MARYVILLE, Tenn. - The Cleveland defense showed Saturday against Alcoa that its capable of competing against one of the top teams in the state.
The Raider offense showed that it still has a ways to go to be capable of duplicating that statement.
The seven-time defending state champions didn't blow out the underdog Raiders yet took advantage of any and every mistake their opponent made in a 21-0 win in the first game of the Airport Motor Mile Kickoff Classic at Shields Stadium in Maryville.
Alcoa scored on a halfback pass on their first possession and a second-quarter punt return by Vanderbilt Hambrick. Other than that, they had only one score on a sustained drive, were shut out in the second half and were stopped at their 1-yard line by a hungry Cleveland defense - much to the delight of Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter and the dismay of Alcoa coach Gary Rankin.
"We didn't look well-coached out there," Rankin said. "If we play that way next week [against rival Maryville], it'll be over Thursday."
Said Slaughter: "Our defense played great today, but our team battled and never gave up. That defensive stand was huge; they had like three tons of meat in there blocking, but we were able to shut them down.
"I really liked our attitude and the way we stuck together."
The Alcoa defense was just as strong, however, confusing the Cleveland attack. Quarterback Chad Voytik was left scrambling at times and the team had multiple procedure penalties. Another issue were stalled drives. After the defense's stop at the 1-yard line, the offense drove the ball to nearly midfield, only to have a second-down pass go through a receiver's hands for an interception by Cody Lewis.
The Raiders also had two fumbles recovered by Alcoa, and Voytik threw had another interception when an Alcoa defender tripped and fell, only to have the ball fall directly into his hands.
"We just couldn't stay ahead of the chains," Slaughter said. "We made a lot of mistakes on offense, but I also think our guys let a lot of people know that we're going to have a great season here. We just have some things that we're going to have to fix before next week."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports