CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Pitch and catch.
Yes, Austin Herink made it look just that easy.
Cleveland's senior quarterback connected on everything from screen passes and short slants to fly patterns, burning the Soddy-Daisy secondary for 361 yards and four touchdowns to lead Class 5A's fifth-ranked Blue Raiders to a 51-14 District 5-AAA win.
Most of Herink's totals came in the first half, when he threw for 316 yards and all of his TDs. He added a scoring run in the second half before coming out of the game in the fourth quarter.
"This offense is a lot of fun to play in," Herink said. "I've played with most of our receivers since sixth grade, so I've got a lot of confidence in them and wouldn't trade them for anything.
"Our offense is the same air-raid style that you can watch on Saturdays, and when we're clicking it's fun for all of us and tough to stop."
The Blue Raiders finished with video-game type numbers -- 643 total yards and 11 plays of 20-plus yards. Their defense held the Trojans to 29 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
Despite all that, Blue Raiders coach Ron Crawford wasn't satisfied.
"I didn't think we executed very well in the first half. I just thought D.J. [Jones] made some plays for us," Crawford said. "We came out and executed better in the second half."
Herink hit Jones for a 59-yard TD on Cleveland's first snap and later found his favorite target for a 41-yard scoring hook-up. Jones had 174 yards on five first-half catches and didn't touch the ball in the second half.
"D.J. is a special athlete," Crawford said. "He can score with it about any time he touches the ball."
Soddy-Daisy answered Cleveland's big play to open the game with a six-play, 54-yard drive, capped by Hunter Maynor's 18-yard pass to Tre Carter to tie the game. But after losing a fumble at the Trojans' 1, Cleveland scored on its final four possessions of the first half, while holding Soddy-Daisy's offense to three-and-out on two of its next four possessions to begin pulling away.
By halftime, Herink had more than doubled the Trojans' offensive output by himself, helping Cleveland build a 34-7 lead.
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...