CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland used the pass to set up the run that set up the run that won the game.
Quarterback Chad Voytik's reputation is that of a thrower, but it was his 15-yard run with 22 seconds to play that lifted the Blue Raiders past McMinn County 29-22 in a District 5-AAA high school football game Friday night at Benny Monroe Stadium.
Cleveland and Voytik came out throwing, completing a 13-yard gain to B.J. Davis on the game's first play.
Running back JaMarcus Mobley eventually became a big part of the offensive scheme, but not until the second half when he had 11 of his 15 carries for 71 of his 91 yards. He did have a 17-yard touchdown run in the first half and added a 9-yarder with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter, when Cleveland (3-1, 2-0) tied the score on Voytik's conversion pass to Davis.
The deciding play, as it turned out, was one coach E.K. Slaughter said they Blue Raiders had never run before. From shotgun formation, Voytik put the ball in, then pulled it from Mobley's belly. He kept it around right end, broke a tackle near the first-down marker and carried another Cherokees defender into the end zone.
"They were really chasing back side," Slaughter said. "He just pulled it and ran it basically."
McMinn County (1-3, 0-1) had similar success with reserve quarterback Nathan Simbeck running for 105 yards on 18 carries, often baiting defenders with fake handoffs.
"He's been our backup for two years," McMinn coach Bo Cagle said. "He's a student of the game. He knows our offense well."
The reason Simbeck played so much was because starter Drew Masingale was having problems with a turf-toe injury. He still played some at running back.
Cleveland was leading 14-0 at the 6:20 mark when it recovered its second fumble. But once the Cherokees forced a three-and-out and got the ball back, the rest of the half pretty much belonged to the Cherokees.
Masingale's last play at quarterback was the first play when McMinn County took over at the 8:50 mark after Voytik had hit Brandon Strickland with a 28-yard touchdown pass. That series went nowhere and the Blue Raiders scored again, but the next time the Cherokees got the ball back things changed.
From midfield Simbeck's first carry went for 25 yards down the left sideline. He sold the Raiders a fake handoff on that one.
McMinn County ended up scoring 22 consecutive points and went to halftime leading by eight.
"We made multiple defensive adjustments at halftime," Slaughter said. "We had to make some serious adjustments. They had a great game plan."
Cleveland's winning drive covered 55 yards and began after its defense stuffed the Cherokees for a yard loss on a fourth-and-1. Slaughter praised his stop unit for rising to the occasion after not stuffing a short-yardage play all night.
"This was as good of a team game you're going to find," Slaughter said. "Special teams blocked extra points. We covered kicks well. We punted the ball really well, and we shut them out in the second half."
Simbeck had one incompletion, but 113 yards passing to two receivers was all the complement the Cherokees got through the air.
"Not being able to throw the ball hurt us," Cagle said. "We had a great drive going late in the third quarter and got a 15-yard penalty. That would've been three points any way, I think. I don't know. Not being able to kick extra points hurt us."
Cleveland's yardage leader was Davis with eight receptions for 125 yards.