Playoffs bring the best out of teams. Underdogs play like they have nothing to lose and sometimes upset better teams. In the case of the Middle Tennessee Bulldawgs (8-0), the top-seeded team in the Middle Tennessee Football League, an upset was almost what they had to endure in their 13-7 victory over the Middle Tennessee Tigers (2-6).
“They hit us in the mouth and we didn’t fight back,” said Bulldawg head coach Blaine Boone. “Honestly, they deserved to win. We made a couple of timely plays and came out on top. We have been in the players’ ear all year about taking things for granted. It almost bit us. Our defense played spectacular.”
The Tigers jumped out on top in the first quarter. Field position was the key to their score. The Bulldawgs tried an onside kick and failed. After two first downs, the Tigers were on the brink of scoring. Bulldawg defensive back turned their scoring chance away with an interception deep in Bulldawg territory. After the Bulldawg offense went three and out, punter Tim Brecht’s punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone.
The rest of the half was a slugfest. Both defenses stymied the opposing offenses forcing five more turnovers together. The Bulldawgs looked like they would tie the game but a 44-yard run by running back Keon Bohannon was called back on a holding call.
The second half started with the Tigers trying to onside kick. Hunter Felts scooped the kick up and had one man to beat but was tripped up at the Tiger 42-yard line. On the ensuing play, Bulldawg quarterback Jason “J5” Hankins hit wide receiver Lawrence Gilbert on a quick pass. Gilbert raced to the end zone. Brecht’s extra point made it 7-7.
“We saw how the corners were playing off us and decided to go to quick passes,” said Gilbert. “J5 put it there and I just made a play. We needed that and I was happy to make it.”
The Tigers then went on a drive that took up the rest of the third quarter and a little over three minutes of the fourth quarter. The drive stall and the Tigers attempted a 27-yard field goal. The kick was called no good and the Tigers players disagreed and was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave the Bulldawgs the ball at their own 40-yard line. After a first down, the drive stalled. Brecht then punted inside the Tiger five-yard line.
“Up to then that was our play of the game,” said Bulldawg defensive coordinator Cromwell Stewart. “We were then able to make a stop and get the ball back. Tim’s punt gave us a chance to win.”
Stewart’s defense then forced a tree and out. The Bulldawgs then took over at the Tiger 38-yard line with 1:22 left in regulation. After two failed runs and an incomplete pass, Hankins then dumped the ball off to Bohannon in the left flat. Bohannon weaved through the Tiger defense breaking four tackles before diving into the end zone with eight seconds left on the clock for the game-winning score.
“Someone needed to make a play, so why not me,” said Bohannon. “Our line gutted it out If I am going to be the best back in the league then I need to make plays for my team. Our defense kept us in the game. That third quarter drive they had could have been crucial. They stayed together and made plays when they had to.”
The Bulldawgs will now take on the Dickson Chaos (7-1) at 5pm at Maplewood High School. The Chaos gave the Bulldawgs all they could handle for three quarters in the final regular season game won by the Bulldawgs 28-3. The winner will go on to the championship game against the winner of the Nashville Elite-Lebanon Hitmen game.