Tennessee prep football roundup: Signal Mountain holds off late McMinn Central rally

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Signal Mountain football coach Josh Roberts was a winner Friday night at home as the Eagles held off McMinn Central in the season opener for both teams.
Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Signal Mountain football coach Josh Roberts was a winner Friday night at home as the Eagles held off McMinn Central in the season opener for both teams.

A year after one close loss after another, don't expect the Signal Mountain football team to apologize for finding a way to eke out a victory by avoiding a last-second disaster.

Despite enough special teams gaffes to fill a blooper reel — the Eagles allowed the opening kickoff to be returned for a score, lost multiple onside kicks and let a fake punt to be converted for a first down — coach Josh Roberts released a sigh of relief when visiting McMinn Central's last-gasp toss into the end zone landed harmlessly to the turf to clinch his team's 34-26 win Friday night.

"Man, you really appreciate that every win is a good win, especially that first one," Roberts said after the Eagles controlled the game but still managed to leave the home fans on the edge of their seats until the final seconds of the three-hour season opener. "It just means so much -- to the players, the fans, everyone in the program."

Roberts entered with an offense filled with known commodities, and quarterback Cash Keene (16-of-22 passing, 245 yards, four touchdowns), receiver Blake Wolfard (five catches, 93 yards, two scores) and running back Garrett Wilson (two touchdowns) delivered.

But on a defense looking to replace more starters than a crooked mechanic, the Eagles got a ton of production from a cast of new names, both old and young.

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Friday night's Chattanooga-area prep football games)

Senior Barrett Anderson caught three passes for 61 yards and a score in his first high school start. Junior Christian Thompson caught four passes for 45 yards and had an interception. Sophomore Bo Cooper deflected three passes and played more than 95% of the total snaps. Classmate Sam Edmondson had more than 10 tackles and filled in capably at running back with 38 rushing yards in the second half when Wilson was cramping.

"We talk about culture every day. Every day," Roberts said, "And we talked about it on the sideline tonight. And that's everyone — from the seniors to the sophomores to the coaches to the community."

The culture prevailed, despite a rocky start and a scary finish as McMinn Central totaled more than 300 yards of offense, with Ayden Plemons 18-of-35 passing for 210 yards and two scores. The Chargers' Raymond McCarty went nearly 100 yards to score on the opening kickoff.

Rabun Gap (Georgia) 35, Baylor 24: The Red Raiders scored on the first play of the game, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Whit Muschamp to Cameron Sparks, and led 17-7 at halftime. However, the visitors rallied with a 35-10 scoring run after that.

Sale Creek 29, Midway 12: For the first time in program history, the Panthers opened a season with a win.

Grace Academy 20, Lookout Valley 17: In one of its two games this season against an 11-man opponent, the Golden Eagles outgained the visitors 267-121 in total yards. Gunther threw for 116 yards and a touchdown to lead Grace, which still competes in eight-man football for much of the season.

Cleveland 49, Clinton 36: Both offenses were clicking, but the Blue Raiders outlasted their hosts for the win as Isaiah Davis ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. L.J. Adams and Cash Bandy combined to throw for 114 yards as Cleveland held a slight advantage in total yards, 411-402.

East Hamilton 40, Hixson 16: Trey Crawford was 7-of-8 passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes to the win. Mike Hinton rushed for 100 yards and a score, while Kireese Willis finished with 211 receiving yards and three touchdowns and returned an interception 70 yards for another score.

Hixson's Koko Kendricks ran for 80 yards and teammate Chase Barnard threw for 200.

South Pittsburg 56, Oliver Springs 0: The Pirates jumped out to a 49-0 first-half lead as six players accounted for the seven scores. Kamden Wellington threw for 111 yards and three touchdowns, and Ky'Saun Powell led all rushers with 87 yards, while JaMychal Buckner rushed for 79 and Jamarion Farrior 75 as South Pittsburg ou-gained the Bobcats 429-14 in total yards.

Rhea County 34, Soddy-Daisy 0: Ethan Davis turned in a highlight-filled game, rushing 14 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns -- including one that covered 41 yards -- and also had 46 receiving yards, plus an interception on defense. The Eagles outrushed the Trojans 303-44 and put the game away with a 20-point second quarter.

Boyd Buchanan 52, Chattanooga Prep 0: The Buccaneers allowed just 22 yards of offense and only one first down. Linebacker Alto Moore led the way with 11 tackles (two for loss) and a sack, and Asher Keck made four tackles and had an interception. Jaylon Sanderfer ran for 76 yards as the Bucs gained 271 on the ground.

White County 28, Silverdale Baptist Academy 13: The Spartans built a 28-0 halftime lead and held off Silverdale's attempt to rally late. Tripp Pinion ran 23 times for 235 yards and four touchdowns to lead White County, which outgained Silverdale 299-80 on the ground. Chase Walker threw for 82 yards for the Seahawks.

Marion County 41, East Ridge 12: Tilton Pickett completed 12 of 17 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns as Marion County totaled 424 yards of offense. Brody Leonard added 96 receiving yards and a touchdowns for the Warriors, who struck for 21 points in the second quarter to take control and more than doubled the Pioneers in time of possession for the game.

Other area scores:

Marion County 41, East Ridge 12

Ooltewah 41, Central 14

Sequatchie County 21, Bledsoe County 7

Walker Valley 45, Notre Dame 8

Polk County 48, Copper Basin 13

Whitwell 20, Huntland 6

Compiled by Jay Greeson and Stephen Hargis. Contact them at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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