MT. JULIET – Mt. Juliet’s regular-season winning was extended Friday night.
Marcello Walton scored on a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:18 left as the Golden Bears had to grind out their 20th straight regular-season victory Friday night, driving 72 yards in the final quarter to beat county rival Lebanon 14-10 before a packed crowd and middle Tennessee television audience.
It was the first Region 4-6A game for both teams. Mt. Juliet (3-0) hasn’t lost a regular season game since Sept. 2, 2016, when it lost 12-7 to Ravenwood.
It appeared Lebanon (2-1) was on the way to perhaps the biggest upset in the history of Wilson County’s longest football rivalry when Christian Pena knocked home a short field goal with 8:51 left, giving the Blue Devils a 10-7 lead.
Mt. Juliet, which had turned the ball over five times and had a punt blocked, finally put together a consistent drive, overcoming a holding penalty and a botched snap – the Golden Bears fumbled nine times, losing four of them.
On third-and-goal from the Lebanon 7, Walton found a hole up the middle and scored. Moments later, he recovered a Lebanon fumble to clinch the victory.
Lebanon, which hasn’t beaten Mt. Juliet since 2008, took the lead on Pena’s field goal. The score was set up when Ryan Brown blocked a punt, setting the Blue Devils up inside the Mt. Juliet 10.
The Golden Bears defense, which held Lebanon to 60 yards, held and forced the field goal. It was the third straight game Pena has made a field goal.
Both teams scored in the third quarter. Justin Harrigan broke off a 50-yard touchdown run on the Golden Bears’ second play of the third quarter to give Mt. Juliet a 7-0 lead, and Crite ran for a 6-yard score on fourth-and-goal to tie the game with 1:31 left in the period. Crite’s score was the first allowed by the Bear defense this season.
Moments later, Brown blocked a punt and Pena kicked a field goal, setting in motion the sequence that led to Mt. Juliet’s game-winning touchdown.
Despite going scoreless, the first half had more than its share of twists and turns. The first came moments into the game when Jeremiah Hastings came up with a tipped pass for an interception.
Mt. Juliet’s first major drive came later in the first quarter when the Golden Bears drove to the Lebanon 23-yard line, but another fumble was recovered by Kholby Salerno to end that threat.
Salerno had another big defensive play moments later when he stopped Mt. Juliet quarterback from escaping for a first down on a third-and-5. The Golden Bears missed a long field-goal attempt.
Mt. Juliet’s third turnover, a fumble recovered by Lebanon’s Daniel Davila, set the Blue Devils up at the Mt. Juliet 29. But the Golden Bears’ defense stood tough again and didn’t allow a yard, forcing another Lebanon punt.
In the first half, the Golden Bears allowed only 14 total yards and one first down. They did not allow a completion in eight pass attempts.
Both teams go on the road next week. Lebanon will visit LaVergne, and Mt. Juliet will travel to Gallatin.