The Summit Spartans are returning to Cookeville.
A dominant run game and timely defensive stops propelled the Spartans to a 35-21 win over the Henry County Patriots on the road at Henry County High School in Paris, Tenn.
Junior quarterback Destin Wade—a 5A Mr. Football finalist—ran for 211 yards and the game’s final score, along with another 173 yards and one touchdown in the air to lead the way in Friday’s Class 5A state semifinal matchup.
“What a great win in a hostile environment,” Summit head coach Brian Coleman told Home Page. “[Henry County] is such a tough place to play.”
One week after getting the job done in the air, Summit went to a ground-and-pound attack in coming up big on the road for the second straight week. Brandon King set the tone, racing 66 yards to the end zone on the first play from scrimmage to give the Spartans an early 7-0 lead.
King ended the game with 70 yards on six carries, one of three Spartans to run for a touchdown on the night.
Not to be outdone, the Patriots sought to respond on their first offensive possession. They marched down to the Spartans 13-yard line before penalties and a pair of incompletions forced a 37-yard field goal attempt which went wide left.
Summit failed to capitalize, threatening to add to their lead only be stuffed at the 7-yard line on 4th-and-2 to turn the ball over on downs. A similar sequence came of their next drive, with Wade coming up one yard short on 4th-and-2 at the Patriots’ 10-yard line.
Henry County made the second chance count, with a 91-yard drive eating up most of the 4:13 remaining in the first half. Jemarcus Johnson ran in for the first of his two scores on the night, reaching the end zone from three yards out to tie the game at 7-7 heading into halftime.
Momentum remained with the Patriots, as did possession to begin the second half. Henry County enjoyed its only lead of the game, as Ryan Damron (13-of-21, 272 yards, 1TD) found All-American two-way starter and Memphis commit Jawon Odoms (7 receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD) on a 66-yard catch and dash to the house, with the Patriots going ahead 14-7 early in the third quarter.
That good feeling lasted less than a minute.
Wade connected with Brady Pierce (2 rec., 89 yards, 1TD; 40 rushing yards, 1TD) on a 76-yard strike to the tie the game. A key defensive stance by the Spartans on the next drive forced Henry County to punt, which in turn produced Summit’s most productive drive of the night.
An 84-yard drive saw Summit’s stud trio of Wade, Pierce and Caleb Jolley permanently turn the tide in the Spartans’ favor. While going run heavy, a crucial 33-yard completion to Jolley (2 rec., 56 yards) put Summit in Patriot territory. Pierce finished the job, running in his second score of the night—this one from 33 yards to allow the Spartans to regain a lead they would never relinquish.
“Jolley and Pierce made huge plays on both offense and defense,” noted Coleman. “And Destin Wade…was Destin Wade.”
Those words were never truer than on Summit’s next possession. Wade produced all 73 yards of offense on a 3:37 march down field, 41 in the air and 32 on the ground, capped by a 1-yard run to give the Spartans a 28-14 lead and less than eight minutes from advancing to their second straight Class 5A state finals appearance.
The local favorite wasn’t quite done yet, though. Henry County stormed right back, a 64-yard drive aided by a 51-yard reception by Odoms who broke two tackles and ran over a Spartan defender to put the Patriots in the red zone. Johnson finished the job, scoring his second touchdown of the night on a 7-yard run.
Henry County managed to recover the ensuing onside kick, leaving the Patriots with the ball and 6:28 to tile the game. Instead, a near four-minute drive came up empty, with Damron’s wide pass sailing well beyond the outstretched reach of Odoms on 4th-and-13. The Spartans took over on downs at their own 24 yard line, merely needing to move the chains in order to preserve the win.
Rather than run out the clock, Wade decided to run all the way to the end zone. A breakdown in communication by the Patriots defense allowed the otherworldly quarterback to sprint up the middle 52 yards to the end zone to give the Spartans a 35-21 lead which would make it to the final whistle.
“The guys just kept battling all night,” said Coleman. “Such a great effort.”
It was more than good enough to advance to the big dance.
Summit (14-1) will head to Cookeville for a second straight season after having never previously advanced beyond the state quarterfinal round.
Awaiting the Spartans in their second straight Class 5A championship game will be the Oak Ridge Wildcats, who earned their first finals appearance since 2005 with a 14-0 shutout win over South-Doyle.
The Spartans lost 30-7 to in-state powerhouse Knoxville Central in the 2019 Blue Cross Bowl 5A championships one year ago. All of their wins in the 2019 postseason came on the road, while having to go that route in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds this season.