Cleveland, Tenn. — Winless in its first two games, Rhea County's football team bounced back at Walker Valley to start Region 4-5A play unblemished Friday night. The Eagles beat the Mustangs 35-14.
"That's huge to get 1-0 in the region," Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton said. "There's five teams in the region, so that definitely gives us a leg up, and getting a win after 0-2 is a big confidence booster. We want to continue to play well and continue to improve."
The Eagles started the game with six running plays, capped by Christian Simon's 12-yard scamper, but scuffled offensively into the second quarter and trailed 7-6 after Kolten Gibson's 14-yard strike to Brock Gibson for the Mustangs (0-3, 0-1).
Rhea County found its groove from there, scoring two more times in the second quarter to take a 21-7 lead into halftime. Gavin Morrison picked up a 14-yard run and quarterback Zack Pemberton ran in for a two-point conversion. Simon then tacked on his second touchdown with 5:02 to go.
Morrison and Simon kept it going in the second half, with Morrison bouncing off would-be tacklers to score from midfield in the third quarter and Simon punching it in from the 1-yard line in the fourth.
"We kept giving it to our backs, and they did a great job," Coach Pemberton said. "We ran it right, we ran it left — we were an equal-opportunity employer tonight."
Simon racked up 164 yards and Morrison added 120 as the pair combined for 34 carries.
While Rhea County was a force on the ground, Walker Valley's struggles in that department continued. The Mustangs were held to just 46 yards rushing, most of which came from quarterback Gibson.
"We have to be more consistent up front," Mustangs coach Glen Ryan said. "We have to have some grit up there and be able to run the football. We have to give Kolten more time, too, but we made mistakes in all different areas. We have to get better."
Gibson threw 47 passes, completing 25 for 272 yards, and added another touchdown in the fourth quarter. This time, it was to Caleb Grannan, but Gibson's favorite target was Zeke Westfield, who caught 14 balls for 141 yards.
"We felt like it was an even game coming in, but we made too many mistakes," Ryan said. "We feel like we got enough stops on defense to give us a chance. We just didn't get it done offensively and made more mistakes than they did."
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