“They’re a good team,” Slaughter said as a word of caution for his defensive unit. “They’ll also throw the football,” he said in cautioning his secondary.
The Cleveland coach said Wednesday night that he anticipates the Lions will challenge his defensive secondary with a pass-oriented attack. He emphasized there will probably be plenty of footballs in the air.
Red Bank will bring a two-quarterback offense to Benny Monroe Stadium (Raider Field), and both signal-callers can throw the football. “One will run with the football more than the other,” said Slaughter.
The Raiders defeated McMinn’s Cherokees last weekend with a strong second-half performance by the defense ... something that Slaughter is concerned about. He said his team has been stronger in the second half, but needs to play a full four quarters of football.
“Physically, we seem to have more endurance than a lot of people,” he said of his team’s tendency to play better in the second half. Slaughter credits this endurance to a challenging preseason and tough practice schedule.
The Cleveland coach said his team probably played “together” better in the second half against McMinn County, than they have in any game this season. “We still need to start the game off better in the first half,” he said.
The Raiders had two or three players with concussions in Friday’s hard-hitting game, including Seth Snyder and Reed Allison. Coach Slaughter expects these players to be able to return to action against Red Bank.
“We also have other bumps and bruises, which is normal at this point in the season,” Slaughter said.
A big key for Cleveland’s success this season has been the camaraderie of the Raiders’ defensive unit. This group, mostly juniors and seniors, is playing well right now, although Slaughter says there is still room for improvement.
The defense has been sparked by seniors Barrett Thompson, Nate Bradford and Dustin Shelton; and juniors Henry McClendon, Jessie Jones, Sam Matthews, Jordan Hines and Heath Shamblin. They were able to stop McMinn County on a crucial fourth-and-one situation late in the game to provide the opportunity for a come-from-behind victory.
“In 14 years of coaching, this is the most unselfish group I’ve coached,” Slaughter said of his defensive unit ... especially the defensive line and linebackers.
Quarterback Chad Voytik and tailback Jamarcus Mobley are expected to spark the Raiders’ offense Friday night, as they have the past two weeks. They paced the Raiders to two late touchdowns Friday night, keeping Cleveland a top contender for a postseason playoff spot.
Although Red Bank is not a district foe, a victory will give the Raiders a huge boost into a tough stretch of games to finish the season. Cleveland travels to Cookeville next week, before four consecutive district games to end the season (against Walker Valley, Rhea County, Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy).