ATHENS, Tenn. -- The McMinn County football team spent all week preparing to stop Cleveland's high-powered offense, led by quarterback Austin Herink's arm.
But Friday night, the Cherokees had no answer for his legs.
The senior ran for four touchdowns and the Blue Raiders jumped to a 27-point halftime lead on their way to a 49-7 District 5-AAA victory. Cleveland stopped a two-game win streak by McMinn in the rivalry between the two schools.
Herink, who trimmed from 228 to 210 pounds in the offseason, entered the game with four touchdowns rushing in his high school career but had three in the first half and had a 31-yard scoring run negated by penalty. He had 46 yards rushing -- scoring on runs of 1, 1, 7 and 16 yards. He also threw for 207 yards passing and three scores to D.J. Jones.
"We purposely held out some of that part of our offense in nondistrict games to use it tonight," Herink said. "It was a good night to run. I'm not sure they were ready for me to run -- it was wide open and the line had some good blocking.
"This is a big win for us, and hopefully it'll give us some momentum. McMinn is the two-time defending champs and they're tough to prepare for, but for us, going 2-1 is a lot better than going 1-2."
The Raiders (2-1, 1-0) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions -- all in the first quarter -- and five of their first six. They led 28-0 after a quarter and 34-7 at the half. They finished with 371 yards of total offense, but the Cleveland defense was impressive as well, limiting McMinn to 186 yards of total offense and forcing six turnovers -- three by interception and three on fumbles.
"That first quarter was about as good as we could play," Cleveland coach Ron Crawford said. "Defensively, I thought we executed our game plan. They found something late in the first half, but I thought we addressed it well at halftime.
"Tonight's a real nice win. It's going to be hard to find fault in what we did tonight."
D.J. Kimpson had the Cherokees' lone touchdown, on an 11-yard run in the second quarter.
"When a team starts having success throwing the ball, they can have success running the ball because you have to commit more players to the passing game," McMinn coach Bo Cagle said. "When you don't put a hat on a runner, it's going to be easy to run the ball."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.
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