NICHOLASVILLE — Tates Creek's young football team isn't so young anymore.
The Commodores grew up a lot in their season opener Friday night, putting together an 80-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes to beat host East Jessamine 14-7 in the VisitNich.com Bowl.
"We had a lot of people playing their first varsity game, but everybody pulled it together for the win," Tates Creek senior quarterback Martrell Berry said.
Dennis Oxendine provided the game-winning score. He burst up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left and was named the game's MVP.
Never miss a local story.
"We made it happen," said Oxendine, a senior who rushed for 71 yards, had 96 yards in kick returns and was also a force on defense.
Tates Creek's 11-play, five-minute final drive was clutch from start to finish.
Oxendine and junior Marcus Wilkerson combined to carry the ball nine times for 57 yards. But the big play of the march was a 36-yard pass from Berry to Keith Denton.
"I trusted him to get open," Berry said. "I was forced out of the pocket and threw it up and let him make a play."
Coach Mike Harmon was impressed. "Martrell made a heck of a play under pressure, and Keith made an unbelievable catch."
Oxendine was determined to get into the end zone because he didn't like the idea of overtime. "No, no, no, I didn't want that," he said laughing.
East Jessamine, rated in Class 5A's top 10, took an early 7-0 lead after Tates Creek lost a fumble on the first snap of the night.
Jaguars senior star Cameron Thomas, who rushed for more than 2,400 yards last season, ripped off a 35-yard TD run less than two minutes into the game.
But Tates Creek returned the favor late in the half. Othello Mullins sacked East Jessamine quarterback Cody Garrett and forced a fumble at the 28. Oxendine shook free on a 27-yard run to set up William Hardin's TD late in the first half to tie it.
The Jaguars had to do without Thomas most of the second half. He ran the ball only four times before suffering leg cramps midway through the third quarter. He did not run the ball again.
"I let my team down," said Thomas, who finished with 119 yards on 16 carries. "It's real rough when something like this happens. But we gotta get over it and get ready for the next game."
East Jessamine's Seth Hunt and Blake Hinkle tried to grind out yardage, but their blockers couldn't put enough of a dent in Tates Creek's defense.
Mullins, Oxendine, Taylor Grimes, T.D. Jemison and Ryan Betlach sparked the Commodores "D."
"We never could whip either of their tackles," Jags Coach Mike Bowlin said. "And it really hurt not having (Thomas) in there.
"But I was proud of our football team, especially our defense, playing a 6A team."
Hayden Tatman and Oleh Markovich led East Jessamine in tackles.
Harmon was more than happy with his young Commodores. "I'm so proud with how hard they played, how hard they blocked, and how hard the backs ran," he said.
Somerset 40, West Jessamine 13: Alex Lange and Storm Wilson provided most of the highlights as they led Somerset to a convincing victory in the nightcap of the Visit.Com.Bowl.
Lange, a running back as a junior last year, looked more than comfortable at quarterback against West Jessamine.
He ran 22 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters. He threw for 79 yards and a TD, and he also kicked four extra points.
Wilson had a 13-yard TD catch, and returned an interception 36 yards for a score.
It was the Briar Jumpers' 28th win in its last 30 games.
Will Knight had the play of the game for West Jessamine when he returned a punt 73 yards for a score that pulled the Colts to within 21-13 early in the second half.
But it was all Somerset after that.
Tates Creek 0 7 0 7—14
East Jessamine 7 0 0 0— 7
EJ—Cameron Thomas 35 run (Brandon Back kick). TC—William Hardin 1 run (Jake Ryan kick). TC—Dennis Oxendine 8 run (Ryan kick).
Records—Tates Creek 1-0; East Jessamine 0-1.
Somerset 7 14 13 6—40
West Jessamine 0 7 6 0—13
S—Alex Lange 11 run (Lange kick). WJ—Devin Taylor 30 run (Derrick Little). S—Storm Wilson 13 pass from Lange (Lange kick). S—Lange 2 run (Lange kick). WJ—Will Knight 73 punt return (kick blocked). S—Lange 1 run (Lange kick). S—Wilson 36 interception return (kick blocked). S—Tanner Gadberry 1 run (kick failed).
Records— Somerset 1-0; West Jessamine 0-1