The Rhea County High School Golden Eagles’ defense was ever crucial Friday night, as the Eagle defensemen forced six turnovers on their way to a 47-14 first round playoff rout over the visiting Fulton Falcons.
Leading the charge on the Eagle defense was senior linebacker, Bradley Goodwin, who tallied 10 tackles on the night, which included a sack. Two of his tackles were for losses, and he also forced a fumble.
Goodwin, who had been sidelined for several games due to an injury, was very glad to be back in the action and help his team get the playoff win.
“It feels great to get the win, and it’s an awesome feeling,” said Goodwin. “[Fulton] is good. They have some awesome athletes, and it’s a good feeling to hold them to 14 points. We’re not done yet, and we have to prepare for the next game.”
Eagle sophomore defensive lineman, Caden Wicks, also contributed heavily, as he totaled nine tackles, three for loss. He forced a fumble, and recovered two, one for a touchdown.
Senior defensive lineman, Jacob Stringfellow, charted four tackles, including a sack. He forced a fumble, which resulted in a touchdown, and recovered one for the Eagles. Stringfellow was happy with the way the Eagle defense played.
“It feels good to get the win. We got embarrassed last year, so we had in minds since last year, we were going to work hard and bring it back,” said Stringfellow in reference to the Eagles’ 42-0 first round loss to Oak Ridge in 2018. “It feels especially great to get the win as a senior.”
Other Eagle defensive standouts were senior linebacker, Avery Alday, who tallied six tackles, two for loss, and had a quarterback hurry. Senior defensive back, Dillon Reed, had two interceptions, with 42 total return yards on the picks. Sophomore defensive back, Gavin Roddy, had one interception with a 17-yard return on the pick. Closing out the Rhea turnover stat, is Jackson Crump, who had a sack, which resulted in a 4-yard loss. On the sack, he forced a fumble, and recovered it as well. Senior defensive back, Mason Jolley had two pass breakups.
Eagles’ head coach, Mark Pemberton, lauded his defense’s performance in the opening round win.
“It’s great to see our defense playing that well,” stated Pemberton. “I’m really proud of our defense and the way they played tonight. [Fulton] was dangerous, and could throw the ball. Last week, against Oak Ridge, they had over 300 yards passing.
Our defensive backs, our linebackers played well, plus, we had a good pass rush on their quarterback,” continued Pemberton. “Just a really great effort, defensively.”
Aside from Rhea’ smothering defense, which forced three fumbles and three interceptions on the night, the Eagles gained 250 yards on the ground in the first half to take a 35-7 halftime lead into the locker room.
Most of the Eagles’ first half yards were from running backs Dalton Hampton and Jackson Langley. Hampton had 143 of his 158 total yards in the first half, and Langley had 91 of his total 95 in the first half.
Like Goodwin, fellow senior, Langley, had been sidelined due to an injury for multiple games. Langley was excited to be back on the field.
“It feels really good to be back,” said Langley. “I was fired up to be back. It was a like a big homecoming, getting to come back and be with my brothers again. I’ve missed being with them. It was a big deal for me, and this was a special win, coming back off my injury.”
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter after a 1-yard quarterback sneak from senior QB Kyle Carr. Rhea extended its lead with a 3-yard TD run from Hampton. The Falcons answered with a 15-yard run from Deveon Shenault, with 6:27 left before the break.
Rhea converted the Falcons’ turnovers, and rattled off three more TDs before the break. Getting over the goal line for the Eagles was Hampton, Carr and Eli Johnson, who caught a 3-yard pass from Carr. The Eagles led 35-7 at halftime, and never looked back.
The Eagles scored two times in the third quarter, with 4-yard run from Langley, and a fumble recovered in the end zone for a TD by Wicks. The Falcons added a late touchdown in the final period, with a 55-yard TD pass from Jeffrey Riddle to De’Rondre Peebles.
The win gives the Eagles a 9-2 record on the season, as they move on to the second round of the playoffs. They travel to Knoxville this Friday, Nov. 15, and take on the undefeated Powell Panthers (11-0). Kickoff is 7 p.m.