For its first game of the 2019 season, Tuscola football traveled about three hours to Rhea County, Tennessee to test itself against a strong 5A opponent.

While his team came away with a 34-10 loss to open the year, Mountaineers head coach J.T. Postell was pleased with the effort they put forth.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Postell said. “I thought we battled pretty much the entire game. … We fought hard, first game against a good team, big 5A school from Tennessee that’s got over 1500 students. And I knew that was going to be a challenge for us. I wanted to see where we were right out of the gate and I thought that put us in a good spot to know what we need to work on and things we need to get better at.”

Offensively, the Mountaineers were led by running back Coleman Cothern, who carried the ball 15 times for 135 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. Tanner Hill led the team in receving with five catches for 66 yards. Kicker Davis King connectred on one 38-yard field goal.

“I thought our tailback Coleman Cothern stood out really well,” Postell said. “He had a long touchdown run, had a really big run for us during the game. Thought he did a good job of pass protection for us.”

Overall, Tuscola struggled to move the chains, and was done in by too many mistakes on the offensive side of the ball.

“Offensively, we just made too many mistakes on first downs that put us in first and 15s or first and 20s,” Postell said. “Those are just things we cannot do in order to be successful. We just made some silly mistakes. Turned the ball over, which I know that’s going to happen from time to time, especially early in the year, but we just made some plays as we were moving it down towards their red zone that we just can’t have happen for us.”

Defensively, the Mountaineers held up well at times against the Golden Eagles’ stout rushing attack, making adjustments and plays as the game went along, but ultimately wore down in the second half. Jospeh Hernandez put up 10 tackles, and Jonathan Smart had six.

“On the defensive side, I thought our guys hung in there and battled and I thought we just wore down a little bit,” Postell said. “We had a hard time stopping their running game early but then I thought we adjusted and made some big plays. But then I thought in the second half that we started to struggle a little bit.”

Friday night marked Coleman Bryson’s first game as the varsity team’s starting quarterback. The sophomore signal caller completed 10 of 17 passes for 115 yards, and improved with his decision making and comfortability in the offense as the game went along.

“I thought overall he got better as the game went on,” Postell said. “That’s what I told him; it’s what I told our coaches. I thought he tried to do too many things in the first half. I thought he made some good throws. He extended some plays for us, especially on third-down situations, using his legs and then making good throws down the field. But in the second half I thought he did a lot better. I thought he managed the game for us really well and I thought he ran the offense well. And he made some plays for us. He’s going to get better and better every week.”

From here, the Mountaineers will look to make the necessary improvements as they head into this week’s Haywood County Clash. Tuscola will host Pisgah seeking to snap a six-game skid in the rivalry.

“It’s a huge game,” Postell said. “Means a lot to both communities. For us, we’ve just got to take care of ourselves and we’ve got to focus on us and getting better at the things that we need to work on. And I think we will. We know our kids are going to be focused this week. I don’t think there’s any secret formula. We know it’s been six straight. Our kids know that, I know that and our community knows that. We’ve just got to find a way to make more plays than they do and come out on top.”

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