PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — The huge pregame banner that host Bledsoe County ran through on its way onto the field proclaimed proudly, “This is our district.”
Breaking from a 19-7 halftime lead, Signal Mountain went on a 22-point binge on the way to a 48-13 victory over the Warriors, who won District 7-AA titles the past two seasons.
“We were a little sloppy in the first half. We stunk it up,” Signal coach Bill Price said. “We weren’t ready to play and that’s my fault, but we’re going to get better.”
His Eagles already did so, especially after his scathing halftime talk.
“We had some missed opportunities in the first half, but we picked it up,” he said. “Bledsoe is a good football team. I think we probably just had a little more depth.”
Quarterback Reese Phillips had a field day, the best night of his career, completing 11 of 14 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion and scoring on a 2-yard run.
Jon Patton caught five passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and Will Queen added another 105 on five receptions.
“Those two on the field at the same time is almost unfair,” Phillips said. “Their numbers speak for themselves. I try not to be a stat-hogger, but those two guys really help me out.”
Signal also ran for 235 yards with Tim McClendon picking up 76 — 62 on one carry — and Andrew Price adding another 75, with 43 on one carry. Mitchell Hall, slowed by a bad back, had one carry but it went 38 yards for another score, and Zack Bowman got the Eagles’ final TD on a 7-yard run.
“The offensive line did really well, especially in the second half,” Phillips said. “When they do well, we do well.”
The game, which drew a maxed-house crowd, was the Eagles’ first 7-AA game after moving up from District 6-A, and Bledsoe, playing its first home game, was eager to defend its back-to-back titles.
“They’re used to winning and we’re used to winning,” Phillips said. “I told the guys at the half that we had been in worse situations, and I think playing East Hamilton and Tyner prepared us well for this game.”
The 41 points were a season high for the Eagles, who entered the game averaging 36. But Bledsoe entered the contest with a 43.5 points-per-game total.
Signal did a good job of holding the Warriors out of the end zone and limited Bledsoe standout Brandon Smith to 48 yards. The diminutive senior entered the game averaging 177.
“He’s a really good player,” said Coach Price, who watched as many of his defensive standouts made a point of seeking Smith out and shaking his hand or patting him on the helmet.
“Our defense was OK,” linebacker/fullback McClendon said. “We could’ve done better, but he’s a pretty good player.”
Tackle Elijah Turnage was among the Eagles’ defensive standouts, getting at least eight tackles including three lost-yardage hits. Bowman and Chris Abernathy had interceptions.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...