The Nolensville defense forced three turnovers and running back Samson Johnson ran for three scores to lead the Knights to a 56-36 win over White County in 5A second round TSSAA football action Friday night.

Johnson was part of a four-headed monster offensively that included quarterback Coby Walton as well as wide receivers Dylan Northcutt (two touchdown receptions from Walton) and Chance Fitzgerald that capitalized on good field position from the efforts of the Nolensville defense.

“It’s just great to have a defense like ours, that always has your back,” Walton said. “And we have their backs too. We know we have to go score when they give us field position. I’m proud of our defense, and we got the W.”

The win sends Nolensville (12-0) to a quarterfinal showdown with local rival Page next Friday night.

After White County (9-3) had cut the Knights advantage to 28-21 just before halftime, Walton opened the second half by finding Fitzgerald down the sideline for a 35-21 lead with 10:59 left in the third quarter.

Warrior running back Malaki Dowell finished a drive with a 37-yard touchdown run moments later to cut it to 35-27 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.

Samson then found the end zone for the third time with 3:09 left in the third to extend the lead.

The Warriors (9-3) drove deep into Nolensville territory again to open the fourth quarter, aided by a personal foul penalty. Yet, the Nolensville defense stood tall and Jackson Bandy made the tackle on elusive White County quarterback Tripp Pinion on fourth down inside the five-yard line.

“We knew that White County was going to be able to run the ball and do it well because they have two really good players that either one of them can carry the football,” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. “It is hard on a defense to keep doing that all night. So yeah, it was a challenge, but our kids kept fighting hard. It is not easy to play that style when they keep pounding it at you. I am just proud of our kids for how they kept fighting and kept playing hard.”

The excitement was short lived as the Warriors stopped Johnson in the backfield on the next play for a safety and got the ball back, cutting the lead to 42-29 with 10:53 to play.

White County scored a few plays later when Dowell scampered in from four yards out, and it was 42-36 in the blink of an eye.

Fitzgerald then did his best Randy Moss impression with an outstanding catch on third down to extend the drive ,followed by the dagger as he reeled in a 50-yard touchdown catch with 4:27 to play.

“Chance is a big time playmaker,” Walton said. “He always is going to find a way to get the ball in the end zone, and he is a playmaker for us.”

Running back Zion Tamaska would then go 72 yards to cap the scoring following defensive back Derrick Burroughs forcing his second turnover of the game for the Knights (12-0) in the waning minutes.

The first half was, in essence, a track meet in helmets and shoulder pads.

After Pinion fumbled on the opening drive and Burroughs recovered, Johnson wasted little time in finding the end zone with 9:10 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 Nolensville lead.

It was part of three turnovers for Nolensville's defense that keeps dominating in turnover margin.

“It is huge,” Derrick said. “He got the ball back to our offense and they were able to do some really good things tonight, and hopefully we can continue to get turnovers. I thought offensively we played well tonight. We knew they were going to score ,so we needed to score points tonight.”

It was the start of a combined 49 first-half points. Johnson scored on runs of 2-yard and 14-yard scampers in that time frame. Walton hit Eric Harper for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:58 left in the fist quarter and a 14-0 lead.

Pinion then scored on a short run. The the Warriors defense then forced a fumble and Pinion immediately hit a hole in the defense and broke three tackles on his way to a 59-yard touchdown and tying the game 14-14.

It would be tied less than a minute later when Dowell broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run to tie it 21-21.

Less than 80 seconds after that, Walton found Dylan Northcutt for a 52-yard touchdown strike to send the the Knights to the lockers leading 28-21.