published Monday, September 26th, 2011

Gossett blog: Signal Mountain ground game getting better

The best two games of the week may well be on the road. Baylor goes to Brentwood Academy seeking to strengthen its hold on the Division II-AA Middle/East region lead while McCallie goes to Battle Ground Academy seeking to remain in the race for a DII-AA first-round host role in the playoffs.

If there was a game that might contend for those honors, it's probably Bledsoe County traveling to Sequatchie County in a key District 7-AA encounter with the loser quite possibly dropping out of championship contention.

In another 7-AA game, Signal Mountain returns to district play to host upstart Notre Dame.

I thought in the preseason that Signal would be as good if not better than last year's Class 2A state champions, but I have to admit that four games into the season I wondered if the Eagles' offensive line was up to the task. Even though they returned four of five starters they hadn't overwhelmed anybody with a physical running game.

Part of that was due to the emphasis on the passing game with quarterback Reese Phillips, a junior, and senior receivers Jon Patton and Will Queen.

Yet when South Pittsburg doubled down on the two receivers, the Eagles quickly made the Pirates pay with a vociferous ground attack that gobbled up 351 yards.

As South Pittsburg defensive coordinator Danny Wilson told fellow staffer Stephen Hargis, "You pretty much have to pick your poison with their offense."

By the way, Queen and Patton did double-dip unofficial visits this weekend, catching football games at both Wofford and Furman on Saturday.

• Speaking of South Pittsburg, the Pirates return home to host Whitwell following that 29-point loss to Signal.

It may not be the loss that bothers Pirates coach Vic Grider -- he was missing at least five starters -- as much as the facts that the team had five first-quarter penalties and a standout player actually asked to come out of the game.

Pirates quarterback Jake Stone was knocked out of the game and unless my eyes deceived me the blow he received came while he was on defense and was accidently delivered by a teammate. Too, backup quarterback Corbin Fitzgerald, was hobbling in a gutsy effort to finish the game as was big lineman D.J. Roberson.

His dad, Wes, said via email Saturday that Stone had a mild concussion but would be OK.

"He is just generally beat up really bad," Stone wrote. "Signal is the best offense I have seen in a lot of years. They should win it all."

Not to second-guess Coach Grider, whose Pirates remain the solid favorite to repeat as the state's Class 1A champ, but is it time to soften the schedule? There are just two Class 1A teams on there this year, and in addition to Signal the Pirates still have to play Class 6A Franklin County, Class 2A (and undefeated) Boyd-Buchanan, Class 3A Polk County and Class 2A (and undefeated) Knoxville Grace (5-0).

If ever there was an argument to force in-classification teams to play such perennial powers as South Pittsburg, Tyner and Boyd-Buchanan, it would be South Pittsburg's schedule this season.

• Did you hear about the fight at the football game in Houston, Texas? A quarterback ran out of bounds and then took a late hit. The quarterback took out after the offending player and players from both sides got involved in the punch-throwing.

Don't know if it was a brawl or even how long it lasted but there is no place for that kind of stuff at any level. My suggestion, and please understand that I don't mind saying what needs to be said, politically correct or not -- suspend the two primary culprits for a minimum of two games including all practice sessions and take a game away from any other player who threw a punch. You might think, too, about suspending the head coaches for a game. Yeah, I know they coaches didn't participate, but proper behavior needs to be drilled over and over again into players' heads. Maybe it wouldn't hurt for coaches to be reminded again of their responsibilities.

Regardless of how anyone feels, those players embarrassed themselves, their coaches, their schools and, whether they realize it or not, their fellow students. Such behavior cannot be tolerated and a lack of just punishment is simply an endorsement of disgusting actions and personal immaturity and irresponsibility.

Before I go into a rant, let's just suffice it say that any youngster I see involved in such actions, taunting or simply being disrespectful to the game, a teammate, a coach or an opponent will have lost a possible vote for any type of postseason honors.

• Remember Lancaster Christian, the team that outscored East Hamilton last year 33-26 en route to a 5-3 season? The Knights, who visit Boyd-Buchanan, are 1-3 and have either scored or given up 40-plus in three of their four games. The lost to Knox Central of Barbourville, Ky. 42-6 and then Donelson Christian Academy 42-7 before beating Freedom Academy of Huntsville, Ala. 41-0. They lost last week to Nashville Christian 10-7.

Boyd is coming off a 21-17 win over Donelson Christian and the Buccaneers (6-0) are enjoying their best streak since 2008 when they began 6-0 before a 7-6 loss to longtime rival South Pittsburg.

• In case you missed it, Blackman running back I'Tavius Mathers, who picked up 318 yards against Signal Mountain three weeks ago, bested the effort with a career-high 336 yards in the Blaze's 34-14 victory over seventh-ranked Bradley Central.

The feat prompted Bradley coach Damon Floyd to say, "Obviously, we couldn't tackle him. I don't even know if we two-hand touched him. He's the real deal."

• Don't know that I'd call it an upset by any stretch, but I don't think anyone anticipated Cleveland dismantling Red Bank like the Blue Raiders did in a 41-6 non-district victory Friday night.

"It was fun," said Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter, a former offensive coordinator at Red Bank. "I surely didn't anticipate that happening either but I'll take it. Our kids played really well. We just played."

The six points it scored was the fewest for Red Bank since a 9-6 loss to Red Bank in 2008. With their season-opening win streak now by the boards it will be interesting to see if the Lions make some adjustments this week before they host District 6-AA title challenger Central.

• Is it fair to say hooray for Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe? The Warriors ended a losing streak that dated back to 2009 on Friday with an overtime victory.

They had come close at least twice earlier this season but finally broke through this past week.

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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