Red Bank's football team came together as a "family" and fought past Upperman, 21-14, on the road Friday night to advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Senior quarterback Madox Wilkey showed extreme poise from the start as he helped the Lions avenge a loss on the same field last year. Wilkey completed 16 of 24 passess for 187 yards and ran for 20 yards and a touchdown.
"Our first drive we got the ball on the 1-yard line and we fought all the way down the field," Wilkey said of the 13-play drive in which he threw for 81 yards. "Our backs were against the wall, but we did whatever it took. We fought our butts off for every yard tonight. Our receivers made plays."
One of Wilkey's go-to connections was junior Kel Eddins, who picked a perfect time for a signature performance. Their timing together was impeccable as Eddins reeled in 10 catches for 107 yards.
The Lions' Jamari Jackson made moves after the catch for a 9-yard touchdown to open the scoring, and Lucas Brown made the game-ending first down grab on third and long.
Once again Red Bank (10-1) flashed its turnover-making defense as Rico Trimble had two crucial takeaways as Upperman reached the red zone. Trimble's 65-yard fumble recovery set up Wilkey's touchdown run to go up 14-0 with four minutes before halftime, and he also picked off a pass in the end zone right before the break.
"We pulled through when we needed to," Trimble said. "We have a lot of players who can operate and lead this team. We are a family. Those turnovers helped, but everyone did their part tonight. We want to take this ride as far as we can."
Senior Mr. Football semifinalist Doneven McCallister threw a 20-yard touchdown pass and rushed for another score to pull Upperman (10-2) within a score with six minutes left, but the Lions did not wilt.
Lumiere Strickland, who had a touchdown run on the first drive of the second half for the three-score lead, ran hard for two pivotal first downs on the Lions' final possession. The Bees never got the ball back.
The Red Bank defense held its own as Trayvaughn Benford, Delmontae Gustus and Clark Lockerby made big stops when called upon.
"These guys went out and had fun playing football together and for Red Bank," coach Chris Brown said. "I had faith that we were going to give it our best freaking effort as a team and a family. Our guys put themselves in positions to make big plays and I am so proud of them."
Red Bank will travel to Loudon next Friday as it looks to avenge its lone loss of the season.