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Sunbright, Wartburg play in sixth CAREacter Bowl

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The Bulldogs and Tigers both played in charity bowl games at Grace Christian to end the year

By Taylor Crombie

For the past six years, the CARE 365 program has hosted CAREacter Star Community Service Football Games at Grace Christian Academy to raise money for families in the greater Knoxville area with children who have life threatening diseases.

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This year, the money raised from the four games that were played between Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 went to 10-year-old Gunner Smith and his family. Gunner was diagnosed with brain cancer in August and has since been through surgery to remove a tumor as well as radiation treatment. In December, he will begin 42 weeks of chemotherapy treatment at Vanderbilt.

Sunbright and Wartburg were two of the eight teams invited to participate in the CAREacter Star Bowl. Sunbright took on the Concord Christian Lions on Thursday night, then Wartburg faced the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders on Saturday.

Sunbright

While no official score is kept and both teams are allowed to record a regular season win, the Sunbright Tigers kicked things off on Thursday night with a 41-14 win over the Concord Christian Lions and end the year on a positive note.

Sunbright’s offense got off to a sluggish start, but started to heat up towards the end of the first quarter with a 55-yard touchdown reception by Hunter Bunch.

It did not take long for Tigers to strike again. Levi Daniel was able to dash into the end zone early in the second quarter to give Sunbright a 13-0 lead after the PAT.

The Tiger defense gave up a big passing touchdown moments later, cutting their lead down to 13-6, but the offense was able to more than make up for it.

They added three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the half to take a 34-6 lead.

Hall carried the first one in himself, then connected with Bunch again on the next drive for a 25-yard pass that put Sunbright on the Tigers’ 8-yard line.

Hall handed the ball off to Jon Jon Hammock, who completed the drive with a touchdown with just over 30 seconds remaining in the quarter.

The Tigers weren’t done yet, though.

Concord Christian fumbled the ball on the first play of the next drive and Jackson Hammock recovered for Sunbright on the Lions 32-yard line.

Hall threw two incomplete passes before Josh Langley caught one in the end zone for the Tigers’ final touchdown of the half.

Jon Jon Hammock picked up his second rushing TD of the night for Sunbright’s final score of the game early in the second half to put the mercy rule into effect.

The Lions were able to get one more touchdown in during the fourth quarter and pulled off a successful 2-point conversion, but couldn’t overcome the damage that had been down in the second quarter, leaving the score 41-14 Sunbright.

While Sunbright coach Joe Kent and the team were extremely disappointed about just missing the playoffs this year, Sunbright’s football program has made major strides between finishing the 2016 season 1-9 and this season 6-5.

“Everything that we’ve done has been building towards getting better,” Kent said. “1-9 is not good enough for us. We have expectations and those expectations are getting to the playoffs, having winning records and competing in our region against the Coalfields and the Greenbacks and the teams that are perennial playoff contenders.”

Wartburg

Wartburg did not fare as well against the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders on Saturday. The Bulldogs were shorthanded due to injuries and despite strong effort, fell 56-28.

The Highlanders jumped ahead 14-0, while Wartburg struggled to build momentum on offense.

The tables turned momentarily, though, when Gatinburg-Pitt fumbled the ball midway through the first quarter. Bailey Craigo scooped it up and returned it for a 48-yard touchdown.

But the Highlanders answered on their next drive with a long rushing touchdown of their 0wn, extending their lead to 21-7.

Wartburg’s offense was starting the pick up some traction, though.

The Bulldogs were able to pick up a few key first downs after starting out on their own 20, then Noah Barnette caught a pass from Jeremiah Davis and carried it the rest of the way for a 36-yard touchdown to keep the score close at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter started out much the same way. The Highlanders looked like they might pull away when they scored another touchdown, but the Bulldogs were able to stay in the game thanks to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Dakota Smith.

Galtinburg-Pitt ran away with the game before the end of the half, though.

Wartburg’s defense gave up two huge passes that resulted in a touchdown, then the Highlanders intercepted two passes from Davis to score two more times in less than a minute to take a 49-21 lead.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Gatlinburg-Pittman extended its lead to 56-21 early in the fourth.

The Bulldogs never gave in, though, and Josh Moore hit Jesse Melhorn for a 47-yard touchdown to end in the last two minutes of the game to bring the final to 56-28.

While the final score was disappointing after how close Wartburg played the Highlanders early in the game, the way the Bulldogs kept battling it out shows how far the program has come this season.

“I knew coming in this was going to be a tough challenge because Gatlinburg-Pittman has a good football team and we have like 14 of our kids out right now on injury reserve, but they stuck it out and hung in there,” Wartburg head coach Kevin Human said. “We played hard, we were able to move the ball. We were able to get some scores. I think our defense played well at times.

“I’m happy with what I saw for the future.”