In spite of both team’s 0-9 records, and in a game with zero playoff implications, the Murfreesboro Rattlers and the Dierks Outlaws finished the 2017 football season last Friday night at Rattler Stadium with performances worthy of remembrance in the long standing rivalry.
Ultimately, the Outlaws were able to prevail over their host 40-30 in a game that saw back and forth action and remarkably similar statistics for both squads.
The win Friday night was the first high school win at Dierks for new Outlaw Coach Jonathan Bates.
“I have learned a lot the first year…not necessarily X’s and O’s, but how to run a program,” Bates said Monday. “When you are winning, it’s easy to keep everyone motivated, but when you’re not you have think outside the box to keep everyone on the same track and working for a common goal. I feel we played hard, but had to learn how to overcome adversity as a team.
Bates continued, “I’m extremely proud of the way our team fought and played to finish the year with a win. Anytime you can win the last game going into off-season, it always helps with the demeanor, because you have a tendency to remember the firsts and lasts. Our last game was a win so it will have a carry over into off-season.”
Dierks would take a 13-0 lead before the end of the first quarter on the strength of a strong running game and a recovered onside kick to grasp the momentum early in the game.
After holding the Rattlers to a turnover on downs on the opening possession, the Outlaws would drive 69 yards for a touchdown. Three consecutive Jarett Fox rushes would culminate in a touchdown to give the Dierks a 6-0 lead.
An onside kick would immediately return possession to the Outlaws, and the ensuing scoring drive finished with a Grant Stranser TD rush from one yard out with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter. Fox would gain the two point to set the lead at 13-0.
Undaunted, the Rattlers would come right back, as Jakob Allmon would take a short kickoff back to the Outlaw 15-yard line. J.C. Motley would traverse that span on the next play and would follow up the touchdown rush with the two-point conversion, making the score 13-8.
Dierks would foil Murfreesboro’s attempt at an onside kick, and would move deep into Rattler territory before a fourth-down pass attempt was intercepted by Allmon, returning the ball to the Rattlers at the two-yard line.
The Outlaws would force a punt, regaining the ball near midfield. After moving into Rattler territory, a defensive pass interference call against Murfreesboro would place the Outlaws inside the Rattler 25-yard line. Then, overcoming a holding penalty that backed them up, a twisting 28-yard rush by Blayn Turner would traverse the field from one sideline to the other. Chandler Lowery would cap the drive with a four-yard TD rush with 3:39 remaining in the half and giving Dierks a 20-8 lead.
Murfreesboro would fumble a snap and lose possession, but the Rattler defense would be able to force a punt on two sacks by brothers Jarrett Faulkner and Justin Faulkner.
The Rattlers would drive to the Dierks 3 yard line on their next possession, but the clock expired and ended the scoring threat.
The Rattlers would keep the momentum going in the second half, completing a 27-yard TD pass from Motley to Allmon on a fourth-and-nine situation. Motley would complete a pass to Jarrett Faulkner for the two-point conversion to set the score at 20-16.
The Outlaws would be forced to punt on their next series, and Murfreesboro would methodically drive the field after a 33-yard Motley run opened the possession. Six plays later the Rattler would score on fourth down from the six yard line on a Motley to Faulkner toss. Braden Cross would take the two-point conversion over the goal line, staking Murfreesboro to a 24-20 lead.
For the third consecutive possession the Rattlers would force a three-and-out punting situation for the Outlaws, and as the third quarter ended, Murfreesboro seemed primed to take control of the game.
However, momentum changed hands quickly on the first play of the fourth quarter, when a fumbled snap was collected by Fox, who returned the turnover 34 yards for a TD. Lowery would catch a pass from Stranser for the two-point conversion, returning the lead to Dierks 28-24.
Murfreesboro would quickly go four and out on their next possession at midfield, and the Outlaws firmly took control of the game as the Fox continued his spectacular play, rushing for gains of 17, 3 and 31, with the latter placing Dierks in the end zone. He then converted the two-point conversion, pushing the lead to 34-24.
The Rattlers followed up with a second consecutive turnover on downs near midfield, as things began to look bleak for the home squad with 6:38 remaining in the game.
The Outlaws would place their final scoring touches on the game less than a minute later on the strength of a 38-yard TD run by Fox, making the score 40-24.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the scoring play moved the Outlaw kickoff back, and the Rattlers would garner the football at midfield. Motley would complete an 18-yard pass to Michael Hughes and then would rush 16 yards to the two yard line, setting up a Hughes TD rush to make the game compelling.
However, down by 10 points with 5:09 remaining, the Rattler two point conversion try fell incomplete, leaving Murfreesboro still two scores away.
Zayne Flaherty would recover the onside kick attempt for Murfreesboro, but a holding penalty and a fumbled snap soon placed the Rattlers in a untenable situation, and they would lose possession of the football on fourth down with 3:55 remaining in the game.
The Outlaws would end any further drama by driving the ball for the remainder of the game, finally downing the ball on the last play inside the Rattler’s five yard line.
For the game, the Outlaws would rush 52 times for 320 yards and 16 first downs, and completed no passes in two attempts over their 24:41 possession time.
Fox would garner 218 of those yards and three TDs, while Turner mustered 84 yards.
The Rattlers would gain 322 yards of offense, 126 yards through the air and 196 on the ground in 23:19 possession time in earning 15 first downs.
Motley, who missed the two weeks previous with an injured hand, battled valiantly for the Rattlers in completing 11 of 17 passes for those 126 yards, including two for touchdowns, while adding 179 yards on the ground on 28 rushes and another TD.
Rattler receivers were lead by Allmon with six catches for 79 yards and a TD, along with Faulkner 2/12, TD and Nathan Plyler 2/30.
Murfreesboro was penalized 10 times for 70 yards, while the Outlaws received six penalties for 42 yards.
Both teams would run 51 plays in the game.
Murfreesboro’s Jarrett Faulkner would punt once for a 31 yard average, while his equal on the Dierks side, Stranser, would punt 3 times for a 42 yard average.
Defensively for the Rattlers, Flaherty would lead the way with 10 tackles, including for for loss. Cross would add nine tackles, and Andrew Keeney 6.
The victory gives Dierks (1-9) its lone win on the season, while relegating Murfreesboro (0-10) to the inverse perfect season.