In a neighborhood rivalry football game filled with storylines and more plot twists than a 38-point win should have, the most important detail from Red Bank's 46-8 victory at Signal Mountain on Friday is still unknown.
During an explosive and game-clinching third quarter, Red Bank junior quarterback Joseph Blackmon crumpled to the turf holding his knee. He did not return — the Lions were comfortably in front at that point — but left the Eagles Nest on crutches.
"We're not sure what it is," Red Bank coach Chris Brown said after his state-ranked Lions improved to 3-0 by winning the Region 3-3A opener for both teams, "but we'll see what it looks like and go from there.
"I do know that Joseph's a quality young man from a quality family that knows whatever God has planned for them is going to be OK."
Blackmon and the offense found their stride after Brown reminded his steamrolling bunch to simply, "enjoy playing football" in the second half against the Eagles. The advice worked, as Red Bank changed gears offensively — it had 307 yards on 19 plays after the intermission — and eliminated any hope of a Signal upset.
"We were distracted a little bit," Red Bank star defensive end Cam Bell said about a first half that was scoreless deep into the second quarter. "There was a whole lot of yapping out there on both sides. But when Coach told us to enjoy playing football, we got focused and started playing."
Signal (1-2) followed the universal upset playbook for the game's first 20 minutes. Led by an inspired effort from Chance Townsend — the undersized defensive back had an interception in his end zone, a touchdown-saving tackle and a pass breakup on fourth-and-goal on Red Bank's first two possessions alone — Signal matched the Lions' dominance by being deliberate.
Pace and passion had the Eagles deadlocked with the best Red Bank squad since Tay-Tay Caldwell roamed the 423 before a roughing-the-punter penalty extended a Lions drive that became their first score of the game with less than five minutes before halftime.
"Hey, that's a great football team, no doubt about it; maybe the best Red Bank team I've seen since I've been coaching," Signal coach Josh Roberts said. "But that penalty) was a game changer because it completely changed the momentum for our kids.
"It was a youthful mistake, but we've got to coach them better and find ways to handle adversity like that in better ways."
That one miscue allowed the dam to break. Red Banks scored its first touchdown six plays later on Blackmon's 5-yard keeper.
From there, the Lions roared, and barring a 25-second possession that ended in a Hail Mary, the next six Red Bank series ended with touchdown runs from six different Lions, including long-distance house calls from Key Eddins (46 yards), Jamari Jackson (48 yards) and Reco Trimble (47 yards).
Signal's lone touchdown came on Andrew Eichner's 72-yard interception return on the final play of the third quarter.
But that score was cosmetic, and for red-hot Red Bank, like the final outcome, was a detail compared to the uncertainty around Blackmon's future.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.