published Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Greeson: Rainouts stink, but power teams show promise

East Hamilton's Matt Milita (6) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first quarter against Signal Mountain.
East Hamilton's Matt Milita (6) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first quarter against Signal Mountain.
Photo by Dan Henry.

What can we glean from one Friday night?

For most of the family and friends and fans of those involved in high school football, it meant remembering to shove a poncho into the trunk. Sweet buckets of rain-soaked frustration, living in Ch-eattle is tough stuff these days.

As for the stars of this fall's Friday nights, the players chasing state championship dreams and forging lifetime memories, the first weekend of the season is in the books. Partially.

Players, coaches and fans at Red Bank, Boyd-Buchanan, Hixson and Soddy-Daisy among others were reminded of one of the most fundamental truths in sports: Rainouts stink. We all learned it in youth baseball; playing and losing can be tough, but it is still better than a rainout.

As for the teams that started the magical journey of a high school football season, Signal Mountain and East Hamilton waited through a 90-minute weather delay to see if the offseason questions were answered and if the preseason work yielded results. The answers were mixed in East Hamilton's thrilling 14-12 win that was not decided until well after 11:30 when East Hamilton star defensive back Tre Herndon blocked a field-goal attempt in the final minute.

The puddles and the lightning pushed the starting time back, but the elements did nothing to dampen the energy.

Signal Mountain, carrying with it an increased physicality and the still-fresh-12-months-later emotions of last year's thumping against East Hamilton, proved there are a few things different about this flock of Eagles. They are big across both lines, especially a defensive front that sacked Hurricanes quarterback Hunter Moore four times before halftime.

And with that supersized roster -- heck, Signal's leading rusher was 260-pound bruising fullback James McClellan, who had 84 yards on 17 bone-numbing carries in the first half alone -- coach Bill Price has dusted off his old power wing-T play books.

"That's how we are [now]," Price said. "They put 10 guys in the box and we were still running it right at them."

For his throwback, run-first, run-last, run-always approach Friday, the ever-aggressive, always-gambling Price still showed his love of pushing his chips in the middle, going for two points after Signal moved to within 7-6 early in the fourth quarter.

The Hurricanes reminded us that fundamental truths are, at their very core, pure and reliable. To wit, having an experienced senior quarterback is as valuable as original Coca-Cola stock. In the sloppy conditions and amid the opening-night pressures, Moore was dependable, and while the Hurricanes' offense sputtered through most of the first three quarters, Moore kept East Hamilton out of trouble and avoided mistakes. In fact, in a game in which the biggest first-half play was a Signal fumble, Moore's calm hand on the wheel, East Hamilton's biggest stat was 0 -- the number of penalties the Hurricanes had through three quarters.

"It's the first ballgame, and that was a big part of it," East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. "We have to clean some stuff up, but we made a couple of big plays to win the game."

The underdog Eagles remained within a score all night behind arguably Signal's best defensive performance since the 2010 state-title season and the running game. Signal powered and plodded, but until quarterback Jack Teter found Diamez Franklin crossing across the middle for the first completion -- and the first touchdown -- as a starting quarterback early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were kept scoreless. Still, after entering this matchup with a monster chip on its collective shoulder pads, Signal continued to come straight at East Hamilton, staring right into the eyes of the Hurricanes without blinking.

"We got killed last year," Price said of the season-opening 55-14 loss in 2012. "We know we're a pretty good football team [this year]."

So two of the area's better teams showed they are big, strong and physical. They showed us that McClellan, who had more than 120 yards rushing and a TD, and East Hamilton's Herndon, who had a 90-yard kickoff return for a score, will be hard to handle for foes this season. These teams also showed they have areas in which they can improve.

Is the first step the most important or the most forgettable? Is the taste of a narrow loss less bitter than a manhandling?

We shall see, since we have the rest of the season. We do know that it was way better than a rainout.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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