Central assistant football coach Rick Rogers was really happy to be on the sidelines Saturday night when the Purple Pounders battled East Hamilton to a scoreless tie in the preseason jamboree at Finley Stadium.
Like, really happy.
Rogers, who coaches the defensive line and is also the school’s head boys’ basketball coach, was injured when a driver forced his motorcycle into a concrete retaining wall near Chickamauga Dam at about 12:30 p.m. and the coach spent the next four hours or so in the emergency room receiving treatment.
“I was in the fast lane doing about 55 (miles per hour) and the woman driver in the right lane – she never saw me – pulled over and drove me right into the wall,” Rogers said. “Her car didn’t actually touch me, but I hit the wall and she kept right on driving and never stopped.
“Luckily, the truck behind me swerved and didn’t run over me and kill me.”
Miraculously, Rogers didn’t suffered any broken bones.
Rogers’ right and left arms were heavily bandaged from his fingertips to above the elbows. He lifted the sleeve of his coaching shirt covering his right shoulder to divulge another “severe road rash” injury with the edges of the wound colored black.
“That coloring came from the shirt I was wearing,” Rogers said. “It looks like I got a tattoo. But, believe me, it could have been a lot worse.”
He got tattooed all right.
Rogers had a picture of his injuries on his cell phone. The most prominent “road rash” was on his right arm and it was about a 5-inch, blood red injury where the skin had just been peeled away in the accident.
Rogers said he was on his way to Central High to shoot some 3-point baskets with his daughter, Madison, when the accident occurred.
Attending ER physicians asked if he wanted medication to deal with the pain and Rogers refused the offer, saying, “I’ve got to get to Finley Stadium for the jamboree.”
Then, Rogers said, “Tonight is not about me. The story is about this football team. It’s a new day at Central. We’ve got two very good coaches – one is the head coach (Ryan Mallory) and the other is Courtney Braswell, who should be a head coach someplace.
“Our players have learned they have to follow instruction and focus on discipline and the little things. It’s so refreshing to see Central heading back to where it should be in football. The whole community is getting behind this football team, and I haven’t seen that in a decade or more.”
The Pounders, who went 5-6 and lost to Sequoyah, 34-3, in the first round of the 2013 Class 4A state playoffs, open this season at home against Franklin County. The Rebels lost 7-0 to Soddy-Daisy in Friday’s final 20-minute quarter.
Soddy-Daisy’s touchdown came on a Hunter Maynor-to-Blake Smith 1-yard pass. Maynor had three completions for 23 yards in the 70-yard drive.
“We looked good on that drive,” Maynor said. “Blake did a good job catching the ball. I did OK throwing it and the offensive line did a good job. We had a lot of good things on the drive.”
The Trojans’ defense did well, too. Jacob Lemons caused a fumble that Christian Bell recovered. And when Franklin County drove to the Trojans’ 10, the Rebels fumbled again and Cale Morgan made the recovery as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Ooltewah’s two-player quarterback battle is still unresolved, coach Mac Bryan said before the Owls took on Rhea County, but junior London Elrod looked good on the Owls’ touchdown drive that produced a 7-0 win over the Golden Eagles.
London hit Anthony Turner on a 26-yard gainer to the Rhea 10. On the next play, Rhea was flagged for a half-the-distance pass interference penalty and then Elrod drilled a strike to Edward Hayes for the touchdown with 4:09 left in the period.
“The pass to me was a post route,” Turner said. “I had to use my energy, my speed, to go get that one. It was big catch because it set up our touchdown. It felt good. We were ready for tonight and we’re ready for the season to start.”
The Owls host Brainerd on Friday to kick off the 2014 campaign.
Ooltewah’s Rashun Freeman was a defensive sparkplug, recovering a fumble and intercepting a Rhea County pass and returning to the Golden Eagles’ 37 with less than a minute to play.
In the opening quarter, East Ridge edged Grace Academy, which dressed only 20 players, by a 7-0 score.
Quarterback JoJo Tillery rambled 60 yards to the Golden Eagles’ 1 and on the next play zipped untouched into the end zone for the touchdown.
Pioneers defender Quasey Vinson stood out. Vinson unleashed a jaw-jarring tackle on Grace’s Jared Roberts that separated him from his helmet and broke up a pass in the left flat. Vinson also broke up a pass on Grace’s final play of the quarter.
“I think I did pretty good,” said Vinson, a junior outside linebacker. “We’re ready to go, although we made some mental mistakes. We can fix those.”
Notre Dame’s Irish clipped Brainerd, 7-0, when junior quarterback Nicholas Coronis, playing for the injured Alex Darras, found standout senior Kareem Orr on a 23-yard scoring play. Orr made a leaping catch at the goal line and leaned into the end zone.
Defensive back Anthony Flemister picked off a Brainerd pass late in the quarter.
“I saw their guy break inside and I just came up and made a play,” Flemister said. “I had three interceptions last year and I’m going to try for at least five this year. You have to set the bar high. I also broke up nine passes last year.”
Orr, one of the top players in Chattanooga, said he was locked up on a cornerback just before the snap on the scoring play.
“Their buy bailed into a zone and I got behind him,” Orr said. “He came back late and I just caught the ball. But we’ve got to get better before our first game. I can’t drop two balls. We had a fumble and we had some blocking mistakes. We have to get those things fixed.”
The Irish open the season on Friday, hosting Knoxville Catholic.
In the other quarter of play, Walker Valley rolled past Hixson, 14-0, behind two touchdowns through the air, the second of which covered 84 yards.
Kolten Gibson threw a mid-range out pass to Cooper Melton, who dashed down the left sideline to complete the long-range touchdown.
“I had four or five touchdown catches last year, but I think the longest was like 30 yards,” Melton said.
Melton broke out of a logjam of players a few yards after making the catch and outran the secondary to get the insurance touchdown.
How did he break free?
“God,” Melton said. “The corner had a hold of me, but we’re coached to not stop until the whistle blows.”
Walker Valley begins the season on Friday, hosting East Ridge, while Hixson goes to Soddy-Daisy.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)