Top-ranked Tanner continued its quest to return to the Super Six, advancing to its third straight semifinal appearance with a 26-14 victory Friday night at unranked Montgomery Academy.
Tanner (11-1), the defending Class 2A champion, built a 12-0 halftime lead after a scoreless first quarter and used its ball-hawking defense to stamp out a second-half surge by the Eagles (11-2) at a raucous McLemore Field.
“I can’t say I’m surprised we’re going to the semifinals again, but we’re still playing a lot of young guys,” said Tanner coach Laron White. “I’m really tickled to death with the way our young guys are growing up, and a fast start always helps our kids out.”
Answering adversity again
Montgomery Academy (11-2) scored on two gadget plays within the first 4 minutes of the third quarter and clung to a 14-12 advantage until early in the final period.
The Eagles lit up the scoreboard for the first time on a 5-yard run by star tailback Justin Woolfolk, followed by Sam LaPlatney’s 32-yard grab.
But dual-threat quarterback Josh Thomas was held to 50 yards rushing after accounting for five TDs the previous game.
Tanner, which has battled back from deficits in all three playoff wins, responded with two touchdowns in the fourth and held the Eagles scoreless during the final 20 minutes of the game.
“They came out and gave us their best shot in the second half, but we kept our composure,” White said.
On the Rattlers’ go-ahead drive, Blake Whitt hauled in an 85-yard pass from JonJon Fletcher to get the ball to the Eagles’ 5-yard line. Hayden Stephens plunged in from the 1 and converted a two-point scoring run, regaining the lead for Tanner at 20-14 with 10:26 remaining.
Ty Mayberry added the Rattlers’ fourth and final touchdown with 3:08 left, when the big back darted into the end zone from 11 yards out.