Where did that come from?
The Cleveland Blue Raiders, who hadn’t scored more than 21 points in a game all season, found an explosive offense Friday night and upset previously unbeaten, fourth-ranked Red Bank, 41-6, as quarterback Chad Voytik ran for four touchdowns and passed for one at the Lions Den.
Red Bank, ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press Class 4A poll, had beaten Cleveland seven straight times dating to 2004. The Blue Raiders had not scored more than 22 points against the Lions in that losing streak, but they gave up 30-plus points twice and 52 once.
“They played better than they had been playing,” Red Bank junior Hagen Wilkey said. “I think that surprised our whole team.”
Voytik was more than Red Bank’s defense could handle. The highest point total for a Red Bank opponent this season was 35 points, which Soddy-Daisy put up in the season opener.
Voytik had a hand in 30 of the Blue Raiders’ 41 points.
Voytik, who has verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh, had the breakout game he’d been waiting for this season. He scored on runs of 44, 2, 9 and 21 yards and rushed for 149 yards on 11 carries. Those scoring runs capped drives of 81, 66, 69 and 51 yards.
The gutsy Voytik’s 12-yard touchdown strike to D.J. Jones ended a relatively short 44-yard drive that pushed the Blue Raiders’ lead to 28-0 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
Cleveland’s other touchdown came on Jones’ 70-yard kickoff return, coming mere seconds after Red Bank’s lone score.
“We know what our team can do and tonight we just came out and executed,” said Voytik, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 121 yards to give him 270 total yards in the game. “We knew we were going to run more because they were undisciplined with the fake and we could run around them.
“We played great and defensively we just gave up six points. That’s unbelievable. It’s the first game all season we put everything together like a good team should. It was a great win.”
After losing their first three games by a combined score of 81-35, the Blue Raiders have now won three in a row over Chattanooga Central, Walker Valley and Red Bank, outscoring those opponents, 73-27.
Can you say turnaround?
Cleveland next plays McMinn County, but coach E.K. Slaughter wants his team to enjoy the win over Red bank first.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve been coming on,” Slaughter said. “Tonight we looked really good in pregame and that carried over into the game. We talked all week about being men of action, but we didn’t just want to talk about it. We cranked up the power and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They went out there and did the work.”
From start to finish.
Cleveland defensive back Brandon Strickland stopped Red Bank’s opening drive by intercepting a Niquia McDuffie pass at the Blue Raiders’ 1 and returning it to the 19.
Voytik capped the eight-play drive by darting through the right side of Red Bank’s defense on a 44-yard gallop to the end zone.
In the second quarter, Cleveland’s defense forced a Red Bank punt and set up shot on its own 34. In seven plays, Voytik scored from the 2 and stretched the Blue Raiders’ lead to 14-0. On the drive, Voytik had an 18-yard run and a quick 9-yard completion to David Morgan that set up the short touchdown run.
A costly Red Bank mistake kept the Blue Raiders’ 69-yard, nine-play drive going early in the third quarter. The Lions had forced a punt, but Deres Benn was penalized for roughing punter Anthony Vallejo and four players later Voytik scored again. That stretched the margin to 21-0 with 6:57 left in the quarter.
On Red Bank’s next possession, McDuffie, who rushed for 33 yards and passed for 86, gained 8 yards on first down, but Cleveland’s defense stuffed the Lions on three straight plays – two by Jonathan Terero on third and fourth down, that being a fake punt.
Cleveland overcame a procedure penalty and needed just four plays to cover the 44 yards to score, Voytik hitting Jones for the touchdown. Some Red Bank fans started leaving with the score 28-0.
The Lions (4-1 overall, 2-0 in District 4-AA) came back with a 72-yard, seven-play scoring drive, McDuffie scoring from the 1, with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
Fifteen seconds later, however, Jones was celebrating in the end zone with his second touchdown of the game and the Blue Raiders (3-3, 1-1 District 5-AAA) pushed the lead out to 35-6.
More of the Lions faithful gave up and headed toward the parking lot.
Voytik wasn’t through.
He saved his best run of the night for the highlight reel.
From 20 yards out, Voytik went around right end and headed toward the sideline. At the 6, he leaped over Red Bank defender Deres Benn and trucked right on into the end zone with his show-stopping final touchdown.
“The loss was disappointing,” Wilkey said. “We knew what we had to do, but I don’t know what the problem was. They just played a good game. Nobody wants to lose, buy we have to learn from our mistakes and come out next week and play better.”
The Lions will take on district rival Central on Friday.
Cleveland 7 7 21 6 – 41
Red Bank 0 0 6 0 – 6
CL – Chad Voytik 44 run (Anthony Vallejo kick), 6:10
CL – Voytik 2 run (Vallejo kick), 3:02
CL – Voytik 9 run (Vallejo kick), 6:57
CL – D.J. Jones 12 pass from Voytik (Vallejo kick), 3:32
RB – Niquia McDuffie 1 run (kick failed), 1:23
CL – D.J. Jones 70 kickoff return (Vallejo kick), 1:08
CL – Voytik 21 run (kick failed), 6:11
First downs 19 6
Rushes-Yds. 41-273 31-54
Passing Yds. 121 86
Com-Att-Int. 10-18-0 7-15-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-Avg. 3-29.3 4-33.5
Penalties-Yds. 11-85 3-35
RUSHING – Cleveland: Chad Voytik 11-149, C.J. Bryant 14-82, David Morgan 12-37, Brandon Strickland 1-7; Red Bank: Niquia McDuffie 16-33, Randal Lee 7-14, Hagen Wilkey 3-10, Deres Benn 1-0.
PASSING – Cleveland: Chad Voytik 10-18-0-121; Red Bank: Niquia McDuffie 7-15-2-86.
RECEIVING – Cleveland: Parker Smith 4-59, Brandon Strickland 1-34, David Morgan 1-9, D.J. Jones 2-8, C.J. Bryant 1-5, Camden Bell 1-4; Red Bank: Quan Springs 1-38, Kameno Watson 2-29, Deres Benn 3-11, Hagen Wilkey 1-8.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com)