SMYRNA — Smyrna scored 21 unanswered in the third quarter to break away from La Vergne and move one win closer to a Region 5-6A title with a 35-28 win Friday night.
The Bulldogs continue their domination of the rivalry with their 20th consecutive win over the Wolverines.
“It is always a good rivalry with La Vergne, and they have a great bunch that made it close all the way to the end,” Smyrna coach Matt Williams said. “I am proud of our kids for executing our game plan in the second half and especially the defense for controlling La Vergne’s offense.”
La Vergne led at halftime 21-14 thanks to a two first-half touchdowns from running back Ray Banner. Bad weather struck the area at the break, lengthening the intermission, but it was to Smyrna’s benefit.
Smyrna scored on two plays to open the half, including a 77-yard touchdown pass from Landon Miller to Jamir Eaton to tie the game at 21-21. A botched punt by La Vergne set up a short field for Miller to score his third touchdown minutes later before Brendan Benthall capped the scoring barrage with a 5-yard touchdown.
“Both sides of the ball made adjustments. (Their) defense filled gaps and I needed to make better reads,” sophomore QB Miller said after his 200-yard game. “We have to keep going. Every team has areas they can improve, but I like where our team is and we need to keep pushing to win a region championship.
Smyrna’s defense held La Vergne to 90 yards in the second half while their offense gained 400 for the night, led by Miller and Arion Carter, who had 148 yards rushing and a touchdown.
La Vergne faced its struggles seeing Banner left with a leg injury midway through the third quarter. The senior rushed for 217 yards and two scores before leaving under his own power.
“We lost one of the best players in the state but our kids maintained their composure,” La Vergne coach Mike Woodward said. “I can’t say enough about the kids willingness to fight through (the rough third quarter) and still give ourselves a chance to tie it in the fourth.”
La Vergne pulled within 35-28 with a Tavarius Battle touchdown at 6:35 of the fourth, but the defense could not come up with a stop in time to give the Wolverines offense a tying chance.
The Bulldogs will play for their first fregion championship since 2010 with a short road trip to Stewarts Creek next Friday. A Smyrna win could also secure a runner-up finish and home playoff game for La Vergne — the first in Wolverine program history since 1996.
“All the credit has to go to the kids and coaches for buying into this family and doing what it takes to be successful,” Woodward said. “I just tell them what to do and they execute every night, and they make this program what it is.”