The tough second half of the season began with a 35-25 loss to the third ranked 5A Knoxville West High School Rebels, in a game that could’ve gone better in many ways for Cleveland.
“Defensively, in particular, it was just fundamentals — mental errors, alignments and assignments all of that stuff. We shouldn’t be making those mistakes in Week 6,” Raiders head coach Ron Crawford said. “Offensively, I think that maybe we did too many things, but again it goes back to fundamentals. We just didn’t execute, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Despite struggling with the fundamentals, coach Crawford acknowledges his athletes are working very hard and keeping their heads held high.
“I think that our guys are playing very hard. Our effort and attitude are great. An official stopped me after the West game and said that this was the most well-behaved team he’d seen. We are keeping our poise and maintaining a good attitude. They are a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to coach,” Crawford commented. “I think all we can do is to show our guys the films so they can see the mistakes they made. We can challenge them and hope that they respond.”
The Raiders will have to bounce back and respond well on the road, because their next District 5-AAA opponent East Hamilton is quite a force to be reckoned with on the football field.
“East Hamilton has a good football team and are 4-1 with a narrow loss to Ooltewah. What we have to do is take our game plan and execute. If we do that we will be fine,” Crawford acknowledged. “When you make a mistake against a team like East Hamilton they’re going to score.”
There are many factors that make the Hurricanes a threat, but some of the more pressing ones are the team’s speed and veteran players.
“I think that their overall speed is the biggest threat. I thought that we were fast and had good team speed until we played Knox West. Now I think that we might be average speed wise, because Knox West was more sudden then us. All of East Hamilton’s skill guys can score on any play. The quarterback is a veteran and a competitor. Defensively, their veterans and their secondary, which is their strength versus our strength, and their linebacker are a threat,” Crawford stated. “Lately East Hamilton has been a team that wants to throw the football. Coach Gatewood is playing to his strengths. I think Matt Milita is a good, dynamic football player, as are wide receivers Tony Francois and Joel Denton.”
The Hurricane’s senior QB Hunter Moore has completed 68 of his 122 attempted passes and has racked up a total of 1,243 yards five games into the season.
Moore has thrown 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions thus far, and has rushed for a total of 60 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
Senior wide receiver Tony Francois has a total of 575 yards for 21 receptions and seven touchdowns, while junior tailback Matt Milita has rushed for 363 yards in 77 attempts and seven touchdowns. Milita also has a total of 162 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown to his credit.
Senior Vanderbilt commitment Tre Herndon has 15 solo tackles and three assisted tackles this season, with a total of 110 yards for seven receptions.
“When Herndon is in there on offense they are going to try to get it to him,” Crawford commented.
Senior Austin Gatewood, the coach’s son, has racked up 24 solo tackles and four assisted tackles. He also has two tackles for loss for a total of nine yards.
East Hamilton’s huge offensive line is another issue the Raiders will have to find a solution for come Friday.
“They are massive in the offensive line, their center is 350 and their left tackle is 290. Our defensive ends on a good day weigh in at 185 and 200, so that will be a challenge for us there,” Crawford admitted.
Cleveland, which is now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the district, has skill players on the roster who are more than capable of giving the Hurricanes a run for their money.
“I think that we have some threats on our offense,” Crawford declared. “We have some dynamic players in DJ Jones, Tyler Davis, TJ Parker, Raekwon Bunion and Austin Herink. We’ve got guys who can take the ball and score, and our offensive line is much improved.”
Senior QB Herink has put up some extremely impressive numbers this season, and is fast approaching his total of 2,047 yards from the 2012 season.
Herink has completed 125 of his 201 passing attempts and after six games has a total of 1,715 yards.
The star QB has thrown 17 touchdown passes and is also a threat on his feet, with a total of 109 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
According to Crawford, DJ Jones is a threat on both sides of the ball.
Jones leads his team as well as all of Bradley and Polk counties on the receiving side of things, with a total of 11 touchdowns and 603 yards in 36 receptions, and is averaging 16.8 yards per reception.
Jones also has 17 solo tackles and five assisted tackles.
Junior running back TJ Parker is currently leading the way for the Raiders with a total of 503 yards in 74 runs and two touchdowns.
Parker also has 184 yards for 13 receptions.
Senior wide receiver Tyler Davis is currently averaging 18.3 yards per reception, and has a total of 403 yards for 22 receptions, as well as three touchdowns to his credit.
Consistency at defense has been a struggle for Cleveland, and with a stretch of four district games ahead of the Raiders, Crawford knows that they need to get straightened out.
“Defensively we try to fit our scheme around what our strengths are. Kimsey Bell is a playmaker and you’ve got to put DJ over there too. Our linebackers should be, but we still need more consistency out of them, our other corner, and safeties. We’re still searching over there,” Crawford commented. “Jay McIntyre got in there last Friday in the second half and had eight tackles and got his hand on three footballs, so maybe we’ve had the wrong people out there. We have to get it solved before we go through this stretch of district games.”
According to the coach, Kimsey Bell, Jonathan Terrero and Tre’Var Moore have been leaders on defense.
Unlike last week’s opponent, the Raiders have a good idea of what to expect out of the Hurricanes.
“Based upon their personnel, when Bailey Lenoir and Jack Tatum are in the game they are an I-formation, run-the-football and pass team. When those two are not in, they are a spread team. Defensively they are a 3-4 team, which we have seen with McCallie, Cookeville, Soddy-Daisy, and West. East Hamilton takes more chances and blitzes you more than anyone else we’ve seen so far,” Crawford stated. “We have to be sure that we handle their running game and have to be smart enough to play within our system, play the reads that are given and execute our calls.”