Horton’s three TDs lead Bearden to 2nd district win over Lenoir City

Malachi Horton scored three touchdowns, and Bearden earned a 26-17 senior night victory over Lenoir City on Friday to keep the Bulldogs atop the District 4-AAA standings.

“We made plays when we had to, and I think that was the difference,” Coach Brad Taylor said. “Lenoir City’s a good team, but we’ve gotta continue to get better because [the opponents] are going to get tougher too.”

Horton finished the night with 180 yards rushing on 17 carries. The Bulldogs (2-3, 2-0 District 4-AAA) took a 6-0 going into the second quarter after Horton’s first rushing touchdown of the night.

Lenoir City (1-3, 0-2) had to adjust to new starting quarterback Mason Sharpe, who led the Panthers to a 10-6 lead at halftime. UT commit Jaylon Woods ran for a touchdown to put Lenoir City on top 7-6 with 3:40 left in the first half, but he did not return to the game and was on crutches in the second half.

“We were kind of down (at halftime), so we had to get back together,” Horton said. “We came together as a team and worked together all this week and got it done.”

The second half push started with senior quarterback Xavier Johnson finding Emad Aqqad in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown that brought the Bulldogs on top 13-10. Lenoir City answered back with a rushing touchdown from Sharpe.

The third quarter came to an exciting close when Johnson hit Horton for a 27-yard touchdown. Horton scored again in the fourth quarter to give the game its final score.

“I thought that the defense played better and improved,” Coach Taylor said. “Hopefully as we continue to heal up, things will be even better for us.”

Bearden’s Elijah Helton returned from an injury and played most of the night at outside linebacker.

“It was good to have Elijah back out there,” Coach Taylor said. “He made a couple of nice plays for us, and he’s getting comfortable and I think he’ll just continue to get better as the season goes on.”

Linebacker Griffin Delong, who suffered a hairline fracture to his tibia during the Fulton game, dressed out, but did not play. He is expected to return against West in two weeks.

Senior nose tackle Musab Henderson started for the Bulldogs for the first time ever and helped disrupt the Panthers’ running game at some key moments.

“Musab did a nice job for us,” Coach Taylor said. “He stepped in there and gave us a little boost early on and gave us a push inside and that was good to see, but he’s got to get used to playing the whole game.”

Bearden is looking forward to having some extra time to rest and to prepare for the tough second half of the season during their bye week. The Bulldogs travel to West (3-1, 1-1) in two weeks.

“We need a week off,” Coach Taylor said. “We’ve got a couple of guys that need to heal and so that we can have hopefully a more healthy team coming back.

“But we’ve got to get better; it can’t just be a break. We’ve got to continue to work and clean up some things still.”