Hixson used the pass to set up the run Friday night against South Pittsburg. Or so to speak.
On the Wildcats' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Preston Wilkey tried a long pass that fell incomplete. Eleven running plays later, Marshall Cooper found the end zone from the 2 and they were on their way to defeating the Pirates 35-12 in their high school football game at Hixson.
Wilkey was limited to one completion in the first half -- a 15-yarder to Jordan Johnson -- but he contributed 70 of Hixson's 200 rushing yards in the first half.
By the end of the game, five Wildcats had run for at least 40 yards and four of them had at least one rushing touchdown. Wilkey led Hixson with nine carries for 94 yards, and James Cole added eight rushes for 92.
"We've got four or five people we can turn around and hand it to," Hixson coach Dan Duff said. "To be honest, I don't care who's running the ball. We've got two quarterbacks we're confident in, too."
Justin Nicholson took some snaps in the fourth quarter, but by then Hixson (1-1) was strictly keeping the ball on the ground. The first-half completion by Wilkey turned out to be the only one for the Wildcats, despite seven tries.
"I want to get us balanced," Duff said. "I promise we're working on that. We've got to keep people from packing it in on us or we're not going to be able to continue moving it like we have."
The Pirates, who have some injury issues, particularly at defensive tackle, had trouble stopping the run in the previous week's loss, too. But despite giving up 376 on the ground to the Wildcats, South Pittsburg coach Tim Moore insists his team made a little improvement in that area.
"We've just got to be better tacklers," Moore said. "We were in position more often this week, but we weren't always able to hang on and make the tackle."
Myles Ratliff had scoring runs of 2 and 8 yards for Class AA Hixson, which led 21-0 at halftime. Cole scored from the 25 one play after a Johnson interception in the first quarter and Tarik Twitty-Humphrey had a 12-yard TD run that made it 28-0 in the third. Austin Slifco was 5-for-5 on extra points.
Pirates quarterback Kitt Grider started 0-for-4 with an interception but ended up 16-for-27 for 121 yards with a 2-yard touchdown pass to McKenna Blevins, one of five Pirates with at least three catches. But Moore may not want the ball in the air 27 times every game.
"We'd like to be able to run it," Moore said. "We want to make people stack the box instead of spreading out more. The offensive line is the group that's got to make things happen."
Corbin Fitzgerald had the other TD for Class A South Pittsburg (0-2) on a 3-yard run, which came one play after his 68-yard run. He finished with 142 yards on 15 carries and added 24 receiving yards.
"South Pittsburg has such a good program. You don't win as many state championships as they have and not have a good program," Duff said of the Pirates' five titles. "This was a great win for this program, and we needed it, too."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.