CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The postgame fireworks had a tough act to follow.
Earlier, Cleveland’s Blue Raiders didn’t light up the night sky, but they sure lit up the Benny Monroe Stadium scoreboard.
Senior quarterback Austin Herink threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a score Friday night as Cleveland exploded past visiting Soddy-Daisy, 51-14, in District 5-AAA football action.
Two of Herink’s touchdown tosses found wide receiver D.J. Jones, one a 59-yarder on the Blue Raiders’ first play from scrimmage. The other covered 40 yards to cap a three-touchdown first quarter. Jones caught five passes for 173 yards, all in the first half.
“Me and D.J. talked about that at lunch today,” said Herink, after riddling the Trojans’ defense by completing 20 of 30 passes in three quarters. “He said you’ve got to get the ball to me more. I said, ‘All right, I’ll get you the ball.’ It’s nice to have a playmaker like D.J.”
Herink, who scored had 316 yards passing at halftime and scored on an 8-yard run in the third quarter, also hooked up with Eric Goodwin on a 5-yard scoring play and found Tyler Davis on a 40-yard strike to paydirt.
The Blue Raiders (4-1, 2-0) didn’t need much of a running attack in the first half with passes flying everywhere. Running back T.J. Parker was held to 50 yards in the first two quarters, but finished with 194 yards on 25 carries and touchdown runs of 4 and 2 yards.
“We had a play we thought would work, but it didn’t do so well in the first half,” Parker said. “We found another play up our sleeve and kept hitting it in the second half. Our offensive line did really good and we drove down the field and put some points on the board.”
Cleveland’s three-player fireworks show dazzled the homecoming crowd and set the stage for the postgame display, which won the competition in loudness only.
With the ground game misfiring early, coach Ron Crawford, who has his Blue Raiders riding a four-game winning streak into next week’s game against state-ranked Knoxville West, didn’t hesitate to rely on Herink’s arm and Jones’ receiving skills to attack the Trojans (2-2, 0-2).
“We thought we could run the zone on them,” Crawford said, “but give Soddy-Daisy credit for doing a great job against us, and we didn’t block it very well early in the game. We challenged them at halftime to execute better and be more physical.
“We came back out and blocked them better and T.J. hit (the hole) good. It was exciting for us.”
The Blue Raiders gained 634 yards of total offense, with 391 coming through the air. They averaged 8.6 yards per play.
“Not taking anything away from Cleveland, but that’s what happens when you don’t block and you don’t tackle,” Soddy-Daisy’s first-year coach Justin Barnes said. “Cleveland is a great football team and when you’re playing a great team you can’t help them as much as we did.
“That’s what happened tonight. They executed and we did not. That will get you beat.”
Barnes wasn’t surprised Cleveland came out flinging the football all over the field, but the poor tackling was giving him a headache after the game.
“Sure, they’re going to throw it with (Herink) and Jones over there,” Barnes said. “But I’d like to see how much of that yardage, including their running back, came after first contact. On that first play we’re in position and he goes up and makes a good play over our kid. On the next one, we hold him to a couple yards, but he breaks three or four tackles and takes it to the house. That was our night.”
Quarterback Hunter Maynor, who completed 16 of 31 passes for 255 yards and touchdowns of 18 and 67 yards to Tre Carter, was pressured frequently and sack three times for minus-21 yards. He also threw two interceptions, one by Jonathan Terrero on the second play after Soddy-Daisy recovered an onside kick to start the game, and one by Will Hilliker.
The Trojans also lost a fumble.
The game had a chaotic start.
The Trojans’ place-kicker Christian Dean booted a perfectly executed onside kick and then recovered it himself at the Blue Raiders’ 43. But two plays later, Terrero’s interception negated the earlier Trojan gamble.
Then Herink and Jones connected with the 59-yard bomb for the game’s first score at the 11:18 mark of the opening quarter.
Maynor’s first touchdown pass to Carter tied the game.
Herink capped the wild first quarter with scoring tosses to Goodwin and Jones and the Blue Raiders were off and throwing with a 21-7 lead.
After one quarter Herink had 181 yards passing and Jones 126 in receptions.
Herink hit Davis on the 40-yard score and Parker zipped into the end zone to give Cleveland a lopsided, 34-7, halftime advantage.
The second Maynor-to-Carter hookup started the third quarter, but the Blue Raiders answered with a 29-yard Oscar Galvan field goal and Herink’s rushing touchdown and headed into the fourth quarter with a comfortable 44-14 lead.
Crawford turned the game over to reserves for the final 12 minutes.
After huddling with his team, Crawford said he wasn’t totally pleased with his team’s effort.
“I didn’t think we played that well tonight,” he said. “We didn’t have much energy with us, but we won by a substantial margin. We’re tickled to death with the victory and we’ll go back to work and see if we can improve.”
With the victory, Cleveland extended its lead over Soddy-Daisy in the series to 12-7 and has won three in a row. From 1978 to 1992 Cleveland won 10 in a row against the Trojans.
Following a season-opening loss to McCallie, the Blue Raiders have beaten Cookeville, McMinn County, Wilson Central and Soddy-Daisy by an average margin of 29.5 points.
Soddy-Daisy won its first two games against Hixson and Red Bank, but has dropped the last two with Ooltewah and Cleveland, two of the better teams in the district by a combined score of 109-28.
Cleveland and Ooltewah sit atop the league standings with 2-0 records. Bradley Central is 1-0 after thrashing county rival Walker Valley, 38-14, on Friday.
Soddy-Daisy 7 0 7 0 – 14
Cleveland 21 13 10 7 – 51
CLE – D.J. Jones 59 pass from Austin Herink (Oscar Galvan kick), 11:18
SOD – Tre Carter 18 pass from Hunter Maynor (Christian Dean kick), 10:06
CLE – Eric Goodwin 5 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 2:53
CLE – Jones 40 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 0:38
CLE – Tyler Davis 40 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 6:40
CLE – T.J. Parker 4 run (kick failed), 1:52
SOD – Carter 67 pass from Maynor (Dean kick), 11:39
CLE – FG Galvan 29, 5:05
CLE – Herink 8 run (Galvan kick), 3:04
CLE – Parker 2 run (Galvan kick), 10:53
First Downs 11 29
Rushes-Yards 19-40 39-243
Passing Yards 255 391
Total Yards 50-295 74-634
Com.-Att.-Int. 16-31-2 24-35-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Punts.-Avg. 4-43.7 0-0
Penalties-Yds. 3-35 4-50
RUSHING — Soddy-Daisy: C.J. Blue 15-57, Levi Thornton 1-4, Hunter Maynor 3-minus 21; Cleveland: T.J. Parker 25-194, Austin Massey 2-20, T.J. Constant 5-14, Jonathan Terrero 1-minus 1.
PASSING — Soddy-Daisy: Maynor 16-31-2-255; Cleveland: Austin Herink 20-30-1-360, Massey 4-5-0-31.
RECEIVING — Soddy-Daisy: Tre Carter 4-122, Logan Sutherland 3-57, Thornton 5-45, Jake Flinn 3-24, Blue 1-7; Cleveland: D.J. Jones 5-173, Tyler Davis 6-108, Eric Goodwin 4-39, Parker Smith 4-34, Rod Dennard 2-17, Raekwon Bunion 1-11, Isaiah Beaty 1-6.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)