Hagen Wilkey probably knew his hold on Red Bank's quarterback position was tenuous at best.
He had pregame jitters. You'd never have known it.
The junior definitely has a better grip on the job this morning after leading Red Bank to a 42-35 victory at rival Soddy-Daisy with 59 rushing yards (despite three sacks) and a 12-of-15, two-TD passing performance.
"Yeah, I was nervous," said Wilkey, who turned 16 on Wednesday and will go to get his driver's license early next week. "It was our first game, there was a pretty big crowd and this is a big rivalry. I didn't want to lose the game for the guys."
While he had several big plays, none was bigger than a 30-yard run on a third-and-long in the middle of the fourth period. It gave the Lions a first-and-10 at Soddy-Daisy's 19, and Demetrius Williams scored on the next play to extend Red Bank's lead to 42-28.
The Trojans rebounded, cutting the margin to seven again on Jake Ables' 1-yard run, but Red Bank's maligned defense came up with a key stop on fourth down, leaving the Trojans no more than two inches shy of a first down with slightly more than a minute to play.
First-year Lions defensive coordinator Tyler Rich will likely find a few gray hairs this morning after his group gave up 35 points, but that fourth-down stop tempered his rocketing blood pressure.
"Gray hairs will come quick at this stage," Rich said.
Red Bank started the game with no less than 22 players -- 11 of them starters -- and those players sat anywhere from a series to a quarter to a half to the entire game for coming up short on academic requirements they agreed to meet in the last quarter of last year.
"You guys fought through adversity all spring and summer and into fall practice," Lions coach Tim Daniels told them in his postgame speech. "You were behind the 8-ball, and a lot of young guys stepped up and bowed their necks."
He wasn't about to get carried away, although he told them he had been no prouder of any team in his decade-old Red Bank tenure.
"It wasn't pretty. We have a lot to learn and we have to learn it fast," he said.
Soddy-Daisy took the early lead on a 28-yard pass from Brett Standifer to Spencer Stewart, but freshman J.J. Lewis, touching the ball for the first time as a varsity player, evened the score with an 89-yard kickoff return.
The Lions took the lead on Wilkey's 13-yard run, and Soddy-Daisy answered with Cedric Williams' 1-yard run. The seesaw continued with Deres Benn pulling in a 9-yard pass from Wilkey and Edwards' 6-yard run tying it at 21 by halftime.
Demetrius capped an opening second-half drive on a 2-yard run, but again Soddy-Daisy answered, this time on a 4-yard run by Spencer Stewart.
Red Bank then went up 42-28 on a 2-yard run by Randal Lee and Williams' second score, the 19-yard run after Hagen's key third-down sprint. After Ables' touchdown, the Lions covered an onside kick and then finally came up with a big defensive stop.