Even though the Blue Raiders season got started off on a sour note, the team worked to turn things around with a 36-17 victory over the Cavaliers.
“The object is to win the game, and we did that,” Cleveland head coach Ron Crawford said. “We had an improved running game, and we worked extremely hard on protecting the football. We threw the ball and opened it up, and Cookeville wasn’t as good on defense as McCallie. Our defense was better, and our kicking game is starting to be really solid with Oscar Galvan and Zack Lee. It was good to see something positive.”
Senior wide receiver DJ Jones racked up a total of four touchdowns during the game, with senior cornerback Michael Huff also making it into the end zone for the Raiders. Sophomore kicker Oscar Galvan locked up all but one of Cleveland’s extra point attempts, going 4-for-5.
Cleveland is now 1-1, and will open District 5-AAA play Friday when they travel to Athens to take on defending league champion McMinn County. Like the Raiders the week before, the Cherokees fell victim to McCallie evening by a 41-6 margin to slip to 1-1 as well.
“We’re just now getting off all fours and starting to walk,” Crawford said. “We’ve got work to do, and McMinn County will just be a huge challenge for us.”
Starting at their own 35 yard line Friday, the Raiders got to work on the scoreboard three minutes into the game, with senior QB Austin Herink’s 20-yard pass finding it’s way to Jones in the end zone.
At 5:31 in the first quarter, Herink recovered from a bad snap and fired off a 34-yard pass to Jones, who was waiting with open arms in the end zone once again.
The Cavaliers pushed Cleveland’s defensive line to the brink of their two yard line, but senior Kimsey Bell prevented them from crossing over into the paydirt. Cookeville’s only points in the first quarter came from Spencer Wright’s 24-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
Jones got the second quarter started off with a bang as he pillaged through the Cavaliers for a 91-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff return.
Cookeville’s answer to the Raiders’ third touchdown came at 6:50 in the second, as Chase Mabey intercepted a pass and turned it into an 85-yard return for a touchdown.
A little over three minutes later, Jones made a short 5-yard trip into the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the night.
Just as the final seconds of the first half wound down on the clock, Huff was able to intercept a Cavalier pass and boogie on down the field for a 90-yard “Pick 6.” What would be the final touchdown for the Raiders put them up 34-10 going into halftime.
“Michael Huff was a nice surprise; we thought he played pretty solid for us at corner. Where that return came from, I don’t know. He did a great job on the interception, and our defense did a great job of getting back out in front of him and playing with passion and energy,” Crawford commented.
An uneventful third quarter passed by quickly and turned into the Cavaliers’ frantic last few attempts at getting something going offensively.
For coach Crawford, Cleveland’s efforts in the final quarter were unsatisfactory.
“I think we played well for three quarters but then got sloppy in the last quarter,” Crawford said.
At 11:10 left in the game, the Raiders’ defense put up two points on the board when junior Zach Brammer trapped a Cavalier ball carrier in his own end zone for a safety.
With 3:03 left on the clock, Cookeville’s Ty Hammons ran three yards for the final touchdown of the game.
While Cleveland’s offense once again put up a large number of points, Crawford was still not pleased with the potential points that were lost.
“Offensively, we felt comfortable, but we left three touchdowns out there. That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve left points on the field from turnovers. We had three turnovers in the red zone. Instead of 36 points, we’re talking about a 57-17 win,” Crawford stated. “We’ve got to finish drives and be more cohesive and focused. The turnovers in a close district game will get us beat. We don’t have enough margin for error against the teams in our league to make those types of mistakes, so we’ve got to do a better job.”
Herink threw for two touchdowns and completed 17-of-30 passing attempts for a total of 199 yards.
Junior TJ Parker led the Raiders in rushing, with a total of 109 yards in 15 attempts. Senior Jonathan Terrero had a total of 42 yards, while junior Raekwon Bunion finished the game out with 32 yards.
“This gave us an opportunity to work on our running game. TJ finished his runs really, really well. I’m real proud of him; he comes to work everyday and does all the things right. It’s good to see a guy like that get some success,” Crawford said. “Raekwon Bunion has been so injury-prone, and we put him in after not practicing all week and thought he played well.”
Jones led the Raiders in receiving with 87 yards, with junior Eric Goodwin pulling in five passes for 40 yards. Parker Smith helped out with three receptions for 41 yards.
Junior Zack Lee’s three punts totaled 116 yards, with his longest punt coming in at 50 yards.
Cleveland 14 20 0 2 — 36
Cookeville 3 7 0 7 — 17
Clev — DJ Jones 20 yd pass from Austin Herink (Oscar Galvan kick), 9:03
Clev — Jones 34 yd pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 5:31
Cook — Spencer Wright 24 yd field goal, 0:00
Clev — Jones 91 yd kickoff return (Galvan kick), 11:45
Cook — Chase Mabey 85 yd interception return (Spencer Wright kick), 6:50
Clev — Jones 5 yd run (Galvan kick), 3:00
Clev — Michael Huff 90 yd interception return (kick failed), 0:00
Clev — Safety, 11:10
Cook — Ty Hammons 3 yd run (Wright kick), 3:03
Team stats Clev Cook
First downs 19 9
Rushes-yards 35-185 24-40
Passing yards 199 90
Total yards 384 130
Comp-Att-Int 30-17-1 25-14-1
Punts -Ave. 3-38.7 7-36.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties 8-79 4-34
Rushing: TJ Parker 15-109, Jonathan Terrero 1-42, Raekwon Bunion 9-32, DJ Jones 3-7 1 TD (Clev); Ty Hammons 6-25, Nick Nash 6-16, Desmond Pincheo 4-6, Cameron Germeni 7-3 (Cook).
Passing: Austin Herink 17-30-1 199 2 TDs (Clev); Jacob Edgington 5-14-1 42, Nick Nash 9-11-0 48 (Cook).
Receiving: DJ Jones 5-87 2 TDs, Eric Goodwin 5-40, Parker Smith 3-41, Tyler Davis 2-18 (Clev); Chase Mabey 5-49, Desmond Pincheo 5-20, Bud Julian 1-12, Avery Jordan 1-9 (Cook).
Records: Cleveland 1-1; Cookeville 1-1.