ROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Lee Academy is heading into its bye this week on a two-game winning streak after a one-sided victory at Rossville Christian Academy Friday.
The Colts’ (2-2) 56-14 victory came on the strength of the running and return games. Five Lee players rushed for touchdowns while senior Graydon Gullick got things going with a 50-yard punt return touchdown with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter to give the Colts a 7-0 lead they would not relinquish.
The mercy rule with a running clock went into effect for the second half as the Colts led 43-7 at halftime. Several Wolves suffered injuries during the game.
Lee football coach Rick Johnston said his team has improved each week, but acknowledged it was not as easy to evaluate things with the competition his team face.
“I think so (we’ve improved each week),” Johnston said. “It’s hard to tell tonight, but it’s a good team win. Everybody got to play. When everybody gets to play, everybody’s happy, so good for morale going into the bye week.”
While the victory was decisive, the Colts did make an early mistake.
After a short Wolves punt, Lee had possession at the Rossville Christian 37-yard-line with 7:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior Russell Cook followed with a 9-yard run. Sophomore Sam Stonestreet took the ball more than 10 yards the next play, but lost a fumble. Rossville Christian recovered the ball at its own 16.
The Wolves were forced to punt on their ensuing possession. That was the punt Gullick returned for a touchdown.
After the Colts led by three touchdowns, Rossville Christian Academy returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown with 10:46 remaining in the first half to cut the lead to 21-7.
Gullick returned the following kickoff to the Rossville Christian 32. That led to senior Nickos Nolan rushing for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:25 to play in the first half to extend Lee’s advantage to 28-7.
Nolan rushed for four touchdowns, all in the first half.
Johnston praised his team performance running the ball and in the return game.
“The guys did a good job,” he said. “We had a number of guys we got reps back there. We’re, of course, happy with that.”
Nolan’s first touchdown came with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. On a one-play drive after a Wolves punt, Nolan ran for a 42-yard touchdown on a pitch to the left. That put the Colts ahead 21-0.
A 31-yard run from senior quarterback Luke Crumpton and a Stonestreet 14-yard run set up Nolan’s third touchdown on a 16-yard run with 1:09 to play in the first half. A high snap on the PAT attempt led to sophomore quarterback and holder Bryan Ray running in the 2-point conversion to give Lee a 36-7 lead.
Senior Michael Basha did make all five PATs he had the opportunity to kick.
With the contest well in hand, Ray took over at the quarterback position with 4:09 remaining in the first half.
On Ray’s first play from center, he had a long run, but a false start negated the play. Nolan came back with his fourth touchdown of the night on a 73-yard run with 3:29 remaining the first half. That extended Lee’s lead to 43-7.
Cook, who had been injured for the early part of the season, scored Lee’s second touchdown on an 8-yard run with 0:39 to play in the first quarter to put the Colts ahead 14-0. Cook had five carries on the drive with his longest run being 22 yards.
Cook also had a sack on the opening drive of the game to put Rossville Christian in a fourth down and 24 situation forcing a punt.
The Colts were 2-2 in 2019 after losing their first two games, just like this season, and advanced to the Class 4A semifinals.
Johnston acknowledged going into the bye week there are areas his team still needs to improve in as it looks to make another deep run.
“We’ve got to get some ball security stuff taken care of,” he said. “We’ve been working hard on it for awhile now. We still laid the ball on the ground a couple times tonight. Against a good team, you just can’t do that.”
Making a deep run is on the Colts coach’s mind.
“That’s certainly the goal,” he said. “We’ll go back to work and try to get better.”
Younger athletes had opportunities to play for the Colts during the second half with the sophomore Ray remaining at quarterback.
Sophomore Aiden Byrd had two long returns on special teams. He took the opening kickoff of the second half to the Wolves 30-yard-line and returned a punt to midfield.
Following Byrd’s kickoff return, senior Barrett Mitchell had three long runs. Mitchell’s 20-yard run gave Lee a first down and goal at the Rossville Christian 3.
Senior Tripp Dulaney capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. A bad snap caused the PAT to fail, so Lee led 49-7.
Sophomore Gage Coats was the kicker in the second half. He connected on the one PAT he had the opportunity to kick.
Senior Chandler Wells’ 18-yard run set up a 7-yard touchdown run from senior Jackson Spinks with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter to extend the lead to 56-7.
Rossville Christian’s only offensive touchdown of the night came on a 50-yard pass with 9:23 to play in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Justice Duraj ran for a 56-yard touchdown with 6:13 to play in the fourth quarter, but it was called back on a penalty.
Lee is back in action Sept. 25 for its homecoming game against Tunica Academy with kickoff set for 7 p.m.