BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. -

The Sullivan Central Cougars have been a great comeback story this season. For the first time in a long time they have a shot at the playoffs, and their running back is leading the way.

There's a different feel at Sullivan Central this year; the Cougars are winning games and having fun doing so. Last Friday against David Crockett, running back Gavin Smith ran for 140 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the cougars to a 54-32 win over the Pioneers.

"It's been a long time since I've really been a part of a shootout," Smith said about the game. "It is a lot of fun scoring a lot of points, moving the ball offensively."

Coach Jeff Fox is pleased to see Smith's success. "Couldn't happen to a nicer kid," he said. "Gavin has really worked hard for us this year."

After 8 straight seasons of no more than 2 wins, the Cougars have 4 wins this season and are still alive for the playoffs heading into Friday night's game at Sullivan South. "Very exciting times for us to even be able to talk about the playoffs," Coach Fox said. "We know it's an outside chance. We know we are going to have a tremendous challenge Friday, [because[ South is playing for the same thing."

For Smith and the rest of the seniors who have been through some tough times, a playoff berth would be a nice way to end their careers. "It would be a storybook ending," Smith said. "It's shown all the people that transferred away from Central that if you would have stuck with us and hadn't given up then you could have been in the playoffs."

But even if the playoffs don't work out, Smith knows he will be leaving the program in better shape than when he started at Central, and that is a pretty good feeling.

"There's something to say about people who stick with the team even when it's hard," said Gavin. "We stuck through it and now things have turned around and our team should be real proud of that."