Because of some injuries and COVID-19 quarantines, just 27 of Rosemark’s 40 players made the 185-mile trip to Clarksville Academy for a key DII-A-West game Friday night.
Also because of quarantines, the team did not practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
For two and a half quarters the Rebels’ lack of depth and practice did not seem to be an issue as TRA raced to a 33-7 lead.
But as the third quarter wore on and the fourth quarter began, the Rebels began to tire and Clarksville Academy pulled to within 10 points.
Turns out there was nothing to worry about.
Tucker James came up with a game-changing pick-six with five minutes left and the Rebels left town with a much-needed 43-32 league win. The Rebels (2-4) currently occupy the sixth and final DII-A-West playoff spot and can clinch a postseason berth with a win in one of their two final games.
“We came out and played really, really well in the first half,” TRA coach Shannon O’Brien said. “We had seven turnovers last week against TCA (Trinity Christian Academy). We knew we had to eliminate those and we did … In the second half our legs gave out and we started missing tackles. They have some really good skill guys and we let them back in the game.”
Rosemark led 36-26 late in the game and Clarksville Academy (1-7) had the ball near midfield with a chance to make the game even closer. That’s when James read a middle screen, jumped in front of the receiver and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
As has been the case all season, junior quarterback Payne Fullen was the Rebel’s offensive standout. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.
Ellis Fullen had his first career TD catch and Aidan Sprenkle rushed 17 times for 70 yards and a score. Jalen Hurt and James each had 40 receiving yards.
Defensively, Ellis and Payne each had an interception and Evan Coats recovered a fumble.
The Rebels will take another three-plus-hour road trip this Friday to play DII-A-West opponent Columbia Academy, which is 0-7. A Rebel win would clinch a playoff berth.
“They are winless, but don’t let that fool you,” O’Brien said. “They’ve had to forfeit two games because of COVID. They are a very good football team.”