There was nothing pretty or even spectacular about Red Bank's 36-15 victory at Brainerd Thursday night, but Lion coach E.K. Slaughter doesn't care about style points as long as his team finishes with a victory.
Despite an overall record of 3-4, the Lions improved to 3-1 in District 6-AA and are tied for second place with Tyner and the loser of Friday's game between East Hamilton and Hixson.
"The good news is that we were down by 15 points early, but came back with 36 unanswered points and could have scored more, but I'm always pleased with a win in this district," said Slaughter while the Brainerd band performed after the game ended.
"Brainerd has a lot of talent and it's always good to win over here. Our defense had plenty of chances to give up, but they made a great stand and our offense finally started clicking. Now we have to get ready for Howard," Slaughter nodded.
Thursday's win was anything but easy.
Red Bank received the opening kickoff and fumbled with Brainerd's Ashante Magruder getting the recovery at the 27.
Trey Davenport then zipped 27 yards on the first play for a touchdown as the Panthers made it 7-0 with just 22 seconds elapsed following Jacoby Ramsey's extra-point kick.
Sedric Jordan slammed Darrius Akridge for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-1 to put Brainerd back in business at the 45.
Keeping the ball on the ground for all five plays, quarterback Sam Caffey darted 21 yards on a keeper for Brainerd's second TD and it was 15-0 following LaTony Word's conversion run.
There was still 8:42 showing in the first quarter.
Red Bank had run just four plays and hadn't picked up its first down, but the Lions didn't panic.
Quarterback Hagen Wilkey, who finished the game with 10 complete passes in 17 attempts for 171 yards, hooked up with Quan Springs on a 42-yarder for a touchdown as the Lions got to within 15-7 with 6:40 showing.
That was the score when the first quarter ended.
The second quarter belonged to Wilkey.
He passed 23 yards to Akridge on Red Bank's first play of the quarter and he carried the ball three straight times to gain 5, 7 and 6 yards, but it was his 17-yard keeper off right tackle and his two-point conversion run that knotted the score with 6:52 to go before halftime.
The Lions then scored 15 more points in the final 20 seconds of the half with Wilkey scoring his second TD on a three-yard run with 20.9 seconds left. He then recorded his second-straight conversion run as Red Bank enjoyed its first lead.
Caffey was then intercepted by Ellias Baker on Brainerd's first play and Red Bank was in business again at the Brainerd 19 with 9.9 seconds showing.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Wilkey then tossed a perfect strike to Chris Tucker for another TD as the Lions carried a 30-15 into the dressing room at intermission following Christian Velazquez' second PAT.
Wilkey added another TD pass to Tucker late in the third quarter from the 9 to extend the lead to 21 points and that was the final as neither team scored in the final 12 minutes.
"We started kind of slow, but we were confident that we could score some points," Wilkey said when the game ended.
"I like our offense and we knew that the defense would get the stops and give us a chance. Now we need to keep moving forward and just build on this win," he added.
Brainerd coach Stanley Jackson is trying to remain upbeat and positive as his Panthers continue to struggle.
"This is just a microcosm of our entire season," he said in the quietness of his office later.
"We came out with every intent on winning this game and we got off to a pretty good start, but it seems like all it takes is for one bad thing to happen and it all goes downhill from there.
"We didn't take care of the ball. When you have more turnovers and penalties than first downs and touchdowns, it's tough to win a football game.
"We played hard and our kids haven't quit, although we still have a long way to go. It gets frustrating at times," Jackson added.
Red Bank finished the game with 418 total yards, including 247 on the ground and 171 through the air.
Akridge was the leading rusher with 116 yards on 22 carries, including 85 yards on 13 trips in the first half. Wilkey was next with 64 yards on 13 carries.
Micheal Robinson, Akridge, Springs and Tucker all had two catches for the Lions with Springs leading the way with 46 yards. Akridge had 32 while Tucker and Robinson finished with 28 yards apiece.
Brainerd finished with 220 total yards, including 148 on the ground and 72 through the air.
Ramsey was the leading rusher with 58 yards on 11 trips while Davenport finished with 46 yards on nine attempts. Caffey added 38 yards on 13 carries.
Ramsey was the leading receiver with three catches for 36 yards while Magruder had two grabs for 33 yards.
Red Bank also won the first-down battle, 21-9. The Lions also piled up more penalty yards with 16 flags for 120 yards while the Panthers were backed up 80 yards on 11 infractions.
Red Bank goes to Howard next Friday while Brainerd will be at home again to entertain Central.
RED BANK 7 23 6 0 -- 36
BRAINERD 15 0 0 0 -- 15
BR -- Trey Davenport 27 run (Jacoby Ramsey kick), 11:38 left in first;
BR -- Sam Caffey 21 run (LaTony Word run), 8:42 left in first;
RB -- Quan Springs 42 pass from Hagen Wilkey (Christian Velazquez kick), 6:40 left in first;
RB -- Wilkey 17 run (Wilkey run), 6:52 left in second;
RB -- Wilkey 3 run (Wilkey run), 0:20.9 left in second;
RB -- Chris Tucker 19 pass from Wilkey (Velazquez kick), 0.09.9 left in second;
RB -- Tucker 9 pass from Wilkey (kick failed), 1:53 left in third.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)