The Page High School Patriots fell for the second straight year in the TSSAA 5A championship game Friday night in Chattanooga. The Patriots lost 47-13 to the Knoxville West Rebels.
The undefeated Rebels (15-0) scored 34 unanswered points, which included two touchdowns in the final 3:47 of the first half to give the Rebels a 27-13 lead at halftime. Page (13-2), who lost in last year’s contest 42-34 to Powell High School, couldn’t deal with the speed of the Rebels inside Finley Stadium.
“We were concerned about their speed on the edge, especially combined with a really good running back,” Page head coach Charles Rathbone said. "Their speed on the edge just made plays, and we had a lot of missed tackles. They executed, and we didn’t. Pretty simple.”
Both teams’ defenses played well to start the game. The game remained scoreless through the first quarter until West running back and 5A Mr. Football finalist Brayden Latham scored on a nine-yard touchdown run with just under 10 minutes left to play in the half, giving the Rebels took a 6-0 lead after a missed PAT.
Page answered quickly after key receptions by Max Collins, Boyce Smith and MacClean Copeland led to a six-yard run by quarterback Colin Hurd on fourth down to give the Patriots a 7-6 lead.
The Rebels answered right back converting on a third-and-15 with a 43-yard reception, which led to a 25-yard touchdown pass on the next play to give the Rebels the lead again to make the score 12-7.
Page answered again, this time with a 69-yard catch-and-run by Collins, which gave the Patriots a 13-12 advantage, but the two touchdowns before the half gave the Rebels a two-score lead and all the momentum.
The West defense held the Patriots to just three yards rushing, with 147 passing, in the first half. The Patriots would finish with negative yards for the game on the ground.
After a three-and-out to start the third quarter and a penalty that gave West good field position, Page defensive back Seth Cabale stopped the Rebels drive into the red zone with an interception, only to see Hurd throw an interception of his own on the next play to Cayden Latham. His twin brother Brayden scored on the ensuing drive to give the Rebels a 33-13 lead with 6:14 left to play in the third quarter.
West found a way to convert on its opportunities, while the Patriots failed to capitalize on theirs.
“They were keeping seven in the box and trying to shut our passing down with their speed,” Rathbone said. “We just simply did not make the plays that were there.”
The Latham twins would score another touchdown each in the fourth quarter. Brayden finished the game with 25 carries, 101 yards and three touchdowns. Cayden finished with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
West quarterback Carson Jessie, the game’s MVP, finished 18-24 for 286 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Despite the final score, the Patriots kept fighting until the end. Sophomore defensive end Eric Hazzard registered back-to-back sacks late in the third quarter to force a Rebels punt. Hurd got sacked multiple times but continued to battle despite the score.
Hazzard led the team with 11 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. Hurd finished 11-37 for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“I think he earned the right to stay in and finish the game,” Rathbone said. “He showed a lot of guys [his toughness], and I am proud of his toughness and leadership.”
Rathbone said he told his seniors how much he loved them and proud he was of them and all that they had accomplished this year and over the past two years as a group.
“I am very proud of this group of seniors,” Rathbone said. “They continued to lay the groundwork of success in the program. Page is a special place with lots of great people and support. This group of guys really helped build that.”