Signal Mountain High School football coach Bill Price paced anxiously before Friday's kickoff, nervously waiting for the pregame homecoming festivities to finish.
"Oh sure, I still get nervous before games," Price said before what he estimated as roughly his 300th game as a coach. "Every time, in fact."
His tension did not last.
Price's Eagles were unstoppable offensively from the start, churning up 483 yards before halftime on their way to a 59-18 District 7-AA win over Notre Dame.
"They really can do about whatever they want," Notre Dame coach Josh Sellers said. "Coach Price knows what he wants to do, and their kids have confidence to run whatever he calls. They execute so well that there's really no room for mistakes."
It was an Eagles avalanche from the very start. That Signal (6-1, 3-0) started three of its first four drives inside its 20 just added to the numbers.
With first-quarter touchdown drives of 97, 54, 84 and 88 yards, the Eagles built a commanding 28-0 lead. The first half was an impressive blend of power and precision -- Signal getting touchdown runs from Tim McClendon, Andrew Price and Reese Phillips and Phillips throwing two scoring passes to Jon Patton and one to junior C.J. Johnson.
"That felt great," Phillips said after generating 273 yards of total offense and accounting for five touchdowns as Signal took a 52-6 lead into the intermission. "We feel like we're the type of offense that when we start rolling like that any play can be made."
Signal had 240 yards passing, 243 rushing and seven touchdowns in the first half on 35 total plays.
"That's a lot of offense, and we got a lot of kids some playing time," said Price, who had 12 players get at least one carry and five catch at least one pass.
Among the new ones to deliver was Johnson, a reserve pressed into a starting role when senior Will Queen injured his hand. Johnson, who finished with three catches for 119 yards including a 50-yard touchdown, welcomed the opportunity to contribute.
"Will and Jon are great players, but I was ready when Coach gave me a chance," Johnson said. "To tell the truth I didn't know I had [the touchdown catch] at first, and when I realized I had it, I just ran like I stole something."
Johnson's touchdown capped the first quarter and took any drama from the game.
Notre Dame's lone bright spot in the opening half was a perfect slant pass from quarterback Josh Moore that receiver Matt Reilly turned into a 64-yard touchdown.
Fighting to the end, Notre Dame (4-3, 0-3) scored twice in the second half. Reilly returned the second-half kickoff for an 85-yard score, and tailback Shaqualm McCoy topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season on his 56-yard touchdown run that closed the scoring. McCoy finished with 134 yards on 17 carries.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...