CLEVELAND, Tenn. — It was homecoming in more ways than one Friday night at Cleveland High School. And a forgettable one at that for Red Bank coach E.K. Slaughter.
Slaughter is a former Red Bank assistant who returned to that school as head football coach after spending the last three years as Cleveland's head coach. He returned to the opposite sideline this week, but his Lions had nothing for his former team. Cleveland cruised to a 41-7 victory at Benny Monroe Stadium on the Blue Raiders' homecoming night.
"This was Cleveland versus Red Bank," Raiders quarterback Austin Herink said, "not us versus Coach Slaughter. It was just another team on our schedule."
The game's first play, a running play for a 4-yard loss, proved to be a sign of things to come. Lineman Koran Kennedy was the first of about four Raiders to arrive in the backfield.
Nine of the Lions' 16 running plays in the first were either for no gain or negative yardage. Even when something postive happened for them like Vincent Gordon's 78-yard kickoff return to the 12 late in the first half, they went backward and ended up at Cleveland's 40 when the half ended.
"We've worked very, very hard at being more physical on defense," Cleveland coach Ron Crawford said. "Being new, it took us a while to evaluate our personel. We made some changes after the first week, and I think for the better. The kids are starting to understand the schemes better."
Led by Herink, Cleveland (4-2) scored touchdowns on each of its possessions in the first half and went to halftime up 28-0. The junior left-hander was 12-of-18 in the first half, completing passes to six receivers for 158 yards. He hit Parker Smith for a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
"This offense is still pass-oriented," Henrik said, alluding to the attack Slaughter ran at Cleveland, "but it's a lot different. In this offense we let the receivers do a lot of the work. It's based on high-percentage passes. If I'm too bad with it out there, I'll be over on the sideline."
Crawford said after a pass play is called, it's up to Herink to be the decision-maker.
"He makes great reads," Crawford said. "It's great to see a high school quarterback hit his check-downs. They count in the passing stats. When he gets in a rhythm he can be really good."
Red Bank (1-4) tried an onside kick to start the second half, but the Blue Raiders' Jacob Gibson recovered it. On the second play afterward, C.J. Bryant broke free for a 50-yard scoring run, and Jesse Jones' fifth extra point made it 35-0.
Bryant ended with 132 yards on seven carries, including a 52-yard run for the first score and a 1-yard TD in the final minute of the first half. Davis also scored from the 1 in the first half, and reserve running back Jonathan Terrero had a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter for the Blue Raiders' final points.
The Lions' touchdown came with 19 seconds left on a 48-yard pass from Hagen Wilkey to Quan Springs. Red Bank was 1-of-7 on fourth down, the conversion coming on the scoring drive.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.