Star: Signal Mountain's offensive line, which paved the way for four ball carriers to find the end zone and three to top the 100-yard mark.
Up next: Signal (8-3) will host Knoxville Catholic (8-3) next Friday night.
Facing the finality that is postseason football, Signal Mountain senior Diamez Franklin left little to chance Friday night.
"We know any game can be the last game now," Franklin said amid handshakes after rushing for 116 yards and a score, catching a touchdown pass and recording two interceptions as the Eagles pounded Marshall County 52-17 in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. "We had to give everything we had."
They did, and it came from every direction.
The Eagles started quickly on offense, scoring touchdowns on their first four drives: Franklin's 19-yard run, fullback James McClellan's 36-yard run and two scoring passes from junior quarterback Jack Teter. Teter found Franklin late in the second quarter for a 15-yard TD pass to stretch the lead to 35-10 at the break.
Offensive fireworks are nothing new for a Signal team averaging more than 40 points per game, and they continued after halftime as Nathan Johnson scored on a 19-yard run and junior Kaleb Menzel capped a career night with an 80-yard score on Signal's next offensive play.
Menzel's 173-yard night was easily a career high and part of an offense that rushed for 480 yards. Still, the Eagles offense was matched by a defensive effort that was an impressive blend of innovation, motivation and celebration.
Signal switched to a three-man front for the first time this year, a move designed to help the secondary against Marshall quarterback Austin Stacey and the Tigers' five-wide-receiver sets.
"I think it confused them," Signal defensive coordinator Troy Boeck said, "and thankfully we didn't confuse ourselves."
Anything but, in fact. With defensive tackle Jacob Wright and linebacker Dusty Hall shooting gaps along the interior and TaDarrius Hodge, William Franklin and Ryan Claxton coming from an array of angles, the Signal defense capitalized on a Tigers team that was forced to be one-dimensional.
"Our defense played great," Signal head coach Bill Price said of a unit that held Marshall County to minus-26 yards rushing and had three interceptions, five pass break-ups and 10 tackles for loss, including six sacks, highlighted by two each from Wright and Hall.
It was complete performance that allowed Signal (8-3) the chance to do it again next Friday night at home against Knoxville Catholic (8-3), which beat DeKalb County 55-13.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp.
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 ...