WHITWELL, Tenn. — On their opening possession of Friday night's contest, the Whitwell Tigers moved the football down the field, looking like the reigning Class 1A state champions that they are.
The Tigers used a 10-play drive to go up 7-0.
Then Signal Mountain's Terrance Russell stepped foot onto Vernon Holtcamp Field.
Russell caught a 41-yard touchdown pass on the Class 3A Eagles' opening drive, the first of his four touchdowns in the game as Signal Mountain cruised to a 42-7 win.
"We didn't start well," Signal Mountain coach Josh Roberts said. "But we bowed up, and we played our type of game. We played well on defense and our line did well up front on offense, and we made plays."
Russell caught a 28-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the Eagles' third possession, after a Whitwell fumble, and needed just one play again on the very next possession for Signal Mountain as he tiptoed down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown run. Russell finished things off in the first half with another touchdown reception, this one from 27 yards.
Like his scores, Russell's 96 receiving yards and 69 rushing yards all came in the first half.
"He's a great athlete," Roberts said. "Terrance is the type of football player every coach wants to have. He has a nose for the end zone and won't let anyone stop him."
A 54-yard touchdown pass from Jack Wilson to start the second half concluded the scoring for the Eagles.
The Eagles' defense would not let the offense have all the fun, however. After the Eagles turned the ball over on downs in the second quarter, the Signal defense immediately answered the bell as it forced a fumble and recovered it inside the Whitwell 30-yard line.
Then with time winding down in the first half, Signal Mountain's Andrew Eichner intercepted a Thomas Ridge pass and took it 50 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 35-7 lead.
Whitwell ran the ball eight times on that opening drive of the game as the Tigers marched 59 yards for a touchdown. But that was all they could produce as the Signal defense keyed in on the run.
"They just big-played us," Whitwell coach Travis Olinger said. "We just weren't there to make the plays. We just need to piece everything together and play more consistently."
The Tigers stay at home next Friday as they look to get their first win of the season against Copper Basin. Signal Mountain will host Loudon.
Contact Rob Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.