It's been a long, long time since the Tyner Rams started a football season with four straight losses, but legendary coach Wayne Turner wasn't the least bit worried.
Consider the fact that those setbacks had come against such teams as Signal Mountain, Hixson, Ooltewah and Knoxville Catholic and Turner was just happy that his team had gotten through that stretch with a minimal number of injuries.
Things turned around on the last Friday in September as the Ram Train was clicking on all cylinders.
They may be the best 1-4 team in the state and they proved it on Friday night at Bob Evans Stadium with an impressive 49-30 non-district victory over the Soddy Daisy Trojans.
There are still some tough games to go, but the Rams should be favored in most of them as they work their way toward the playoffs.
"We needed this one," Turner said shortly after the game ended.
"We've been giving up an average of four or five turnovers a game and tonight we did a better job of hanging onto the football. We came out and played with a lot of confidence. Even though we gave up the long run on the first series, I thought our defense played extremely well.
"This our first win, but we need to get on a roll the rest of the way. It's do or die for this team, but we need to come out strong every Friday night. Willie Stewart had the defensive play of the game for us with his interception return. Soddy Daisy had just scored, so that return was nice to keep the momentum on our side," Turner added.
Soddy Daisy is now 2-3 with three straight losses. First-year coach Justin Barnes is still looking for answers, but he didn't find many good ones in this game.
"I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. When we execute like we're capable, we can move the ball and score. But we're doing things I can't explain. Even though we have some veterans, this is basically a young football team and these are just some of the growing pains," Barnes said as the teams exchanged handshakes at midfield.
"Hunter Maynor was running for his life as he had no time to get set up or for the receivers to get open, but Tyner just wanted it worse than we did and they fought a lot harder. The scoreboard says it all. I'm sure I'll find some positives when I watch the film, but right now, all I can think about are the negatives and areas where we need to improve," he nodded.
Soddy Daisy took the opening kickoff and scored on the third play, senior C.J. Blue picking up nine yards on the second play before racing untouched 64 yards up the middle to give the visitors a 7-0 lead following Christian Dean's PAT with just 46 seconds elapsed.
Tyner came right back with a touchdown of its own when quarterback Haasan Miller darted 15 yards on fourth-and-11 to make it 7-6 four minutes later.
Sadik Spence scored on a 13-yard inside reverse with 2:17 left in the first quarter before Jarrett Watson added the conversion run and Tyner had the lead at 14-7.
The Rams never trailed again.
Watson scored on a plunge from the 1 on the fourth play of the second quarter and Kevin Cortes added the PAT for a 21-7 lead.
The Trojans then got a 57-yard punt return from Tre Carter for a touchdown with 7:46 showing in the second quarter, but Tyner regained the momentum in a hurry when Willie Stewart intercepted a Maynor pass and raced 47 yards for another Ram TD.
The Rams then enjoyed their biggest lead of the game with 2:18 left before halftime when Miller hooked up with Quan Springs on a 58-yard for a TD. Cortes made it 34-14.
Maynor then had his best drive of the game when he drove the Trojans from their 22 down to the Tyner 21 where Dean booted a 37-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play before the break.
Maynor had completions of 30 and 32 yards to Carter as highlights of the drive.
Each team scored a couple of touchdowns in the second half with Maynor connecting with Jake Flinn on a 30-yarder early in the third quarter before tossing a 16-yarder to Levi Thornton to conclude the scoring with 4:53 to play.
Tyner countered with a two-yard run by Watson before Miller scored on a keeper from the 3 midway through the fourth stanza.
Tyner finished the evening with 431 total yards, including 304 on the ground and 127 through the air.
Miller was the leader with 133 yards on 16 carries while Watson bulled his way for 118 yards on 21 attempts.
Springs was the leading receiver for Tyner with 67 yards on three catches while Stewart gained 37 yards on four receptions. Miller also had a 22-yard gain on an option pass from Stewart.
"This was an important win for our football team, but we weren't discouraged with the four losses to start the season. It was just motivation for us to keep getting better. We came out and played hard for four quarters tonight and that was a key," Miller said with a smile on his face.
Soddy Daisy countered with 238 total yards, including 72 on the ground and 166 through the air.
Blue was the leading rusher with 94 yards on 10 carries while Carter had three catches for 77 yards to lead the Trojan receivers. Thornton had two catches for 40 yards while Flinn had two for 36.
Stewart had the interception for a Tyner touchdown while Watson also had a fumble recovery.
For Soddy Daisy, Taylor Carlyle had an interception while Tyler Gamble and Caleb Watson both recovered fumbles.
Tyner finished the game with 19 first downs while Soddy Daisy had eight, including four in each half.
Soddy Daisy goes to McMinn County next Friday while Tyner will also be on the road for a key District 6-AA match with Central.
SODDY DAISY 7 10 7 6 -- 30
TYNER 14 20 8 7 -- 49
SD -- C.J. Blue 64 run (Christian Dean kick), 11:14 left in first;
TY -- Haasan Miller 3 run (kick failed), 7:11 left in first;
TY -- Sadik Spence 13 run (Jarrett Watson run), 2:17 left in first;
TY -- Watson 1 run (Kevin Cortes kick), 10:26 left in second;
SD -- Tre Carter 57 punt return (Dean kick), 7:46 left in second;
TY -- Willie Stewart 47 interception return (kick failed), 4:46 left in second;
TY -- Quan Springs 58 pass from Miller (Cortes kick), 2:18 left in second;
SD -- Dean 37 field goal, 0:19.7 left in second;
SD -- Jake Flinn 30 pass from Hunter Maynor (Dean kick), 10:05 left in third;
TY -- Watson 1 run (Stewart run), 0:43.9 left in third;
TY -- Miller 3 run (Juan Camacho kick), 6:45 left in fourth;
SD -- Levi Thornton 16 pass from Maynor (kick failed), 4:53 left in fourth.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)