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Whitson, Tribe open season with win over Vikings

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 24, 2019 at 12:43 AM

KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett and quarterback Zane Whitson got off to a rousing start Friday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

Whitson, a 6-foot-1 junior, completed 9 of 18 passes for 145 yards and rushed for another 38 yards to lead the Indians to a 33-13 victory over Tennessee High.

Aiding Whitson’s efforts was a two-headed rushing attack powered by Phillip Armitage and Tyler Tesnear, who combined for 95 yards in the first game between the teams since 2016.

View the photo gallery from the game

“He was a really poised young man,” D-B coach Joey Christian said of Whitson, making his first varsity start. “He did a good job and didn’t do anything to cause us any terrible plays. He’s going to be a real good one.”

D-B controlled the line of scrimmage, outgaining the Vikings 135-11 on the ground. The Indians came up big with an early goal-line stand during which they kept the Vikings out of the end zone on five plays.

“We lost a couple of good offensive linemen last year, but we’ve got some pretty good ones this year, too,” Christian said. “They’re fighters and will do what it takes to stay on the block.

“Our defense was lights out in the run game. Both linebackers, (Nate) Whitley and (Braxton) Kulbacki, did a good job of anchoring it down. Jackson Harris and Jet Harris on the edge made it tough on those guys.”

Whitley said the Indians were up to the challenge of facing a rarely seen wing-T offense from the Vikings.

“It was amazing and we just never gave up,” Whitley said. “We practiced hard all week for them and came out ready to play them. We had a couple of errors, but we made up for it. It’s different playing that offense, but we studied them and were ready for it.”


The Vikings struck first.

Facing third-and-6 on their 16, Tennessee High quarterback Cole McBrayer scrambled away from the pressure and found Jaden Keller, who raced 84 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

The Indians’ Dalton Harkleroad responded on the ensuing kickoff, taking it from the left hashmark and going 87 yards for the tying touchdown.

“It was big for us. We had moved the ball and been successful offensively,” Christian said. “We had shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times and it was big to come back. I was having nightmares of last year when something bad would happen.

“It’s such a tribute to these kids. We had a couple of good blocks on the play and Dalton did a good job of running through them.”

D-B took its first lead when Nacir Sensabaugh flashed open over the middle and Whitson found him for a 40-yard TD. Jaden Alderson added his second extra point for a 14-7 lead with 2:25 left in the first half.

“It was such a great moment,” Whitson said. “He’s like my brother. We work hard and get up at 5:30 in the morning and come to the field to work on our routes. When you work hard, you have a good outcome.”

They connected three times for 68 yards overall.

After the Indians’ defense held, they got a last chance to score before halftime. Alderson booted a 34-yard field goal from the left hashmark for a 17-7 halftime lead.


Keller slipped behind the Tribe defense on the first possession of the second half and McBrayer found him wide open for a 76-yard TD.

D-B again had the answer and capped a seven-play, 45-yard drive when Jet Harris powered in on a 5-yard fullback dive.

The Indians used their balance on the next drive. A 20-yard pass from Whitson to Cam Williamson set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Armitage and a 31-13 lead.

Special teams accounted for two more points. The Tribe unit forced a bad snap and tackle in the end zone for a 20-point advantage.

McBrayer had a big night offensively, going 12-for-16 for 293 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter. Reece Proffitt hauled in seven catches for 126 yards and Keller had the two long catches for 160 yards.


Dobyns-Bennett hosts Oak Ridge next Friday night.

Tennessee High has the week off before a matchup with Region 1-5A opponent Daniel Boone.

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