Greetings, Eagle fans! After months of waiting, the 2017 season is finally upon us with our opening game against the Cleveland Blue Raiders this Friday, Aug. 18, at Eagle Stadium.
The Rhea County faithful is no stranger to Cleveland (39 overall meetings on the gridiron), but each season produces new faces, new strengths, and new pitfalls for each team, so I here’s a look at our Week One opponent.
Cleveland High School
Mascot: Blue Raiders
2016 Record: 5-5
Class 6A, Region 2
After facing off against the Eagles in Region 4-5A for the last two seasons, Cleveland was moved up to 6A, the largest class by school size in the state, by the TSSAA where they will play former region foes Ooltewah and McMinn County as well as 6A powers Bradley Central and Maryville.
The task of succeeding for third year coach Scott Cummings (11-10 as the Raider head man) will definitely be daunting, but, as they flashed in the Southeast Kickoff Classic Jamboree at Rhea County last Friday, they have some burners at wide receiver and running back that can give an experienced secondary some fits.
Players to watch out for:
Cleveland Blue Raiders
Arlington Ferguson (#4, Wide receiver, Junior)
-Flashed some serious speed against Lenoir City
Kellye Cawood (#12, Quarterback, Junior)
-Highly capable of commanding Scott Cumming’s offense and is dangerous from the pocket
Micaleous Elder (#1, Running back, Junior)
-Showed exceptional cut and change of direction ability and can outrun and outmuscle even the surest of tacklers
Rhea County Golden Eagles
Christian Simon (#22, Fullback, Senior)
-Played wing in 2017, but has transitioned well to fullback with an abundance of toughness and vision
Zack Pemberton (#7, Quarterback, Junior)
-Experienced after starting all 12 games last season as a sophomore and can more than handle leading his dad’s “Wing Gun” offense
Chandler Kaylor (#42, Linebacker, Junior)
-Flies to the ball with the grit and determination and is rarely not in on a tackle
Series Record: Cleveland 25 wins – Rhea County wins 14
Average Score: Cleveland 19, Rhea County 16
Outlook: I fully expect this one to be close. Rhea County will certainly limit Cleveland’s possession time with the “grind-it-out” mentality, but I believe the Blue Raiders capitalize on a few of them, but not enough to pull out the W.
Brian’s pick: Rhea County 35, Cleveland 24