CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- If Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter could pull one positive from dialing down his offense, it was the end result of Friday night's game against Central.
David Morgan scored his team's only touchdown -- a 5-yard run with 10:20 remaining -- and the Blue Raiders avoided their second-ever 0-4 start by claiming a 12-7 victory over the visiting Purple Pounders.
Morgan, C.J. Bryant and Chad Voytik combined for 167 yards rushing as the Raiders operated primarily from an I-formation offense. Cleveland held Central to 108 yards of total offense -- 13 total yards in the second half and no first downs.
"We came in thinking they wouldn't expect us to run," Morgan said. "It was exciting to see we were going to run the ball a lot tonight. The offensive line did a great job for us; we knew this was a big game."
The Raiders did everything possible to not win it. They failed on their first three trips to the end zone -- including a fumbled snap at the 1-yard line. Central recovered a squib kick to start the second half that glanced off a Cleveland player, and the Pounders recovered a Raiders fumble on a kickoff return.
"We had every opportunity to win that game; we just couldn't get that play when we needed it," Central coach John Allen said.
Cleveland converted three fourth-down conversions in the second half -- two aided when Voytik drew Central defenders offside with his cadence.
After Morgan's touchdown run, Cleveland got a safety when sophomore Nick Miller blocked a Nikolay Timoshchuk punt and the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone.
Central took a 7-0 lead on a second-quarter touchdown run by Timoshchuk. The wing-T attack led to 95 yards rushing in the first half, but the Raiders shut the door in the second half and the Pounders' longest run from scrimmage was a 9-yard scamper by quarterback LaDarrius Jackson on a fourth-and-16 in the final minute.
"The game plan was to keep the ball away from their offense and Voytik," Allen said. "We wanted it to be a low-scoring game and the guys did a good job. We just couldn't get that one play."
Cleveland also got a 24-yard field goal by Anthony Vallejo.
"I'm just proud to have these guys," Slaughter said. "There aren't many teams that can go through the early-season gauntlet we did; we had every chance to buckle and never did."