Lenoir City falls short in season opener

Lenoir City High School junior quarterback Zane Ward scrambles out of the pocket Friday in the Panthers’ 21-7 loss to the Heritage High School Mountaineers.

After escaping with a 21-20 season-opening win last season over Heritage High School, the tables flipped on Lenoir City High School as the Mountaineers snapped a 25-game losing streak with a 21-7 victory over the Panthers.

Heritage quarterback Zach Hollman helped the Mountaineers score on their first possession after a Lenoir City fumble, orchestrating a 97-yard drive. The drive culminated when Hollman faked a bubble screen and lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Williams.

Lenoir City responded late in the second quarter when junior quarterback Zane Ward rushed into the end zone from 10 yards out to put the Panthers on top 7-6 at halftime.

“I think he had some definite moments of brilliance, and then some moments when he needed those summer 7-on-7 reps, just missing a guy here or not going through the progression quite correctly,” Jeff Cortez, LCHS head football coach, said. “Being a junior and his first varsity start under the Friday night lights, I thought it went fairly well. I thought for him and for the offense, it was great to be out there against somebody else. Now we can just elevate and learn and get a little bit better.”

Heritage answered early in the fourth quarter with a quarterback sneak by Hollman, followed by a successful two-point conversion to push the Mountaineers back in front 14-7.

With less than seven minutes remaining in the game, the Panthers’ hopes began fading after Ward threw an interception. Two plays after the pick, Heritage running back Daniel Foxx muscled through would-be tacklers and ripped off a 35-yard run.

Heritage’s Triston Hurst followed by plowing over defenders for a 10-yard carry. Hollman and Williams combined to deliver the dagger on a 5-yard touchdown pass with three minutes left.

Lenoir City’s next game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against the Loudon High School Redskins for the annual Battle of the Bridge rivalry.