There’s no place like Home for Semifinals

Eagles Practice
Rhea County senior Jacob York leads they way for senior Zach Daoust as the Golden Eagles run through plays in Wednesday's practice in preparation for the Semifinals match-up with Knoxville-West this Friday. (photo: Rhea Review)

It doesn’t get any better than #1 versus #2 at Bill Horton Field for the Semifinals

After a vindicating 35-21 Quarterfinals victory over Oak Ridge, Eagle’s head coach Mark Pemberton told his team, “There’s not much better than a little turkey and practicing and playing on Thanksgiving.”

And so far they’ve had a very productive week at practice in preparation for their biggest game yet.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” says Pemberton.  “Our kids our working hard, so we’ll see what happens.”

“They’re number one and we’re number two in the state, so it doesn’t get any better than that,” adds Pemberton.

Given the Eagle Nation fan-base has consistently outnumbered opponents’ fans on the road, they will surely take advantage of a last chance to get “Loud and Proud” at Bill Horton Field this season.

“It’s huge,” says Pemberton. “We need to pack it out again which I know we will. There’s nothing like being at home. It’s gonna be a fantastic situation, and we’re looking forward to going at it again. There’s nothing like being at home.”

And how did Rhea County earn home field advantage over the number one ranked team in the state you ask? According to TSSAA spokesperson, it came down to it being an even-numbered year. The TSSAA says after the Quarterfinals, winners of their respective quadrants in the upper part of the brackets get home field advantage on odd-numbered years, while winners of lower brackets have home field advantage on even-numbered years. So much like the TSSAA coin flip at 2am which gave Rhea County the number two seed over Ooltewah, 2014 is our year.

#1 Ranked Knoxville-West Rebels (12-1)

The Rebels are no stranger to the Semifinals. Nearly a year ago they battled Henry County for the title in the Class 5A Finals in Cookeville. They fell short by a missed extra point, 28-27. And they’ve kept that score posted in their locker room ever since.

Despite an early loss this season to Maryville, the Rebels quickly earned a #1 state Class 5A ranking and kept it for good reason. Their defense is strong up front and quick to the ball, while their offense has averaged 46 points per game.

Employing a spread-run offense, the Rebels have many weapons but be sure to keep an eye on these two. The first is senior running back Nathan Cottrell #5 who amassed over 1756 yards last season and is currently a three-star Georgia Tech commit.

Eagle’s coach Mark Pemberton was impressed at what he’s seen so far on Cottrell and says, “He can run now. He’s a speed guy.”

Pemberton has also taken notice of another threat in the Rebels backfield, senior quarterback Seth Marshal #7. Marshal has been quoted as saying he is a – “running back at heart” – and it shows.  He is scrappy, savvy, and quick on his feet giving that spread offense an added dimension.

Pemberton also says they are a good team defensively and strong up front.

Last week the Rebels responded quickly eliminating South-Doyle’s efforts to run the ball outside.  The Rebels went on to defeat the undefeated Cherokees 34-14.

#2 Ranked Rhea County Golden Eagles (13-0)

Key for an Eagle’s victory is to be physical – that’s their M.O.  They must continue dominating the trenches on both sides of the ball.  Led by senior tackle Jacob Williams, the Eagle’s defensive line must close the gaps opened for the blazing fast Cottrell.

If they can penetrate the Rebels line, it will allow the quickness of our linebackers to shine.  Among the Eagles’ linebackers are Senior Zach Daoust, junior Tyler Pendleton, senior Jacob York, and sophomore Mason Stephenson.  This match-up will highlight our linebackers which have been instrumental in holding opponents to a mere 11.8 points per game.

Expect Pemberton to reach deep into his signature Wing-T playbook to make the most out of the Eagle’s offensive arsenal.  The Eagle’s have rushed the ball for nearly 4,800 yards this season yielding an average of over 369 yards rushing per game.  Zack Daoust has 1,571 yards, Cody Bice has 1,139 yards and Jacob York has 863 rushing yards this season.  Look for quarterback Daniel Dotson to execute the Pemberton’s game plan.

Get Loud and Proud Friday Night

With a 13-0 school record on the line, don’t miss this opportunity to come out and make some noise in a historic night of football at Bill Horton Field.

Rhea County High School Athletic Director Micah Ruehling says excitement for the Semifinals is palpable around Rhea County and the surrounding areas.

“We need as much support as possible from the Eagle Nation.  We’re very excited about the Semifinals,” says Ruehling.

Gates will open at 4:30 and tickets are $8 per TSSAA. 

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