Making it to the state final is starting to become routine for Summit, but things will be a little different this year.
Instead of going to Cookeville for the Class 5A championship, the Spartans (14-0) are headed to Chattanooga for the 6A final.
Summit punched its third straight ticket to the championship game with a 28-7 semifinal win at Hendersonville on Friday night.
“We just fought every year, basically just proving ourselves right and proving everybody else wrong,” Spartans quarterback Destin Wade said.
Summit won the 5A title last year after finishing second the previous year.
The Spartans’ 25th consecutive win earned them a showdown with defending champion Oakland (14-0) at Finley Stadium on Dec. 4.
“I think it’s an amazing test,” Summit linebacker/running back Keaten Wade said. “That’s what we wanted from the beginning of the year, so we’ve just got to go up there, show out and play our game of football and leave it all out on the field.”
Back in August, many wondered how the Spartans would handle the move up to the largest enrollment classification.
“It was a little bit harder, tougher competition for sure,” Destin Wade said. “But it was great. I think we did well in 6A.”
Did they ever.
The Wade twins, Kentucky commits and Mr. Football finalists, led the way for the past three seasons.
Destin rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against Hendersonville (10-4). He also passed for 105 yards and one TD.
“It was tough,” Spartans coach Brian Coleman said of the return journey to the finals. “We played a lot of good teams. Thank goodness our team is resilient and never hangs their heads.”
Hendersonville loaded up the box, but Keaten Wade bulled his way to 139 yards on 12 carries. He also caught a TD pass from Destin.
Hendersonville’s Torin Baker scored on a 61-yard TD run up the middle to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:39 left in the first quarter, but Summit rallied with three unanswered TDs.
Baker led all rushers with 174 yards and one TD on 19 carries.
“They pursue the ball a lot,” Baker said of Summit’s defense. “They’re great from the back side. I could slip a couple tackles, but I couldn’t break all of them. It was hard to get loose to the edge because they all were pursuing really good.”
Destin Wade’s 1-yard quarterback sneak early in the second quarter and another 1-yard TD run three plays after a sack/fumble gave the Spartans a 20-7 halftime lead.
“Earlier this week (Hendersonville’s) student section was talking some smack on Instagram, saying how we were overrated and stuff like that,” Spartans linebacker Finley Jameson said. “Oh, it really gets us fired up because we know that they’re overlooking us and we can just smack them in the mouth. We really try to play with class, but when thing get chippy we’re gonna play hard-nosed.”
Jameson got hard-nosed when he sacked Luke Manning, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Maddox Reed.
That was the one that set up Destin Wade’s second rushing TD.
Brady Pierce’s 5-yard TD run on a sweep finished the scoring with 9:38 left.
Ellis Ellis, one of the Commandos’ top running backs, was helped off the field with an undisclosed injury on the play.
Oakland, who boasts Georgia running back commit and 6A Mr. Football finalist Jordan James, defeated powerhouse Maryville 24-14 Friday night. That's the last team Oakland had lost to in the 2019 state finals game; since then, the Patriots are undefeated.
“There’s nobody else I’d want to play because we’ve always had that two spot and we just really want that No. 1,” Pierce said of the upcoming Oakland game.
Oakland was ranked first in the final Associated Press 6A poll followed by Maryville and Summit.
Keaten Wade averaged 11.6 yards per carry against Hendersonville.
He gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead after catching a 55-yard TD pass from Destin on Summit’s second possession of the game.
He got behind the Commandos’ secondary and juked the final defender before scampering into the end zone.
“We call him Derrick Henry sometimes because that stiff arm is deadly,” Pierce said. “His arms are just way too long. He would be doing it to me whenever we were little.”
Keaten missed much of last season with the same foot injury that has sidelined the Titans’ Henry recently.
“To be as big as they are, they’re so athletic and can just make people miss,” Commandos coach James Beasley said of the Wade twins. “Even on film watching their highlights, when guys get to them they’re unable to bring them down. I don’t know what it is, they’re just really, really good players, I guess. They’re strong, they’re fast and they’re quick so all those things combined make SEC-caliber players.”
Summit drove to the Hendersonville 1-yard line on the game’s first possession, but the Commandos kept the visitors out of the end zone with a goal-line stand when Ellis tackled Destin Wade on a fourth-down run.
Hendersonville drove to the Summit 6 at the end of the first half, but Aden’s Byrd’s interception prevented the Commandos from scoring.