There are games with more district importance and more bitterness between the opponents, but few can match the number of storylines when Cleveland visits Red Bank tonight.
While Red Bank's defense has given up an average of 26 points per game, the Lions are 4-0 and moved up to No. 4 in the state's Class 4A poll this week. Despite returning just four starters from last year and having played three road games already, the young Lions continue to find ways to win close games, claiming three by a touchdown or less.
Meanwhile, Cleveland's offense -- which scored four touchdowns or more eight times last season and is led by All-America quarterback Chad Voytik -- has struggled. The Blue Raiders are averaging 13 points per game, but their potential still worries Lions coach Tim Daniels.
"They're bound to have a breakout game sooner or later," Daniels said. "Voytik is due. He's past due. He's still throwing for a lot of yards, but they just haven't put it in the end zone, so that's a concern.
"This isn't a district game, but it's still a good rivalry. We've had a good run going for a while, so I think even the young kids just kind of expect to find a way to win games. They understand that it's still Red Bank football and there's a reputation and a tradition here. They don't want to be the ones to let things go bad."
It was against the Lions last season that Voytik suffered a broken finger that could have ended his season. Instead, he underwent surgery that night and returned to action just two weeks later, adding to his reputation as one of the area's toughest players.
Blue Raiders coach E.K. Slaughter worked as Red Bank's offensive coordinator for three years under Daniels. While it's not uncommon for the two coaches still to discuss strategy during the season, Daniels said that hasn't happened this week.
"Nah, we didn't really call each other to talk about much this week," Daniels said. "We had to put that off for the week, but you certainly don't work up any hate mentality for the other team this week."
Mullinax Steps Down
John Mullinax, for years the head coach at McMinn County, has resigned at Armuchee near Rome, Ga. Mullinax turned in his resignation Monday.
"I'm going to check on my mom and dad right now," the coach said Thursday morning. "That's one of the main reasons I stepped down. They're in their 90s and I need to see them every couple of weeks, and I can't do that and continue to coach football.
"You know me. If I can't put 100 percent in football, then I'm not going to do it."
Mullinax, who had turned the Indians program around, said he already had missed three days of practice and felt this week was a good time for a transition because the team has an open date.
"When I get everything straightened out, I hope to get back into [coaching]. I want to be the Joe Paterno of Georgia or Tennessee or somewhere," he said. "I hate having to make this decision. I hate it for the kids and the timing was awful, but I'd like to say that I couldn't have been treated any better by the administration or the people in Floyd County."
Preston Cash is the interim head coach and athletic director.
Baylor Gets Its Kicks
Considering all that played into the Red Raiders defeating previously unbeaten Ensworth 42-14 last week, the work by kicker Henrique Ribeiro and punter Andrew Priddy may have been among the most instrumental factors.
In addition to being one the state's top runnings backs, the Tigers' Corn Elder also is a dangerous returner. But Ribeiro and Priddy negated that facet of his game.
Ensworth began the opening possession and all six possessions after Red Raiders touchdowns from its 20-yard line because Ribeiro put every kickoff into the end zone. Priddy's four punts averaged 40 yards, and Elder's 2 return yards in the game came on the last before he was knocked out of bounds.
Baylor coach Phil Massey gave some of the credit to special teams coaches Bo Bohannan, who works with the snappers, and Jay Everett, a former punter at North Carolina.
"I think what they have done is make those guys accountable," Massey said. "They have a practice regimen. This past week we worked on directional punting and Priddy did an excellent job."
Raiders' Clements Out
Baylor running back Houston Clements, the McCallie transfer who had to sit out last year, is through for the season.
The junior suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in the Red Raiders' win over Montgomery Bell Academy.
"He had surgery last week and he's out of action probably until February. He's hoping to come back for the last part of the wrestling season," Massey said.
Otherwise, Massey said, the Red Raiders were as healthy as they have been since they began camp in August.
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