Red Bank and Rhea County have been two of the most consistent public high school football programs in the Chattanooga area over the last decade, producing a combined five appearances in the TSSAA state semifinals in that time frame, and each has hopes of playing past Thanksgiving again this fall.
When Red Bank visits Rhea County for an 8 p.m. kickoff Friday in Evensville, they'll be meeting for the 39th time, and the visiting Lions will try to add another win to their 25-13 lead in the all-time series. When the Golden Eagles visited Red Bank last September, though, they made sure getting No. 25 was a chore for the Lions.
Rhea County's defense allowed just 106 yards on 35 plays, and the Lions' only points in their 7-3 victory came with two minutes to play and required a bit of trickery on special teams as Tyler Wright fielded a kickoff at the 1-yard line, carried the ball for a short gain, then lateraled back to Daune Morris, who covered 92 yards to the end zone for the touchdown.
"That was a good, old-fashioned football game," Red Bank coach Ted Gatewood said. "If you look back through the history between these two teams, there have been numerous times where the game comes down to one play. That fake kickoff return was just one of those things where all of a sudden, you look at your team and say, 'Hey, just find a way to win.'"
Gatewood is in his second year leading the program at his alma mater, with his debut season yielding an 11-3 record and a run to the Class 4A semifinals.
Rhea County is having to bounce back more than the Lions after going 2-9 in 2022 with a first-round playoff loss in Class 5A, but both teams impressed in season openers last week.
Red Bank scored multiple touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in a 44-6 home rout of Tyner, last year's Class 2A state champion. Highlights included Josiah Featherstone's 57-yard touchdown run and Duke-committed defensive star Kobe Smith returning an interception for a touchdown and blocking the punt that teammate Micah Hardaway recovered and returned for a score.
Meanwhile, Rhea County outrushed visiting Soddy-Daisy 303-44 in a 34-0 victory, and senior Ethan Davis had 207 yards of total offense plus two of the five touchdown runs by the Golden Eagles, and he also intercepted a pass on defense.
"We were young last year, but our guys are bigger, faster and stronger," Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton said. "We have added some speed, too, and really like where we are right now. We have a great group of kids who have great attitudes. That's 90% of the battle, in my book."
Last week was just the latest big game for Davis, who in 32 career games has rushed for a program-record 4,620 yards on 628 carries, with 51 of those resulting in touchdowns. He has career rushing averages of 7.7 yards per carry and 144.4 yards per game, and he can also make plays as a receiving option.
"Ethan is a very talented young man," Gatewood said. "He runs the ball very hard, and they do a great job of getting him the football. Every time you play Rhea County, you better be ready for a physical football game.
"This is a long-standing game between these two schools. We are excited to go out there and see where we are against a very solid and well-coached football program."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Aug. 25
Games begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless noted
Baylor vs. Seton Hall (N.J.) at Dublin, Ireland, 10:30 a.m.
Boyd Buchanan at Brainerd, 8
Tyner at Bradley Central
Central at Chattanooga Christian
Chattanooga Prep at Howard, 8
Cumberland County at Bledsoe County, 8
East Hamilton at Heritage (Ga.)
Goodpasture at Silverdale Baptist
Grace Academy at Christian Community
Greenback at Whitwell, 8
Grundy County at Huntland, 8
Hixson at Meigs County
Marion County at Dade County
McMinn Central at Seymour
McMinn County at Cleveland
Mt. Juliet Christian at Lookout Valley
Ooltewah at Soddy-Daisy, 8
Red Bank at Rhea County, 8
Sale Creek at Jackson County
Sequatchie County at East Ridge, 8
Signal Mountain at Notre Dame
South Pittsburg at Franklin County, 8
Walker Valley at Polk County
Woodward Academy (Ga.) vs. McCallie at Finley, 8
Calhoun at Carver-Atlanta
Coahulla Creek at Northwest Whitfield
East Hamilton at Heritage
Gordon Central at Southeast Whitfield
Gordon Lee at Armuchee
LaFayette at Trion
Marion County at Dade County
Murray County at Lakeview-F.O.
North Cobb Christian at Ridgeland
North Murray at Pickens
Sonoraville at Darlington
Temple at Christian Heritage