This week’s particular section of highway had to trailblaze through a hungry Chattanooga Central squad still searching for their first win.
Last season, Cleveland just barely held off the Purple Pounders at Raider Field winning by a score of 12-7. This year, with the tables turned, the Raiders took Central by storm, cruising to a big 35-13 victory on the backs of some highlight-worthy plays.
Yet, the Pounders were not going to make things easy. On the opening drive of the game, Central had the offense rolling, putting together a 12-play drive that had the team inside the red zone. But, a fumbled snap on fourth down ended the threat.
It was during Central’s next possession that Cleveland got on to the scoreboard with a bang, literally. During the third play of the drive, the Pounder ball carrier was leveled by Raider C.J. Bryant and fumbled the ball.
Senior linebacker David Morgan was there to scoop up the loose ball and run it all the way to the house to put Cleveland up 7-0 with 3:05 left in the first quarter.
But, Central’s offense refused to relent. Utilizing both the ground and air the Pounders marched the ball 45 yards before coming up against another fourth-down decision.
From 23 yards out Central quarterback Dominique Dawson aired one to the end zone where the ball was bobbled by the intended receiver but found a new home in the arms of Pounder senior Traviunta Trammell to level the score at 7-7 with 10:49 left to play in the first half.
Cleveland’s Bryant broke a huge return on the ensuing kick off to put the Raiders on the Pounder 43-yard line. However, the drive stalled on the 11 when a field goal attempt was blocked.
Defensively, the Raiders held strong, forcing the home team into a quick three-and-out that let Cleveland re-takeover on the opponent’s 39.
Austin Herink found four different receivers and Bryant carried the ball three times in the seven-play drive that culminated with a six-yard scoring reception by D.J. Jones. That put Cleveland up 14-7, a score that would carry over into the half.
The Pounders showed gumption to start the second half, lining up for an onside kick. The gamble paid off for the home team as they recovered the ball and took over on Cleveland’s 44 yard line.
All good things must come to an end, and despite the risk paying off for Central they were quickly backed into a three-and-out that was highlighted when Koran Kennedy made a lasting impression on the Ponder quarterback three yards in the back field to bring up fourth down.
During the ensuing drive, Herink found another three receivers on the Cleveland depth chart; Tyler Davis, Jones and Reed Allison. Bryant also took a pair of touches. Then, on a third-down play, the Raiders handed the ball to sophomore Raekwon Bunion who blazed 45 yards down the field to paydirt, putting his team up 21-7 with 7:33 on the clock in the third quarter.
That drive appeared to put a spark in the Cleveland sideline, and things really started clicking on both sides of the ball.
The next possession saw the Raiders haul in four first downs, 64 yards and seven points on 11 plays to extend the lead to 28-7 and end the third quarter.
Eric Goodwin made his presence felt during the drive with a pair of catchs for 43 yards, one of which was a diving effort up the middle of the field to move the chains. Morgan got the score when he pounded the ball in from two yards out.
Four plays later, the Pounders coughed up the ball, giving it to the Raiders inside the red zone. Facing fourth and very long Herink connected with Davis for a jaw-dropping 27-yard pitch-and-catch to give Cleveland a 35-7 lead with 10:21 left to play.
Central’s Pounders refused to relent, even when faced with an insurmountable lead. On the team’s next drive they pushed the ball 65 yards on a clock-eating 13 plays to strike one last time, moving the score to its final of 35-13.
Despite the big win, it wasn’t all sunshine and puppy dogs for Cleveland. For a third straight week, the team tallied double-digit penalties, an area that head coach Ron Crawford is looking to address.
“We have to work on the penalties. We are still seeing some body-language issues out there, and are still having some trouble executing. That’s on us as a coaching staff as well as the players,” explained the first-year Raider mentor.
That aside, the Raiders showed marked importment in the run game and were even presented an opportunity to let some players further down on the depth chart grab some in-game experience.
“We got an opportunity tonight to get some of our younger guys some looks. Then we’ll have a chance to see them on film and work with them, because there will come a time when we need them,” Crawford said.
“The run game is something we have been putting an emphasis on for the last four weeks. We need it to get better for us to be competitive, but it showed some signs of improvement tonight,” he summed up.
Next up for Cleveland will be a very interesting gridiron-showdown Friday night at Benny Monroe Stadium against a Walker Valley Mustang squad who is off to the hottest start in school history.
Cleveland 7 7 14 7 — 35
Chattanooga Central 0 7 0 6 — 13
CHS — David Morgan fumble return (Jesse Jones kick) 3:05.
CC — Traviunta Trammell 24-yd. pass from Dominque Dawson (Tareq Faleh kick) 10:49
CHS — D.J. Jones 7-yd. pass from Austin Herink (Jones kick) 2:45
CHS — Raekwon Bunion 46-yd. run (Jones kick) 7:43
CHS — David Morgain 2-yd. run (Jones kick) 0:23
CHS — Tyler Davis 27-yd. pass from Herink (Jones kick) 10:31
CC — Scout Morgan 1-yd. run (kick failed) 4:26
Team stats CHS CC
First downs 12 11
Rushes-yards 22-118 42-130
Passing yards 191 51
Total yards 309 181
Comp-Att-Int 21-24-0 9-20-2
Punts -Ave. 2-22.5 3-32.0
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 2-1
Penalties 10-95 4-30
Rushing: C.J. Bryant 14-55, Raekwon Bunion 2-67 TD, David Morgan 2-3 TD, Austing Herink 2-(-9), Jonathan Terrero 1-3 (CHS); TaQuan Johnson 17-80 (CC).
Passing: Austin Herink 20-22-0 2 TD, Jacob Gibson 1-1-0 (CHS).
Receiving: D.J. Jones 6-38 TD, Tyler Davis 4-40 TD, Eric Goodwin 4-56, Morgan 1-24, Reed Allison 1-7, Jackson Earle 1-2 (CHS); Traviunta Trammal 4-29.
Records: Cleveland 2-2; Central 0-3.