On a night where emotions and excitement were high for the Rhea County Eagles and the Cleveland Blue Raiders, the weather had other plans for the gridiron rivals.
With almost 18 seconds remaining in the 1st quarter, lightning flashes in the area around Benny Monroe Stadium sent the teams, officials, media, and fans scrambling for shelter.
A heavy thunderstorm cell rumbled its way through Raider country, shaking, lighting, and drenching the field with thunder, lightning, and pouring rain rather than the cheers of fans or the clashing of shoulder pads that was initially intended.
The game was first slated to be played at 1 PM today, but, per Cleveland’s social media, the National Weather Service has projected for another cell to send more thunder and lightning to the area around that time, prompting the Cleveland administration to cancel the game.
The game has been totally cancelled, meaning there will be no makeup game and both teams still stand at 0-0 on the season.
Unlike most of the other cancelled games in the Chattanooga area, the Eagles and Raiders were able to fit in some playing time with the teams scoring a touchdown apiece.
In total, the teams combined for five offensive drives.
The first drive of the game belonged to the Blue Raiders. After converting on a third and short, quarterback Jackson Moore was strip-sacked by junior Eagle linebacker Bradley Goodwin. Cleveland recovered the fumble, but the loss of yardage was too great for them to overcome, and they punted.
Rhea County got the ball deep in their own territory for their first drive of the contest. It looked quite promising for the Eagles until a trio of Cleveland defenders forced a fumble from fullback Chandler Kaylor. The Blue Raiders recovered.
On their ensuing drive, Moore found Robert Flowers for a 34-yard touchdown pass, and, following the successful PAT, the Blue Raiders took the lead 0-7.
After a couple big runs from senior quarterback Zack Pemberton and junior running back Jackson Langley on the following drive, the 3rd year signal caller scored on a 5-yard option for the touchdown. Haden “Chigger” Frashier’s PAT was good, and the Eagles tied it up at 7 all.
With the first quarter winding down, the Raiders took over for their third drive of the game. Little did those in attendance know it would be the last one of the game.
Quarterback Jackson Moore handed the ball off on a sweep to junior running back Devarus Bowman, he was tackled by a host of Eagles after a gain of three, bringing up a 2nd and 7 at the Blue Raider 42. Seconds later, a bolt of lightning struck in the distance behind the visitor’s press box and the referees blew the whistle to stop play.
The teams went to their respective locker rooms to wait the storm out, but the lightning was relentless and a meeting between the coaches, officials, and administration determined a 1PM Saturday resuming of the contest, but, as mentioned earlier, weather once again dampened the plans and the game is now off for good.
In the little action seen last night, the Eagle offense looked more than up to the task of facing a tough opponent with the ground game crossing the 100 yard mark in only a quarter of play.
Quarterback Zack Pemberton took the lion’s share of those yards, including the 5-yard scamper for the only Eagle TD. Jackson Langley and Aulbrey Smith did well at their wing positions while Chandler Kaylor and Bradley Goodwin shared time and carries from the fullback spot.
Defensively, the Eagles forced a fumble and a punt on Cleveland’s first drive and looked dominant against Cleveland’s run game.
While the Blue Raiders had a decent quarter passing the ball, it only managed one explosive pass play, the 34 yard TD reception by Flowers.
The Eagles will be back in action this Friday night in their home opener against the Brainerd Panthers who are slated to complete their game with Howard, which they trailed 0-6 in the 2nd quarter, at 1 PM today.