Blackman pitched a shutout with a 24-0 win over the Wilson Central Wildcats in the opening round of the TSSAA playoffs Friday night at The Inferno.

Defense reigned supreme for the Blaze in the win, led by senior linebacker and Mr. Football semifinalist Conner Murphy with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and two sacks. Blackman held Wilson Central to just 116 total yards, including negative 35 yards rushing.

“We just focused on our keys that we’ve practiced all week,” Murphy said. “We played fast, we played physical. We knew they (Wilson Central) play hard and never give up. They are a little younger than usual but we weren’t going to look past that. It’s the playoffs and you have to win to advance.

“This is what we are working to. We are trying to go as far as possible. The Oakland loss was a setback for a comeback and we have really been working on everything as much as possible.”

Despite the loss the Wildcats end their season on an upward trajectory.

“Our number one goal coming in was try to make playoffs,” Wilson Central coach Brad Dedman said. “We started off strong at 4-0 but then lost four, so our guys rallied back. Tonight defensively I’m really proud of those guys the way we battled. Offensively we moved the ball well until we got to about the 25 (yard line) then couldn’t get past it.

“The last two seasons we were 3-7 turned it around to a 6-5 and we only have 12 seniors, but they have added to this program and laid a foundation for us to keep growing on.”

Penalties plagued the Blaze on both sides of the ball with 140 total penalty yards, resulting in five of Wilson Central’s 12 first downs and forcing multiple long-yardage situations for the Blackman offense.

“We have to focus on not beating ourselves,” Murphy said. “(We felt) that was the only way we would lose tonight. We had way too many penalties and we are going to have to fix that before next week to have a better chance at winning.”

Another factor that kept the Wildcats somewhat afloat was quarterback Tristan Lewis, who was 20 of 32 passing for 151 yards and connected with eight different receivers.

The Blaze got two touchdowns from Keionte Newson, both out of the Wildcat package, and a 42-yard field goal by Trip Holloway.

Antonio Malone passed the century mark for Blackman with 114 yards rushing, including a 37-yard touchdown run.

Blackman travels to Hendersonville next week.

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