Rhea defeats Warriors

Rhea County High School Eagle senior running back Tommy Newman (34) outruns the Marion County defense for a 66-yard touchdown run on Friday night.

A flock of Rhea County High School (RCHS) Golden Eagles descended upon Bill Horton Field Friday night and took their wrathful-like fury out on the visiting Marion County Warriors, to the tune of 68-20.

The Eagles’ 68-point production set a school record for most points in a game. The previous record was 63 points, posted in 2013 against the Cumberland County High School Jets.

The home, non-region win was on senior night for Rhea, where the Eagles posted nine rushing touchdowns on 489 yards rushing. The Eagles wrapped up the regular season with an 8-2 record, and a second place finish in Region 4-5A.

Being the final home game of the regular season, RCHS honored all seniors of the football team, the band and cheerleaders in a pregame ceremony at midfield.

The Eagles’ senior-laden team of 23 include: Kyle Carr, Destin Shelfer, Jackson Langley, Nathanial Ferry, Dillon Reed, Tommy Newman, Avery Alday, Mason Jolley, Taylor Cowley, Bradley Goodwin, Saul Ochoa, Jonah Gardenhire, Jacob Stringfellow, Caleb Stampe, Asa Patton, Dalton Smith, Luis Castaneda, Nick Sherrill, Ethan McConnell, Gavin Blaylock, Asa Miller, Nick Creesman and Jasper Lettner.

Rhea tallied their 489 yards on the ground in just 34 attempts, marking an average of 14.3 yards per carry. Seven different Eagles crossed the goal line in their rout over the Warriors. Junior running back, Dalton Hampton, recorded three rushing touchdowns on nine carries, with 107 total yards. He also caught a 22-yard TD pass from senior quarterback, Carr.

With the win over the Warriors, and the opening round of the playoffs starting on Friday, Nov. 8, Eagle QB, Carr, is excited for the opportunity for his team.

“It feels great. It’s always a good time to win in your last game of the regular season, especially at home, and especially breaking the scoring record,” stated Carr. “We couldn’t have went out in a better way. We bounced back [from the back-to-back losses] and we just have to look forward to the next week.”

Sharing Carr’s sentiment of excitement and celebration closing out the regular season with two wins in a row headed to the playoffs, is fellow senior, Reed.

“It feels great to have momentum going into the playoffs,” said Reed. “We hit the weight room a lot this summer and this season, and we’re just getting the season going now.”

Game Recap

The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first. They wasted no time setting the offensive tone by going to the air on the first play from scrimmage, with a long pass attempt from Carr to his senior wide receiver Cowley. The pass didn’t connect, and three plays later, the eagles were forced to punt. It would be Rhea’s Luke Miller’s only punt duty of the night, as he booted it for 34 yards.

Marion County took over on its own 28-yard line with 10:53 remaining in the opening quarter. The Warriors also had to punt on their opening drive, setting up the Eagles at their own 46-yard line, following a 10-yard punt return from Cowley.

The Eagles coughed up the football on the first play of their second drive, which gave the Warriors the ball back in Eagle territory, with 8:34 left in the first period. Marion County took full advantage of the Rhea fumble by marching 47 yards in only five plays to the end zone, with the 25-yard TD run from quarterback, Taye Hutchins. The 2-point PAT attempt failed, and the Warriors led 6-0 with 5:59 left before the second quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rhea deep man, Jaden Pankey, helped set up the Eagles’ great field position, with his 28-yard kickoff return to the Rhea 43-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Ryan Young burst through the Marion defensive front, and was off to the races, but a touchdown-saving ankle tackle brought him down at the Warriors’ 37-yard line. Six plays later, on a fourth down-and-10 play, Carr connected with Hampton for a 22-yard TD pass with 2:32 left in the first quarter. With the PAT kick from Ochoa, the Eagles took the 7-6 lead and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.

Rhea led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter. Along with getting warmed up offensively, the Eagles’ defense forced another three-and-out for Marion’s next drive. On the ensuing punt, Eagle senior punt returner, Reed, appeared to dart 46 yards for the score, but the TD was called back due to offsetting penalties. So, the Eagles took over Warriors’ 32-yard line. A few plays later, Hampton found the goal line again, this time, with a 20-yard run. Ochoa’s PAT kick made it 14-6, with 10:07 left before the half.

Shelfer scored next for the Eagles, with a 9-yard run across the goal line at the 9:14 mark in the second. Ochoa’s PAT kick put Rhea up 20-6. The Warriors’ next drive ended with a 60-yard touchdown run from Hutchins on a fake punt. Marion County’s PAT kick attempt was blocked by Rhea’s Pankey, and the Eagles’ led 20-12 with 5:37 left in the opening half.

The Eagles found the end zone three more times in the second quarter with TD runs from Hampton (49 and five yards) and Carr (one yard). Rhea led 41-12 at the break.

Enjoying the sizeable lead, Rhea head coach, Mark Pemberton, was able to pull many of his team’s starters early in the second half and let many of the backups get playing time.

“I really enjoyed getting most all of our kids in tonight, and giving them the opportunity to get on the field,” stated Pemberton. “I think we got out of it without any injuries, which is another big plus.”

Despite the regime change on the field, the Eagle backups made the most of their playing time by scoring four more touchdowns in the second half. Alday found pay dirt in the third quarter from 50 yards out at the 6:25 mark. After a final TD from the Warriors, on the next drive, Rhea’s Newman raced 66 yards to the end zone with 2:49 left in the third period. After Ochoa’s kick, the Eagles led 54-20 headed to the final quarter.

On the Eagles’ next to last scoring drive of the night, Ferry, broke several tackles and bolted 46 yards to the Marion 37-yard line. He ran for 27 yards on the next play, and then ran 10 yards for the touchdown on the next one. Freshman kicker, Cole Ruehling, came in to relieve senior, Ochoa, and booted the PAT kick through the uprights to propel the Rhea lead to 61-20 with 6:39 left in the game.

Concluding the Rhea scoring was sophomore running back, Garrett Ramsey. Ramsey outran the Marion defense for his 66-yard TD run. After Ruehling’s true PAT kick, the Eagles led 68-20 with 1:35 left in the contest.

The Eagles will host the Knoxville Fulton High School Falcons on Friday, Nov. 8 in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs. Kickoff at Bill Horton Field’s Eagle Stadium will be 7 p.m.

The winner of this Friday’s game will face the winner of the Knoxville Powell (10-0) vs. Lenoir City (1-9) game on Friday, Nov. 15.