EVENSVILLE, Tenn. — Rhea County senior Maurice Shirley showed why he is one of the most dominant offensive lineman in the state Friday night.
The big man was a big part of a 28-21 win for Class 5A's Golden Eagles over Class 4A's fifth-ranked Red Bank.
Rhea County smashed the Lions at the line of scrimmage for 432 rushing yards on 45 carries out of an old-school I-formation in which seniors Ethan Davis and Cam Potts ran wild. Davis rushed for a game-high 206 yards on 24 carries, while Potts added 157 yards and two scores on 12 runs.
Rhea County's elated head coach, Mark Pemberton, greeted his players in the postgame huddle with "How 'bout them Eagles!" They avenged last September's last-minute road loss at Red Bank, which was a state semifinalist in November.
"Our chemistry up front makes us such a tough offensive line to go against," said Shirley, whose power has helped Rhea County (2-0) rush for 735 yards already this season. "What gives us that extra fire and drive up front is I am playing for the guy beside me and he is playing for me. It's all love. We mauled a really good football team up front. We were physical from the start, and it was a great team win."
Rhea County vs. Red Bank on Aug. 25, 2023
With Red Bank trying to even the score at 21 early in the fourth quarter, Davis, the school's all-time leading rusher, came up with his second interception of the year at the Golden Eagles' 1-yard line.
Davis then took the next play, a gutsy toss sweep to the left sideline, for 33 yards. Two plays later, co-star Potts produced a sideline-to-sideline 54-yard touchdown run for a 28-14 lead with 9:37 left. Potts scored on two consecutive carries in the second half, while quarterback Caleb Carr scored on a pair of sneaks for a 14-14 tie at halftime.
Red Bank (1-1) lost starting quarterback Eric Hill near halftime due to injury. Hill was rock solid in the first half as he was 7-of-8 passing for 126 yards and a 55-yard touchdown pass to Cordell Howard, who burst down the left sideline after a quick out route.
Logan McGinnis had a 52-yard deep post route connection with Hill to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Josiah Featherstone to give the Lions a 14-6 lead with 7:18 left in the second quarter.
Sophomore backup quarterback Sean Brune had a pair of big completions of 23 and 39 yards in the second half to Drayden Collier, while Featherstone finished with 88 yards on 16 carries.
However, Davis and the Golden Eagles were too much to handle on the ground. They rushed for more than 200 yards in each half.
"We have the guys up front who can get the job done," Pemberton said. "Maurice is our anchor on both lines, offensively and defensively. We have a really solid 1-2-3 tandem in the backfield with our two tailbacks and fullback (Hunter Crowe, who had seven carries for 64 yards).
"This was a really big win for us. That 99-yard drive after the pick by Ethan was huge for us."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.