Neither team looked exceptionally sharp Friday night on Shackle Island, but a stingy Beech defense when it mattered most catapulted the Buccaneers to a 28-14 win over their arch-rival Hendersonville High School.
“They adjusted and played their tail off,” Beech Head Coach Anthony Crabtree said of his defense.
The Commandos now lead the all-time series 22-17, but the Bucs have now won two-in-a-row and three of the last four contests.
The newly minted Battle for Drakes Creek game saw both Beech and Hendersonville turn the football over a combined five times.
The difference was Hendersonville never cashed in on both of Beech’s interceptions; despite excellent field position on both.
On the other hand, Beech scored 14 points off two Commando fumbles; their third turnover came with less than two minutes left in the game, icing the victory for Beech.
Hendersonville left at minimum 13 points on the field Friday night, as two makeable field goals sailed left and their second drive stalled due to multiple penalties - leading to a 50-yard field goal attempt from Andrew Martin.
“Hendersonville is a good football team, and I knew it would be a tough game to win; I knew we would need to play well to win,” Crabtree said. “I was hoping we wouldn’t make the mistakes we made early and periodically in the second half, but we found a way to win. Now it’s about improving on those mistakes.”
The two teams combined for just 200 yards in the first half as the Bucs carried a 14-7 lead into the break thanks mainly to the ground game.
The three-headed backfield of Tysean Jefferson, Adrian Johnson, and Patrick Hill dominated the first two scoring drives as they combined for 98 yards.
“Those guys always give great effort,” Crabtree said. “Our line did a great job up front, and it showed; those guys just need a crease, and they are gone.”
Patrick Hill hogged the first scoring drive, carrying the ball five times for 52 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown scamper around the left side.
Following Hendersonville’s first turnover of the game at their 18-yard line, Beech handed to Tysean Jefferson three consecutive times before a two-yard touchdown plunge with six minutes left in the half, giving Beech their first lead of the game.
Trailing 14-7 with Beech threatening another score before the half, Commando linebacker Stevie Mack stepped in front of an Xaviere Jones pass for the interception, racing to the Buc 35-yard line before being brought down from behind.
The Buc defense stiffened, limiting the Commandos to just a few yards forcing HHS to try a long field goal.
Martin’s kick sailed wide, keeping the score at 14-7 at the break.
The second half started like the first half ended, a missed Commando field goal.
Taking their first drive of the second half at their own 20, Beech marched 80 yards in seven plays, capped off by an Adrian Johnson 1-yard touchdown run.
Trailing 21-7, Hendersonville responded on their next drive with a 46-yard touchdown run up the gut from Jack Brown with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
The Commandos looked to have seized the game’s momentum on their next defensive series, forcing a Beech punt, but a fumble on the punt return gave Beech new life just inside the 50-yard line.
Six plays later, Adrian Johnson found the end zone for his second score, this time from 10-yards out for the 28-14 lead.
Hendersonville again shot themselves in the foot on the ensuing kickoff as an Ellis Ellis kick off return for a score was called back due to a block in the back penalty.
The drive ended in a punt.
The Commandos had one last shot at cutting the defect to seven, but a JP Courtney interception sealed the deal giving the Bucs the 28-14 win.
“Our team’s ability to adjust and overcome mistakes that we made is what impressed me most tonight,” Crabtree said. I’m proud of our defense for stepping up and making the adjustments to get better.”
The victory for Beech is their third in-a-row and improves their record to 3-1 overall. The loss for Hendersonville drops the Commandos to 2-2.
“I think we are getting better slowly but surely,” Crabtree said. “Everyone is in the same boat right now, but hopefully we are getting to where we should have been in week one. We have to go to work and keep getting better.”
Beech was scheduled to play Hunters Lane this week, but with Metro-Nashville still not playing, the Bucs are looking for an opponent.
The Commandos will host Lebanon in a critical Region 4-6A game this week.