Two fumble recoveries on kickoffs led to two Cleveland touchdowns, two defensive stops forced the Eagles to kick field goals, and two pass interceptions late in the game thwarted potential Rhea County touchdowns in the 33-25 decision.
The victory allowed Cleveland (5-3) to retain its one-game lead in the District 5-AAA standings at 4-0. The Blue Raiders will be on the road for their final two games at Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy.
Bradley Central, which handed Ooltewah its second loss of the season Friday night, trails Cleveland because of the loss they suffered at the Blue Raiders’ hands. Soddy-Daisy, Cleveland’s final game of the year, also has one setback ... a midseason loss to Bradley Central.
Therefore, Cleveland can determine its own destiny. A victory over Soddy-Daisy in the 10th and final game of the regular season will give the Blue Raiders the 2010 5-AAA championship.
“We played well at times, and poorly at times,” coach E.K. Slaughter said of Friday’s game. “We got some breaks and had some crucial defensive stands. We also made come big mistakes.”
“I’ll be glad when Cameron Tallent graduates,” Slaughter said in praise of the Rhea County quarterback. “He’s a great player.”
“Both teams made some big plays,” Slaughter said of the changes in momentum during the game. He acknowledged that both team also made some big mistakes.
Rhea County coach Jason Fitzgerald said his Eagles made too many mistakes to take home a victory.
Despite giving up more than 350 yards in total offense, 222 yards through the air, Slaughter praised his defensive unit for bending and not breaking. “We had two big stops early, forcing them to kick field goals,” he said. “The two interceptions at the end allowed us to preserve the win.”
“Now, we’ll have to get ready for Ooltewah this week. “We had two good practices last week, and I hope we have more than that this week,” the Cleveland coach said.
The difference in Friday’s game came on the very first play. Rhea County’s kickoff returner fumbled the football and Cleveland’s Logan Delk pounced on it at the Eagles’ 22.
The Blue Raiders scored in three plays. Star running back Jamarcus Mobley, who gained 196 yards on 31 carried for the game to push his season’s total to over 1,000 yards, ran for five yards and then sliced through the Rhea County secondary for 16 yards to about one foot from the goalline.
Quarterback Chad Voytik, still nursing a broken finger from three weeks ago, sneaked for the final yardage and six points. Kicker Anthony Vallejo put the home Raiders on top by a 7-0 count.
Cleveland then allowed some yardage in midfield, but stiffened near the goal line. Rhea County kicker Nic Rickert connected on field goals of 26 and 32 yards to cut the Raiders’ advantage to 7-6.
Rhea County took the lead at 12-7 in the second quarter when Tallent guided the Eagles on a 72-yard scoring drive. Tallent and Desmond Sharp had some key rushes in the drive, and Tallent hit receiver Chris Johnson over the middle for the touchdown. The Eagles attempted a pass for a two-point conversion, but failed.
Cleveland regained the lead on the ensuing drive, a 64-yard, nine-play march downfield. Mobley rushed for 51 yards and Voytik passed 13 yards to B.J. Davis. Mobley got the touchdown on a 9-yard run. The Raiders attempted a run for two points, and a 3-point lead, but failed.
Cleveland scored again before the half, taking advantage of another kickoff fumble. Lebron Sadler picked up the loose football and returned it to the Rhea County 5, but the ball was moved back to the 23 ... the spot of the fumble.
The Blue Raiders used eight plays to reach the goal. Voytik completed two passes to Davis and two more to Jeremy Simpson to advance the ball to the two. He then hit Davis for the score. Vallejo’s kick had the home team on top by eight at halftime, 20-12.
Cleveland opened the second half with a drive, but the threat ended with a fumble and recovery by Rhea County’s Jon Jon Jenkins at the Eagles’ 26.
The Raiders regained possession and scored their fourth touchdown. Sadler made a sensational reception over an Eagle defender for 44 yards to the five. Cleveland was penalized five yards, but Mobley dashed 7 yards and scored on a 3-yard play. Vallejo’s kick increased the lead to 27-12.
Rhea County battled back. Tallent scored on a two-yard sneak to cap a 70-yard drive and Rickert’s kick got the Eagles within eight at 27-19.
Mobley went over 1,000 yards rushing on Cleveland’s next possession, but the Raiders gave up possession at the Rhea County 44 when Mobley lost yardage on fourth down.
The Eagles scored again in 10 plays. Tallent passed to Caleb Sherrill over the middle for the final 12 yards and the score. A two-point attempt to tie the score at 27-27 failed when Tallent’s pass sailed high.
Cleveland displayed some resiliency of its own on its next drive. The Raiders took possession at their 20 and moved 80 yards to “touchdown land.” Mobley and Voytik guided the drive downfield, with Voytik hitting Davis at the right pylon for the score. The extra-point try slid to the left when Vallejo was pushed back to his 25 for his second attempt by too many players on the field during a successful first kick.
Rhea County was not ready to give up. Tallent marched the Eagles into Cleveland territory with his passes. Cleveland came up with two defensive gems for the win.
Defensive lineman Justin Williams stopped one of the Eagles’ drives when he dived for a pass interception. The football had been tipped by teammate Camden Bell.
The Golden Eagles came right back with another drive minutes later, but “dropped the egg” again. Defensive back Marquis Davis got Cleveland’s second interception when he leaped in front of a Rhea County receiver.
The Raiders then ran out the clock, Voytik kneeling on the final three plays to preserve his team’s unbeaten record in 5-AAA play.
Rhea County 6 6 7 6 — 25
Cleveland 7 13 7 6 — 33
C — Chad Voytik 1 run (Anthony Vallejo kick), 11:00.
RC — Nic Rickert 26 field goal, 7:01.
RC — Rickert 32 field goal, 1:58.
RC — Chris Johnson 17 pass from Cameron Tallent (pass failed), 5:33.
C — Jamarcus Mobley 9 run (run failed), 2:31.
C — B.J. Davis 2 pass from Voytik (Vallejo kick), :20.
C — Mobley 3 run (Vallejo kick), 7:18.
RC — Tallent 2 run (Rickert kick), 4:16.
RC — Caleb Sherrill 12 pass from Tallent (pass failed), 10:33.
C — Davis 6 pass from Voytik (kick failed), 5:48.
First downs 23 18
Rushes-Yards 25-138 40-221
Passing 222 148
Total Yards 360 369
Comp-Att-Int 19-31-2 13-20-0
Punts-Avg. 2-34 3-32
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-1
Penalties-Yards 4-20 11-90
Rushing: Jamarcus Mobley 31-196 and 1-TD, Chad Voytik 11-22 and 1 TD, B.J. Davis 1-3 (C). Desmond Sharp 13-107, Cameron Tallent 11-9 and 1 TD (RC).
Passing: Chad Voytik 13-20-0 (C), B.J. Davis 0-1-0. Cameron Tallent 19-31-2 (RC).
Receiving: B.J. Davis 6-45 and 2 TDs, Jeremy Simpson 5-49, Lebron Sadler 1-44, Camden Bell 1-10 (C). Caleb Sherill 6-71 and 1 TD, Chris Johnson 4-44, Timmy Loden 4-52, Desmond Sharp 5-37, Dimitrius Patterson 1-18 (RC).
Records: Cleveland 5-3, 4-0 District 5-AAA; Rhea County 3-5, 3-2 District 5-AAA.