Four weeks into the high school football season, Blackman and Signal Mountain still have questions.
Blackman is looking for its starting quarterback; Signal is looking for a little of everything else.
Each may have found some answers after the Blaze posted a 41-10 road win at Signal. Interestingly, the score could be viewed as misleading - in either direction.
If the Blaze had been able to connect with some of the open receivers in the first half, they would have approached the 70 points they posted on Signal last year. If the Eagles could have caught the ball - especially consecutive second-quarter drops near the goal line - the margin could have been considerably tighter.
"We dropped a lot of balls," Signal coach Bill Price said, shaking his head. "That's a good football team, a good 6A football team, and you can't do have mistakes like that.
"We're getting better. It's a process, and we're definitely making strides."
Blackman struggled through the air in the first half - quarterbacks Matt Williams and Chase Smotherman alternated possessions for the first two quarters and were a combined 2-for-15 for 48 yards and a Smotherman to Chris Lilly touchdown before the break.
The hiccups in the passing game were balanced by the overpowering ground game that covered 182 yards on just 12 first-half carries. Antonio Allen and Dee Mathers both broke long runs -- Allen opened the scoring with a 46-yard touchdown on the Blaze's fourth play; Mathers covered 74 yards on the next offensive play after Signal's Houston McLain's 34-yard field goal to extend the lead to 14-3.
"We played a lot of tackles, tight ends and tailbacks, too," Blackman coach Philip Shadowens said when asked about the quarterback rotation. "I thought both [quarterbacks] did some good things, but to tell the truth I'm tired of talking about it. It's just one of many positions, and we put together a pretty good effort at every position."
Blackman was especially stout defensively, forcing Signal to work for every inch and forcing three turnovers, including recovering a pooch kickoff. The Blaze (3-1) deflected six passes and got a sack from Javen Shanklin and an interception from Styles Corder.
As physically as the defense played, the offense became more efficient in the second half. Smotherman played most of it and finished 5-for-12 for 119 yards and two scores, adding a perfectly placed strike on a seam route to tight end Brandon Davenport on a 47-yard scoring play.
"We've had a physical week - we even went in pads yesterday," Shadowens said of the preparation after last week's 42-7 loss to Siegel. "I was pleased with the effort and the physicality we played with. And in those two things I'd give us a pretty high grade."
Price viewed his team's performance with a similarly friendly curve, as did senior quarterback Reese Phillips. Phillips finished 12-of-31 with no fewer than 10 dropped passes, rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries and led the Eagles to their lone touchdown - Robert Turner's 1-yard score - late in the fourth quarter.
"They're a great team," Phillips said of Blackman, "but this will only make us better. We have to keep our head and keep improving. There was a lot of good things tonight, even though a lot of people won't see that.
"We're definitely getting better."