Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Red Bank's Reco Trimble finds running room during a region game against visiting East Hamilton on Oct. 22.

This time last year, one of Red Bank High School's top football talents had to watch the team's playoff run from the sideline.

The Lions closed their 2020 regular season with a 13-0 win against Loudon, but it also marked the end of Reco Trimble's junior year on the football field as he sustained a knee injury that required surgery. After a breakout season in which he had boosted his recruiting stock, it was a sudden ending for a star safety whose versatility also allows him to play big roles on offense and special teams.

"At the beginning, it felt like football was almost over for me," Trimble said. "I didn't know how fast I would heal back up after surgery, but I went in and rehabbed every day and focused on getting back to being out here playing the game I love. It was hard but something I had to put my head down and go through. When they said I was cleared to play again before the season, that was the best feeling."

Trimble has returned to making a huge impact in every way imaginable for a program that has gone 38-7 over the last four years. Now a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, he will be counted on as the red-hot Lions (8-3) host Macon County (8-3) in the second round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs Friday night at Tom Weathers Field. Red Bank is seeking its seventh straight win this year and a fifth straight appearance in the state quarterfinals; the Lions reached the 3A semifinals in 2020 before falling to Alcoa.

"Reco is a great young man, first and foremost," Lions coach Chris Brown said. "He does whatever his team needs him to do. He was one of our best running backs last year, but we needed some more dynamic ability at receiver. He slid right over to it and has been a great force for us there. He cares about this team and his teammates."

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Red Bank football standout Reco Trimble

Trimble averaged more than 10 yards per carry last season, but he can change a game in numerous ways. He has 11 career takeaways (seven interceptions), and he has been one of the top kick returners in the area for two seasons. He was a Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen selection in the preseason, and he is ranked among the state's top 30 overall prospects for the class of 2022 by both and

Trimble's first official offer came from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and he also has offers from Southeastern Conference programs Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, as well as Atlantic Coast Conference contender North Carolina State and other Power Five programs.

"I always dreamed of playing football on TV when I was little," said Trimble, who leads his team with 41 catches for 507 yards and eight total touchdowns. "I can't thank my coaches enough for inspiring me and staying on me about making sure I do what I need to do to be successful. I'm not the only one who is hungry; we all are."

Since a 1-3 start, which included close defeats to Class 5A's Rhea County and 6A's Cleveland, the Lions have played their best football to win a region title in October and then rout Stone Memorial in the opening round of state last week.

Offenses have to think twice about attacking a Red Bank secondary led by senior Josh Blackmon and juniors Jaden Baccus and Tyler Wright. Meanwhile, junior AD Crutcher and freshman Duane Morris have been stars at running back and linebacker, while the senior twin duo of Delmetrius and Delmontae Gustus has done damage up front.

Baccus, who sat out last season due to COVID-19 to protect his grandmother, has provided clutch plays.

"Our defense has really stepped up all around," Trimble said of a unit that has allowed seven or fewer points in five of the past six games, including a 28-0 victory over a 10-win Fayetteville team. "Jaden and Tyler have done great, and Josh is a dog in our secondary. People made a mistake early this season by counting us out."

Macon County's wing-T offense is the next challenge for Trimble and the Lions as they try to prolong their season and he tries to prolong his time in a Red Bank football uniform.

"What I appreciate the most about Reco is he truly doesn't take any game for granted," Brown said. "He knows what it is like to not have it. He prepares like that, and it's contagious to our other guys. When he steps on the field, he is going to give you everything he's got on every play to the best of his ability."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.