Mother Nature called a long timeout during the second quarter at East Ridge's James Stadium on Friday night.
It worked to the benefit of the visiting Walker Valley Mustangs, who rallied for a 21-3 victory over the Pioneers in the season opener for both teams.
Running back Holt Spencer scored two touchdowns and Tanner Dillard added another.
"Any time you start with a 'W' it's a good thing," Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan said. "Our special teams and defense really pulled through tonight."
East Ridge controlled the first quarter and the first seven minutes of the second quarter before a lightning delay halted play.
The Pioneers forced two three-and-outs, forced and recovered two fumbles and scored on a 35-yard field goal by Tad Whitaker, who had his first attempt of the season blocked by Colton Morrow.
Officials stopped play for lightning at 8:13 p.m. Most of the crowd moved inside the Catherine Neely Gymnasium, but a few never bothered to take shelter as only a few light raindrops fell.
Walker Valley players sat outside the locker room while a few huddled around Ryan, who worked on a white-board.
East Ridge players gathered in their locker room after taking off their shoulder pads. The East Ridge coaching staff gathered in the office.
"I think that we made some undisciplined mistakes, which is first-game stuff," coach Tracy Malone said during the delay. "We busted a couple of routes, busted a couple coverages and we jumped offside on fourth down.
Play resumed at 8:51 p.m. with the Pioneers facing second-and-12 at midfield.
"We've got the ball and we're driving," Malone said, "so we're right where we want to be."
But on the second play after the resumption, Jo-Jo Tillery mishandled a snap, resulting in a lost fumble.
The Mustangs took advantage by driving 51 yards for a touchdown. Spencer, who finished with 50 rushing yards, capped the seven-play drive with a 5-yard run over the goal line.
Walker Valley took that 7-3 lead into halftime, which the coaches agreed to shorten to five minutes.
"[The delay] gave us a chance to work because they threw some wrinkles from their defense at us," Ryan said. "We talked about our blocking. Then we were able to make things happen."
A 46-yard punt return by Colton Morrow set up the Mustangs at the East Ridge 12-yard line on their first possession of the second half. Tanner Dillard scored from 8 yards out two plays later for a 14-3 lead.
Linebacker Billy Raulston gave the Mustanges splendid field position again when he intercepted a screen pass and and returned it about 10 yards to the 8-yard line. Spencer cashed in from the 3 with 8:52 to go in the game.
"We were sloppy early and we were trying to regroup," Spencer said. "Everything was going good in the second half. When linemen are blocking, we can do great things."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...