Whether his success was generated by a Friday morning visit from Alabama assistant coach Lance Thompson or a heated halftime sermon from his Signal Mountain coach, Reese Phillips responded.
The senior quarterback blazed the Eagles' comeback trail in a 28-18 victory over Polk County.
"I was on his hide at the half," Signal coach Bill Price said. "The type player he is, I expect a lot, and he performed in the second half like I expect."
Phillips, who committed to Kentucky back in the summer, agreed to an unofficial Alabama visit when the Crimson Tide host Mississippi State, and it's likely that he'll take sophomore tight end Harrison Moon with him.
"I'm still committed to Kentucky and I might not talk with someone else, but we're talking about Alabama. I'm honored they are even talking to me," Phillips said.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder overcame a handful of drops to complete 21 of 32 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown and ran for two scores, all as the Eagles overcame an 18-7 halftime deficit.
"He's a good player," Polk coach Derrick Davis said. "He's the kind that can throw it in there even when you know it's coming, and that's what separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks."
The District 7-AA team scissored Polk County's win streak at five games. The Wildcats lead District 5-AA and return to league play in a big game against Sequoyah.
"Their depth hurt us, but they did a better job than we did," Davis said of the Eagles. "We fought hard and they just have too much depth."
Eagles fullback Elijah Turnage ran for 61 yards and his first high school touchdown. A defensive lineman most of his career, the senior was filling in for James McClellan, who suffered a hip injury early in the first quarter.
Polk big-played its way into the 11-point halftime lead on a 68-yard pass from Josh Silas to big fullback Zach Miller and two scoring runs from Miller, a 6-1, 225-pound junior who finished with 125 rushing yards and double digits in tackles.
"That was really a typical game for him. He's our go-to guy," Davis said.
Signal rolled up 29 first downs. Madison Byrd finished with 133 receiving yards, and Diamez Franklin had 86.
"They're a very good football team, but I wasn't happy with the way we played in the first half and I got a little rowdy at halftime," Price said. "This was a really big win, coming from where we were at the start of the season, and we might have just played our best second half of the year."
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 ...