbreaker," Rathbone said. "Cason just made a play when he had to. I was thinking, okay, we need to score and get back up to nine. Cason took care of that quickly.”

The Hawks cut the lead to two again in the third with an eight-play, 63-yard drive capped by an 18-yard run by Mahoney, only to see Page come right back with a two-play, 85-yard drive. McNamara hit Michael Mayer for 71 of his 148 yards on the first play before Ethan Cunningham followed his surging line for 14 yards on the next snap.

Boyce Smith closed out the scoring, taking a short pass from McNamara and then streaking straight up the middle to complete the 43-yard touchdown connection. McNamara followed with a pass to Mayer for two points for the final margin.

Page picked up 131 yards on the ground and McNamara was seldom pressured. The Hawks secondary did a good job of coverage, giving McNamara the opportunity to run when he wanted. Rathbone said it was indicative of what the Colorado State commitment can do when he wants to do it.

“Jake could probably run the ball more, but he’s a quarterback at heart and keeps his eyes downfield," he said. "I can’t second guess his decisions. He’s done an excellent job getting us some great plays and that’s what he’s supposed to do.”

The protection of the offensive line and dominance of the defensive line, which held Green Hill to just 110 yards on the ground – barely half of their per game average – was not lost on McNamara or O’Connell.

“The line is the workhorse up front," McNamara said. "We can’t do anything without our line. When we needed to run the ball we did. When we needed to pass, we had the time to drive the ball down the field. It’s a team effort.

"I guess I’m just the one that gets to take interviews after the game."

For O’Connell, it was fruits borne from group chemistry.

“Our connection is just great; anyone can step up and anyone can play any position at any time," he said. "We’ve just been pulling through and doing what we do."

For Rathbone, the victory was special, not just for this team, but the others before them.

“When I knew we had it wrapped up, I started thinking about all the kids that played for me over the last 20 years and gave me everything they had and especially the last nine years," he said. "I love this group to death and I’m proud they have achieved this, but a lot of those old guys were here tonight. They set the stage and built the foundation for us. I love those guys and appreciate them.”

Like his players, Rathbone seems to be looking forward more to breakfast Thursday morning than the turkey and sides coming later in the day.

“What better way to spend Thanksgiving morning than with great 16, 17-year-old men,” he said, before adding with a sly smile, “besides, there’s a lot of pressure on the moms. They better come up with something special.

"It can’t be Toaster Strudels or something like that. It’s got to be something special.”

Henry County posted a 23-0 win at Springfield Friday to reach the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, Knoxville West will host Powell in the other semi after a 63-26 win over Knoxville Central. Powell tipped Rhea County 27-13 Friday. 

Page 31, Green Hill 14, Class 5A Quarterfinal 

PHS   7  2  14  8  – 31

GHHS 0 0   14 0  – 14

Scoring Summary

1Q 0:10 PHS – Ethan Cunningham 1 run (Dominicke Quarantello kick);

2Q 6:04 PHS – Safety (Intentional grounding penalty in end zone);

3Q 11:37 GHHS – Brax Lamberth 1 run (Sam Crickmar kick);

3Q 11:25 PHS – Casen Walker 75 kickoff return (Quarentello kick); 

3Q 7:35 GHHS – Cade Mahoney 18 run (Crickmar kick); 

3Q 6:47 PHS – Cunningham 14 run (Quarantello kick); 

4Q 8:34 PHS – Boyce Smith 43 pass from Jake McNamara (Michael Mayer pass from McNamara).

Individual Statistics

Rushing

PHS – 25-131 (Ethan Cunningham, 17-97; Jake McNamara, 6-27; Caden Walker, 2-7). GHHS 32-110 (Brax Lamberth, 16-64; Cade Mahoney, 8-28; Kaleb Carver, 2-13; Niko Duffie, 5-5; Dane Ivie, 1-0).

Passing

PHS – Jake McNamara, 15-25-0-1 for 250 yards. GHHS – Cade Maloney, 15-29-2-0 for 160 yards.

Receiving

PHS – 15 for 250 yards (Michael Mayer, 5-148; Boyce Smith, 4-66; Ethan Cunningham, 4-23; Trent Gephart, 1-4; Cason Walker 1-(-1)). GHHS – 15 for 160 yards (Kaleb Carver, 6-62; Braiden Stanten, 4-58; Sean Alridge, 3-22; Ryan Holleran, 2-18).

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