“We win and we’re in,” was the simple but very important statement made by Cleveland High School head coach Ron Crawford Wednesday when asked about how important Friday night’s game against Rhea County will be for his squad.
Currently, Cleveland’s Blue Raiders sit at 5-4 on the season, and a win Friday night would lock up a guaranteed postseason berth.
The knock-on-wood alternative of a loss against the Golden Eagles would put the Raiders in the same quagmire they faced last season, depending on the outcome of other games to extend their season, a set of circumstances very similar to what ended Cleveland’s 2011 season at Rhea County.
“If we lose Friday we get into a scenario where other people have our fate in their hands. We were in that same situation for the district championship this year until Bradley put themselves in a position to win one and we didn’t,” stated Crawford if reference to last week’s 16-14 loss to Bradley Central.
Double-digit penalties (17) and three turnovers hurt the Raiders in the narrow loss to their closest rival, costly mistakes that the team can’t afford to repeat moving forward.
“They (Bradley) were more disciplined and better coached last Friday. I could make a multitude of excuses for us, but the bottom line is we made more mistakes than they did. That’s something we have to fix. We really had a chance to kick a door down and make a statement, and we didn’t. We are determined not to let it happen again,” expressed Crawford.
Despite what season records may indicate, his team will need to be on its game as the very hungry Golden Eagles have their sights on Benny Monroe Stadium for a silver lining to hang their season on.
The 1-8 Golden Eagles don’t look like much on paper, but their physicality and resilience have Cleveland’s coaching staff wary and prepared for a hard-nosed football game.
“They are a team that is still playing hard. They still have fight left in them. If we go out there and expect them to roll over for us, we will be in trouble. It’s going to be a battle. We have to go out and execute. We do that and we’ll be fine,” explained Cleveland’s head coach.
Seven of Rhea’s eight losses have come to teams over .500. The combined record of teams they have been beaten by comes to 50-23, a pedigree that includes 9-1 Powell, 7-2 Fulton, 8-1 McMinn County and 7-2 Bearden.
Friday night will also include senior night festivities taking place before the 7:30 kickoff.