published Monday, September 5th, 2011

Sports Blog: After being turned down in town, Signal tackles 6A power Blackman

Signal Mountain is evidently pretty good. Again. The Eagles beat a good team Friday -- by 35 points -- but jumping from 2010 Class 2A state champions into the Class 6A arena against a Top Five-ranked Blackman?

That's where the Eagles will be next week, but why? After all, they just got their first win in District 7-AA. Coach Bill Price earlier in the year said he looked elsewhere and certainly closer to home, but was turned down by several teams including Baylor, Bradley Central, McCallie, Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy.

Blackman has one of the state's top prospects in running back I'Tavis Mathers, who ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns Friday night. However, the Blaze lost Siegel 37-34.

In their first district game of 2011, the Eagles recorded their first running-clock victory, beating defeating two-time defending district champion Bledsoe County 48-13 at Pikeville.

It was the team's first road game of the year and the first road start for quarterback Reese Phillips. The junior, who said he he's receiving facebook messages from Vanderbilt, responded with his best game, 318 yards on a 13-of-16 night with one interception. That INT, his second of the year, came when he got hit from the backside just as he let the ball go. He had a pair of TD passes and a rushing touchdown and then spent part of the weekend at Auburn. He was back in time Sunday afternoon to throw with the Eagles' receivers.

What is even more impressive about Signal's win is that Bledsoe County is a truly talented and very definitely a fight-to-the-wire team. And the Eagles had plenty of respect for dynamic Warriors runner Brandon Smith. I think every one of Signal's defensive starters made a point of looking him up after the game to shake his hand.

It's important to note that while the Eagles held him to 48 yards, the diminutive Smith also had 50-plus receiving yards and an interception. Too, Cody Holloway passed for 194 yards and Holden Boynton added 70 rushing yards and both of the Warriors' scores.

What this game does is set up a highlight game for both teams against Sequatchie County, which got its first district win with a 17-7 victory over Grundy County. Sequatchie (3-0, 1-0) hosts Bledsoe on Sept. 30 and plays at Signal Mountain on Oct. 28, the final night of regular-season games.

• For the second week in a row now, Sequatchie County has actually thrown a pass for a touchdown. It's unheard of in Dunlap with Chad Barger as coach. Barger loves to run the football. He's an ol' Johnny Majors disciple evidently. Majors often said there were three things that happened when you passed the ball and two of them were bad. Give Indians quarterback Eli Stout credit. He's making the most of his (passing) opportunities. Still, Sequatchie ran the ball on 40 of their 49 plays. Think they don't play quick, don't-stop-the-clock games?

• St. Andrews-Sewanee is getting the hang of this eight-man football thing. The Mountain Lions, in their first year of a non-TSSAA, eight-man league, scored 30 first-half points on the way to a 44-18 win.

• Chase Reed finally got untracked against Silverdale Baptist. After being held to 19 yards on 18 carries -- and the Buccaneers line must shoulder the blame for much of that -- the senior needed seven carries to pick up 119 yards. That's an average of 17 yards per carry.

And Cedric Edwards, the senior who set a 3,000-yard rushing goal, finally got his first 100-yard game in Soddy-Daisy's loss to Bradley Central.

• Heritage's Generals have matched the school's best start with their second win of the 2011 season. They started 2-0 last year before stumbling against, of all teams, Murray County. The Generals finished the year 5-5. Question now is have they matured enough to handle a 2-0 start and move on seriously against those same Indians.

Of course, it would be unfair to LFO if we didn't point out that the Generals got a 27-yard field goal from Dustin Lewis with 0:39 and a 30-yard-interception return with 0:00 showing on the clock for their 22-15 win over the winless Warriors.

"It wasn't pretty but we'll take it," Heritage coach Tim James said.

• What's up with Chattanooga Christian? You expect a passing team and they pass in the first two games of the year and lose both. Then they go into a game as an underdog, run the hound out of it and come away with a 30-28 win in their District 7-AA opener.

So now all of a sudden is CCS multi-dimensional? If the Chargers are going to play smash-mouth, they may find out how good at it they are when they travel to one of the area's traditional smash-mouth teams in Polk County.

Speaking of Polk, the Wildcats finally entered the win column after an 0-2 starter, beating 5-AA rival McMinn Central 46-14.

• Don't know if you noticed it but Ringgold had three backs with 100-yard rushing efforts Friday. Mark Fairbanks 146, Shaun Anderson added 117 and Slade Dell added 100. It's a first for coach Robert Akins at Ringgold but not the first in his career. The best he could recall, Matt Henley, Matt Peardon and his son Drew Akins did it at least once in 2004 when he was coaching at Boyd-Buchanan.

• Speaking of rushing efforts, South Pittsburg's Jajuan Lankford picked up a 100-yard night and a couple of scores on just two carries. He went 64 yards on one, 66 on another. For the record, he also scored a third TD and finished the night with 180 yards on eight carries.

"They came out ready to play," Lookout Valley coach Tony Webb said Saturday evening after reviewing his team's 52-7 loss to the Pirates. "They're every bit as good -- in not better -- than they were last year. They're fast, physical and well-coached."

South Pittsburg won the 2010 Class 1A state championship.

• Is there a quarterback battle brewing again at Red Bank? Junior Hagen Wilkey scored a TD and completed five of nine passes but also tossed an interception. Senior Niquia McDuffie also scored a TD and then had a 54-yard TD pass to Deres Benn. Something such as this after two games into the season can lead to a divided house.

The Lions (2-0, 1-0 6-AA) open their home season Friday against Walker Valley, which is 0-2 but which also enjoyed an open date on Friday. Red Bank won at Soddy-Daisy on Aug. 25 and then bested East Ridge on the road last Friday.

In the preseason, 6-AA coaches talked about the overall balance in the league and it's beginning to show. Brainerd bumps off preseason favorite Tyner, which is now winless. East Hamilton knocks off unbeaten Central and Hixson moves to 2-0 (1-0 in the league) with a convincing 42-12 win at Howard.

• The list of remaining unbeatens has dwindled but there are some surprises including 3-0 Ooltewah and 2-0 Hixson. Of course there are some that expected to be here including Sequatchie County (3-0) , Signal (3-0), Boyd-Buchanan (3-0) and South Pittsburg (2-0).

• In case you missed it there was a postgame fight at the Beech-Station Camp game at Station camp and the Tennessean is reporting that the fracas lasted about 60 seconds and had to be broken up by coaches and security personnel.

"Both teams were at fault so I don't see any reason to comment further," Station Camp coach Shaun Hollinsworth told the Tennessean.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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