All the pre-season hoopla is in the books and it’s time to get down to some serious high school football.
The second and final evening of action in the Chick-fil-A prep jamboree concluded at Finley Stadium Saturday and a funny thing happened along the way.
All five teams listed as the home teams got to wear their home – or colored – jerseys while the visitors wore white.
And all of those home teams were victorious and all had shutouts.
Granted, it’s five 20-minute quarters with a running clock, so nobody really has a chance to do a whole lot, but for it matters, Saturday’s winners included Walker Valley, Boyd-Buchanan, Ooltewah, Rhea County and Soddy Daisy.
Walker Valley blanked East Ridge 14-0 in the opening round while Boyd-Buchanan shut out Central, 7-0. Then in the most explosive quarter of the night, Ooltewah put a 20-0 whipping on Franklin County.
Rhea County and Soddy Daisy then wrapped up the action with back-to-back 7-0 wins over East Hamilton and Signal Mountain, respectively.
WALKER VALLEY 14, EAST RIDGE 0: The Mustangs did most of their damage through the air as sophomore quarterback Kolten Gibson completed all six of his passes for a total of 143 yards.
The two biggest plays included a 58-yard completion to Bryce Nunnelly for a TD about midway through while the second was a 37-yarder to Tucker Mendenhall about seven minutes later that also resulted in a touchdown.
Meanwhile, East Ridge had its best drive at the start, picking up three first downs before a sack by Walker Valley’s Ben Clark on a long third-down play forced a Pioneer punt.
Lorenzo Stewart had a long run of 17 for East Ridge while John Joffre had a pass reception covering 15 yards.
Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan was happy with what he saw for the most part.
“Our offense did some good things, but we were a little soft on defense at the start. We still have some stuff to work on, but we’re on track. We are young in spots, but we have some good skill people. We just have to put it all together on Friday night,” he said with a smile.
East Ridge coach Tracy Malone felt like the big-game situation may have been more than his kids could handle.
“I thought we were a little nervous at first and we were really sloppy as we had six bad snaps. Our offensive line blocked well early, but we sort of fell apart after that. We have a lot of first-year starters, so we have a ways to go,” he added.
BOYD-BUCHANAN 7, CENTRAL 0: The Bucs did a good job of mixing up their plays as they had 36 yards on the ground and 41 through the air.
Senior quarterback Cooper Hodge completed two of three passes, including an 18-yarder to Isaiah Dillard before connecting with Carter Broome on a roll to the left that netted 23 yards and moved the ball down to the Central 1.
Three plays later, Dillard banged into the end zone. Will Greer’s kick made it 7-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining and that was all of the offense for the Bucs.
The Pounders never got untracked on offense as four running plays lost nine yards.
“Our defense was outstanding, but we made too many mistakes on offense and had way too many penalties,” said winning coach Grant Reynolds.
“We go back to practice on Monday and we’ll get all of that squared away, but I really liked our defense and I liked the way Cooper Hodge ran our offense,” he added.
First-year Central coach Gary Bloodsaw didn’t see a whole lot to rejoice about.
“First and foremost, we have to learn how to block better and we have to eliminate dumb mistakes. We have to move forward from here, but I’m not pleased with anything I saw tonight,” he nodded.
OOLTEWAH 20, FRANKLIN CO. 0: The Owls pride themselves on a hurry-up offense and that was certainly the case against the slower Rebels.
Ooltewah had four offensive possessions and they scored on three of them.
Quarterback London Elrod, who completed six of seven passes, found Blake Smith open across the middle for a 30-yard gain before Elrod scored the first TD on a 13-yard keeper.
The first of two interceptions by Kendell Robinson put the Owls back in business at the Franklin Co. 35 and it took just four plays to score again, Elrod finding Ethan Walls in the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 advantage following the second PAT by Alek Toser.
Robinson’s second pick set up Ooltewah’s final score and it was the longest of the evening as a swing pass from backup quarterback Collin Thurman to Cameron Turner turned into a 73-yard score.
Walls had another interception for Ooltewah, but the clock ran out before the Owls could score again.
The Rebels didn’t do much on offense as they only picked up one first down on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Dalvin Russell to Mike Leslie.
“It’s hard to say a whole lot in a situation like this, but I liked how our defense caused those three turnovers,” said Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan.
“Landon Elrod made some positive yards and had some good decisions, but we came out focused and played hard. That was our main objective. Now we have to line up next Friday to see really how good we are,” he added, knowing that Riverdale will be calling on the first game.
RHEA CO. 7, EAST HAMILTON 0: The Golden Eagles, much like Ooltewah, had one of the best teams in the area last year and all indications are that they could be pretty tough again this fall.
Mark Pemberton’s teams always have a bunch of good running backs as their bread and butter is the ground game.
Nikki Wallis scored the only touchdown on a nine-yard run, but the Golden Eagles totally dominated the clock by running 21 plays on the ground that netted 173 yards.
The Hurricanes had one positive yardage play of four yards on a pass from Nick Woods to Huichan Yun, but they lost eight yards on three running plays.
Jeffrey Coleman’s fumble recovery and return stopped Rhea County the first time, but the Golden Eagles made the next drive count as they marched 90 yards in 13 plays to score the winning TD with 6:38 to play.
“We got four offenses and two defenses on the field, but we just wanted to get kids on the field as they were able to get some good experience. We did some good things along the way, but we just wanted to get through it without any injuries,” said Pemberton once the final horn had sounded.
“We got our feet wet and got some experience for our younger guys, but we just have to keep working to get better. I liked part of what I saw, but Rhea County has a good football team,” said East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood.
SODDY DAISY 7, SIGNAL MOUNTAIN 0: While most teams escaped without any serious injuries, that wasn’t the case for Signal Mountain as Garrett Hensley suffered an ankle injury on the first play and never returned.
The Trojans scored their only touchdown on the first possession when first-year quarterback Justin Cooke hit a wide-open Jacob Lemons, who stiff-armed one defender and raced 59 yards for the touchdown less than five minutes in.
The Eagles never really threatened as their biggest play was a 27-yard pass from Corey Dehart to Charlie Gauthier, but a sack by Soddy Daisy’s Jordan Day near the end helped keep the Eagles out of the end zone.
“We had way too many penalties, but it was good to see Justin Cooke get some positive reps as he made some good plays with his legs and his arm,” said Soddy Daisy coach Justin Barnes.
“All this is is a dress rehearsal for next week and a chance to get under the lights in a Friday night atmosphere, but I liked what I saw,” Barnes added.
Signal Mountain’s first-year coach Ty Wise wasn’t feeling so good when it ended.
“We need to play better overall than we did, so we still have a lot of work to do. And we lost one of our best running backs on the first play and that hurts,” he nodded.
The regular season kicks off on Thursday night with three games, including Baylor at Rhea County, Hixson at Marion County and Bradley at Walker Valley while most others will begin on Friday.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)