By Gary Johnson
SHELBYVILLE — What a remarkable turnaround.
After finishing last year with a 1-9 regular season record, Shelbyville Central closed the regular season this year with an impressive 34-14 victory over Tullahoma to claim the Region 5-5A championship on Thursday night at the Eagles Nest.
The win was monumental in a number of other ways as well.
It was the ninth win in a row for the Golden Eagles, who lost by seven points in the opening game on the schedule to Siegel in an offensive shootout, but it also flipped Shelbyville Central’s regular season record to 9-1.
“This is a first for me as a head coach or as an assistant. To flip your regular season record from 1-9 to 9-1 is almost unheard of. Without the group of men that are coaching with me this would have never happened,” second-year Shelbyville Central coach Jud Dryden said.
“Flipping the record around should not overshadow the fact that this team went undefeated in region play and won the championship.”
The Golden Eagles (9-1, 6-0) will host Region 6-5A No. 4 Hillsboro (6-4) in the opening round of the TSSAA State Playoffs on Friday night at 7.
Tullahoma (7-3, 4-2) will entertain Region 6-5A No. 3 Nolensville (8-2) on Friday night.
Shelbyville Central’s defense was the difference in the game, not allowing Tullahoma’s high powered offense to score any points while giving up only 103 total yards.
Wildcat quarterback Mason Bratcher only connected on 4-of-24 passes for 42 yards with three interceptions.
Tullahoma also had a fumble.
“What a performance by our defense. I just can’t say enough about how well they played. We had been a little sluggish over the past few games and we finally cleaned that up at the right time,” Dryden said.
“Our secondary played extremely well and I believe that position group has improved more than any other sinc
e the start of the season.”
William Bobo had a pick-six while Theo Washington and Micah Threatt each added an interception for the winners.
The start of the game was not favorable for Shelbyville Central as Tullahoma’s Liam Grider returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
Grant Chadwick’s extra-point was good for the 7-0 lead.
The Golden Eagles responded on their first offensive possession when Rocky Chandler raced 76 yards to the end zone.
Ben Betzelberger connected on the extra-point to even the score at 7-7.
Bobo’s interception for a touchdown came at the 5:52 mark of the second quarter and Betzelberger’s point after made the score 14-7 at the intermission.
The Golden Eagles dominated the second half, outscoring the Wildcats 20-7.
Bobo scored on a 67-yard pass play from Nathan DeLaughter, while Grider picked off a pas and returned it 35 yards for a TD in the third quarter as Shelbyville Central led 21-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Shelbyville Central added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth, a 1-yard run by DeLaughter and a 24-yard run by RayDaun Crenshaw.
DeLaughter connected on 9-of-19 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Chandler rushed for 172 yards on 11 touches.
Tullahoma 7 0 7 0 — 14
Shelbyville Central 7 7 7 13 — 34
T — Liam Grider 96 kickoff return (Grant Chadwick kick), 11:44.
SC — Rocky Chandler 76 run (Ben Betzerberger kick), 10:54.
SC — William Bobo 33 interception return (Betzelberger kick), 5:52.
SC — Bobo 67 pass from Nathan DeLaughter (Betzelberger kick), 6:32.
T — Grider 35 interception return (Chadwick kick), 3:17.
SC — Nathan DeLaughter 1 run (Betzelberger kick), 4:14.
SC — Ray’Daun Crenshaw 24 run (pass failed), 2:43.