The lead role was filled by understudies, but the show that is East Hamilton football rolled into Week 3 of the Tennessee high school football playoffs.
Tailbacks Lamond Greer and Matt Milita moved to center stage and stardom filling in for Logan Jackson, who will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Jackson, who rushed for 1,451 yards in his 10 games before the injury, will be on the sideline tonight when 11-1 East Hamilton plays unbeaten Giles County.
Greer rushed for 187 yards, Milita for 107 and the team for 315 in a 35-14 victory over Page.
"Surprised? At the end I was," East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. "We got a little frustrated. We wanted a more up-tempo offense and made some mistakes that didn't allow it. At the end when you see 500 yards of total offense, you step back and go 'Wow.'"
Greer was getting his first start of the season and Milita his first extended playing time.
"There is coaching involved with running backs -- blocking schemes, angles, technique and maybe footwork -- but if you're really having to coach running backs then you don't have any," Hurricanes running backs coach Joe Wingate said. "At the end of the day it's like baseball. You can make yourself a better hitter, but great hitters are born. When the lights come on they either have it or they don't. You can't coach God-given ability, and all three of those have it."
Jackson was established atop the depth chart when Greer moved to Chattanooga from West Tennessee before last season. Although he's benefited from Jackson's injury, Greer doesn't care for the way he got the job.
"I never wanted to come in and take somebody else's shine time," Greer said. "I wish it could be all three of us back there. I don't feel comfortable, but he got us here and we're going to take us the rest of the way. I hate how I got here, but I want to make the most of it."
And he expects Milita to do the same.
"It's a perfect combination," Greer explained. "People look at Matt and think they're going to just knock him off his feet. He hits the hole and he's gone, and with me it's a little bit power and a little bit speed."
The different styles of the two replacements -- and even the overpowering force that was Jackson -- has found success all year behind the constant grinding of the Hurricanes' offensive front. But each also made the offensive line look good last Friday whether it was Greer's battering-ram style or the quick-footed Milita sniffing openings as he sliced through the line.
"There are two lines of defense, and the offensive line always takes care of the first one. Then it's on me to find the open space," Milita said.
Gatewood said the offense won't shift one direction or another depending upon which back is in the game.
"The offensive line has done a wonderful job this year, but while each guy has played well they haven't yet had that perfect game as a unit," Gatewood said. "I would think when Giles County looked at film the only thing they noticed was that number 18 [Jackson] wasn't in there.
"We have two good guys, and the more carries they have gotten, the better they have become."
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 ...