East Ridge coach Tracy Malone was quick to say that his team played boring football Friday night at Raymond James Stadium, but the high-energy leader wasn't about to apologize after his team had beaten Red Bank by a 20-6 final and moved into second place in the District 6-AA standings.
With quarterback JoJo Tillery running behind an overpowering offensive line, the Pioneers did a good job of running the clock and keeping the ball out of Red Bank's hands in the final two quarters when the Pioneers overcame an early Lion touchdown with three second-half scores.
Tillery had a hand in all three East Ridge touchdowns with one TD pass of 15 yards and two short runs.
"I think this was the first time East Ridge has beaten Red Bank in about 10 years, so this is a big win for us," Malone said while putting on some dry clothes afterward.
"Our offensive line played well and we got behind them in the second half as that's what we had to do to win this football game. We put the ball in JoJo's hands and let him do his thing. I know it was kind of boring, but that's the way it is.
"Holding Red Bank to just six points is impressive. I think they scored off of a turnover in the first half, but to hold them scoreless the rest of the way is pretty good. We're beat up right now, that our open week comes at a good time, but we host Tyner here in two weeks," Malone added.
These two teams traded turnovers in the first half with C.J. Baker intercepting a Michael Robinson pass two plays before Red Bank's Trasan Stamper recovered a fumble on a bad snap exchange.
The Lions then marched 38 in four plays -- including an 11-yard penalty against the Pioneers for a late hit -- with Darius Akridge getting the final yard with 6:32 showing in the first quarter. The extra point kick was blocked.
Red Bank's 6-0 lead remained at the half.
An interception by the Pioneers' Kolbe King put his team back in business with a nice return giving East Ridge first down on the Red Bank 28.
Dominique Millener picked up 15 yards on first down as the Pioneers kept the ball on the ground. Tillery then scored the tying touchdown from the 3 with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter. Tad Whitaker's kick gave the hosts a 7-6 lead.
The Pioneers extended that lead to 13-6 on the third play of the fourth quarter as Tillery rolled right and found a wide-open Darius Moore in the end zone for a 15-yard TD pass. The conversion failed, but the Pioneers had a little breathing room with the seven-point lead.
There was still plenty of time for a Red Bank comeback, but two critical mistakes in the final eight minutes were more than the Lions could overcome.
The Lions were driving and had a third-and-one from the East Ridge 39, but a bad snap lost a whopping 15 yards and the Lions were forced to punt.
East Ridge then took possession with 7:08 to play, but couldn't get a first down and was forced to punt. The Lions were flagged for roughing the kicker, which gave East Ridge an automatic first down and possession at its own 29.
Tillery picked up 11 yards on three straight carries before Dquantis Jones got a handoff and raced 55 yards down to the Red Bank 5. Two straight runs by Tillery gave East Ridge another touchdown with 1:33 to play and basically sealed the win for the Pioneers.
Needless to say, Red Bank coach E.K. Slaughter was less than happy when the final horn sounded.
"This is just one loss and we can still make the playoffs, but we just have to quit beating ourselves," Slaughter told his team following the game.
"It's tough to beat anybody with the number of mistakes we made. It wasn't just one player, but the entire team and the coaches as well. We had two weeks to get ready for this game and we didn't get it done. I'll take the blame for that, but it seemed like every time we did something good, we'd turn around and make a stupid mistake," Slaughter nodded.
East Ridge finished with just 256 total yards, but that included 211 on the ground and 154 in the second half. Tillery was the leader with 115 yards on 29 attempts.
Jones followed with 55 yards on his one carry while Millener had 29 yards on four attempts.
Tillery completed six of his nine passes for 45 yards with the biggie being the 15-yard TD to Moore. Mike Knox also had one reception for 22 yards.
The Lions were limited to just 163 total yards, including 100 in the first half. That total included 92 on the ground and 71 through the air.
Shawn Caldwell was the leading rusher with 41 yards on nine trips while Robinson picked up 39 yards on 19 attempts.
Brett Perry, who had a 38-yard reception in the first half, had another for 11 yards in the second half and was the leading receiver for the Lions with 49 yards on those two catches. Akridge added 18 yards on another catch.
East Ridge finished with a dozen first downs while Red Bank had eight, including just three in the second half.
East Ridge is now 4-4 overall and 3-1 in 6-AA with a week off before another home game against Tyner on Oct. 25. Red Bank is now 2-5 overall and 2-1 in the district with a big road game at Hixson next Friday.
RED BANK 6 0 0 0 -- 6
EAST RIDGE 0 0 7 13 -- 20
RB -- Darius Akridge 1 run (kick blocked), 6:32 left in first;
ER -- Jo Jo Tillery 3 run (Tad Whitaker kick), 1:21 left in third;
ER -- Darius Moore 15 pass from Tillery (run failed), 10:56 left in fourth;
ER -- Tillery 3 run (Whitaker kick), 1:33 left in fourth.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)