DUNLAP, Tenn. -- A game the Signal Mountain High School seniors were going to remember forever had a start they wanted to forget.
An inspired Sequatchie County start -- highlighted by two fourth-down stops and an assortment of running plays -- put the visiting Eagles in a quick hole before the Signal offense responded in a 56-23 win Friday night.
Sequatchie will learn its playoff opponent today when the TSSAA announces the Class 3A playoff field.
For Signal Mountain, which was ranked No. 1 in the state in 4A earlier this year but was stripped of six wins after the TSSAA determined senior linebacker and running back Tim McClendon was ineligible, it was a bittersweet end to the season.
"It's been a rough week, an emotional week," said McClendon, who played Friday night. "It's been a year filled with ups and downs."
There was extra security on hand because of concerns of possible altercations, but the concerns of tussles or fights became a tradeoff of touchdowns and field position.
Sequatchie (7-3) found early success using an electric mix of Jerry Fain and Hunter Hudson testing the edges. After the Indians stopped Signal on its first two possessions, a Juan Martinez 37-yard field goal and Shane Yother's 1-yard run gave the hosts a 9-0 lead.
"It was a good start, and we had a good plan," Sequatchie coach Chad Barger said. "That said, it's tough to go against an offensive machine like that."
Staring at the early hole and with their emotions ranging from desperation to determination, the Eagles turned to senior running back Mitchell Hall, who took sweep after sweep around the edges and toward the scrap book.
Hall scored Signal's first two touchdowns and finished with 122 yards and four scores in his final game.
"It's been emotional, for sure," Hall said. "This is not the way it was supposed to end. It's supposed to end in another five weeks.
"It's a great way to go out and I'll remember this forever ... but I'm going to miss everything."
After winning the Class 2A state title last year, Signal (2-2) will miss the playoffs. But after the sluggish start, the Eagles did not miss a beat offensively Friday. After Hall established the edge, junior quarterback Reese Phillips started to connect with senior receiver Jon Patton, who finished with eight catches for 100 yards.
Even still it was an uncharacteristic Sequatchie County turnover -- only the Indians' fifth of the season -- that allowed the Eagles to pull away for good. And, as the Eagles offense started to spread the carries -- senior running backs Zach Bowman and Andrew Price added touchdowns, as did senior offensive lineman Logan Stevens and reserve Caden Thomas -- the finality of the moment began to set in for Signal.
There were tears and hugs and players enjoying the moment that will be the final memory for the 2011 Eagles. It will be more than that, according to Signal coach Bill Price, who recorded his 150th career win Friday.
"It was a good ballgame," Price said as he and the Eagles hustled to the bus after a quick congratulations between the teams and coaches. "This is a new beginning for us. We're starting over."
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 ...