First-year Stewarts Creek head coach Ben Caudill saw his team establish its identity in the fourth quarter of Friday’s season opener but it was a little too late as the Red Hawks had not scored in the first three quarters of a 30-16 loss at Mt. Juliet.
Stewarts Creek (0-1) had defeated Mt. Juliet 19-14 in the season opener last year on the way to a program-record eight victories and a playoff appearance. But the Red Hawks had 32 seniors on that team, including all 11 starters on defense. So Friday’s game, which had kickoff delayed an hour for a lightning warning, was a new beginning for many on the Stewarts Creek sideline.
“That second half … that is who we are,” said Caudill, the team’s defensive coordinator last year. “We are tough. We are excited to come together and grow.”
The Red Hawks trailed 30-0 after three quarters because of some breakdowns on the punt team that helped Mt. Juliet score two touchdowns in the first quarter.
But Alex Krenk threw two touchdown passes in the game’s final six minutes, a 16-yarder over the middle to Blake Bachman and a 9-yarder on a screen pass to sophomore Tayden Mounivong with about a minute left in the game.
Krenk was 10-of-18 passing for 138 yards and one interception in each half. He added 44 yards rushing on 11 carries, including Stewarts Creek’s longest run of the game, a 16-yarder in the second half. He was tackled at the 1 on a fourth-and-3 run in the second quarter.
Mounivong had five catches for 84 yards, including a 58-yard play in which he ran from sideline to sideline to avoid tackles.
Junior Gabe Walker established himself as the offense’s featured running back to replace 2019 All-State selection Amari Jelks. Walker, also a linebacker, gained 65 yards on 18 carries, with 51 of those yards coming in the first half.
“Gabe is a two-way player for us and a great young man and a great competitor,” Caudill said. “He should be really good for us.”
Stewarts Creek finished with 132 yards rushing on 38 carries.
Krenk shanked a punt from his 9 in the first quarter, giving the Golden Bears the ball at the 16. Camron Malone ran 3 yards for the first of his two touchdowns to give the home team a 7-0 lead.
On the Red Hawks’ next possession, Krenk fumbled the snap on a punt and ran the ball instead but was tackled at the Stewarts Creek 22. Two plays later Malone ran 13 yards for a touchdown to give Mt. Juliet a 14-0 lead with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Stewarts Creek had about 100 fans and 50 students at the game which had reduced seating at Elzie Patton Stadium. Most of the fans wore masks, but many of the students did not. Instead of a handshake line after the game, the teams stood on their sideline and waved to each other.
The Red Hawks now have some extended practice time. Their next game is scheduled at Cane Ridge if Metro Nashville Schools are allowed to play that week.