While the weather outlook looked bleak at the onset of the 2nd Annual Southeast Kickoff Classic, the Rhea County Eagles, Knoxville Catholic Fighting Irish, and the Cleveland Blue Raiders came out shining as bright as a spring sunrise when it was all said and done.
Following a brief delay for the less than perfect weather, Rhea County and Cleveland’s freshmen squads duked it out on the gridiron in the opening two quarters of the jamboree.
The 1st year Eagles came out on top with a crushing 18-0 win with Brackett, Davis, and Collins all tacking on touchdown runs for the freshmen team.
In the second period of action, Cleveland’s varsity took on the Lenoir City Panthers. This time, the Blue Raiders came out on the right end of a rout as they pummeled Lenoir City 28-0 with one touchdown coming on defense as senior linebacker Jake Applegate stripped the football and rumbled into the end zone.
The third period saw Knoxville Catholic and McMinn County face off, resulting in a tight 20-13 win for the Fighting Irish.
In the nightcap, the Irish took the field once again to face the Eagles, and the contest felt more like a regular season game rather than a preseason jamboree.
The Irish scored first with a field goal early in the 1st, and marched down the field again to make the score 9-0. Then the Eagles came roaring back when senior quarterback Zack Pemberton found senior wing Aulbrey Smith for a 65-yard touchdown reception. Frashier’s PAT made it 9-7 Catholic.
Following another drive deep into Eagle territory, the Rhea County defense stood string and forced a short field goal for the Irish.
With the Eagles only down 12-7, senior backup quarterback Haden “Chigger” Frashier led a late 2nd period drive down the field that culminated with him keeping for the touchdown. The two point conversion failed, but Rhea County took the lead 13-12.
A handful of great defensive plays later, the Eagles took over on offense one last time and took a knee. The clock hit double zeros and the scoreboard found the locals victorious against the reigning 5A champs.
Rhea County was led by impressive showings from both quarterbacks, as well as junior linebacker and fullback Bradley Goodwin, senior safety and wingback Aulbrey Smith, and senior linebacker and fullback Chandler Kaylor.
The Eagles are slated to start the 2018 football season this Friday at Cleveland where they will take on the Blue Raiders. Kickoff is set for 7:30.