Red Bank coach Chris Brown knew that his Lions would be in a real battle at Brainerd’s Eddie Lambert Field Friday night.
The first-year head coach was exactly right, but Red Bank was able to win for the seventh straight game without a loss and they clinched a Region 3-AAA championship for the third straight year with the 35-12 victory.
It wasn’t the cleanest game of the season as both teams were flagged a lot for penalties, Brainerd 14 times for 125 yards and Red Bank eight times for 75 yards.
But when it came right down to it, the Lions had Calvin Jackson on their side and the talented senior was a difference maker.
He gained 131 yards on 22 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of nine, eight and 53 yards. He also had two pass receptions for 14 yards as the Lions had 295 yards total offense.
Running mate Lumiere Strickland, a promising sophomore, had the other two TDs, the first on a 48-yard pass play and the second on a 14-yard run. He finished with 67 yards rushing on 13 attempts and 48 yards on two passes.
Brown didn’t waste any time getting his kids on the bus and headed back home once the emotional game finally ended.
“That was exactly what we thought it would be as Brainerd has a really good football team who will get after you. I thought we did a good job of controlling our emotions, but we played sloppy football and had way too many penalites.
“I’m not surprised that we won the region for the third straight year as that has become our expectation. We have yet to play our best game, but to clinch the region over here in this game is reall special. But those guys have some really athletic receivers and I had to hold my breath every time they threw the ball,” Brown added.
The Panthers finished with 205 total yards, including 182 through the air.
LeDarrion Freeman was the main go-to guy for Brainerd as he hauled in four passes for 105 yards, all in the second half. The last one covered 26 yards and was the final touchdown for the Panthers after Red Bank had built a 28-6 lead.
Jeff Pinkerton had one spectacular pass play in the first half that covered 58 yards, moving the ball from the Brainerd 32 to the Red Bank 10. Teammate Robert North scored on the next play to put the Panthers on the board.
It was a tough game for Brainerd as head coach Tyrus Ward was ejected at the end of the first half. Apparently not pleased with a late play, Ward met the officials at midfield when the second quarter ended to express his displeasure. After starting toward the Brainerd dressing room, Ward came back for another word and was quickly ejected from the game.
Assistant coach Keunta Graham served as the Brainerd leader in the second half.
“That was a tough situation with our head coach getting ejected at the half, but I saw better effort in the second half as we tried to do something positive for our coach, but it was a tough night all around,” he added.
Brainerd won the opening toss and deferred to the second half.
Red Bank took the first kickoff and marched 61 yards in five plays, Strickland catching a little swing pass along the left sideline and zipping to the end zone for a 48-yard TD with 9:20 left in the first quarter. Kyle Smith booted the first of five straight extra points and the Lions were off and running.
The Panther defense stopped Red Bank on fourth-and-4 at the Brainerd 30 and they scored on the third play when North went off tackle right for the final 10 yards with 4:04 showing.
Jackson then had scoring runs of nine and eight yards as the difference was 21-6 at intermission.
It never got much closer in the second half as play was sloppy on both sides and it seemed like penalty flags were tossed on almost every play.
While Freeman was the leading receiver for Brainerd, North was the leading rusher with 16 yards on three attempts.
Red Bank is now 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Region 3-AAA while Brainerd falls to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in region play.
Brainerd will travel to Tyner next Friday while Red Bank will be at home to host Lenoir City.
RED BANK 7 14 7 7 -- 35
BRAINERD 6 0 0 6 -- 12
RB – Lumiere Strickland 48 pass from Madox Wilkey (Kyle Smith kick), 9:20 left in first;
BRA – Robert North 10 run (kick failed), 4:04 left in first;
RB – Calvin Jackson 9 run (Smith kick), 11:17 left in second;
RB – Jackson 8 run (Smith kick), 0:23.7 left in second;
RB – Strickland 14 run (Smith kick), 5:08 left in third;
BRA – LeDarrion Freeman 26 pass from Xiyeer Lattimore (pass failed), 7:24 left in fourth;
RB – Jackson 53 run (Smith kick), 2:51 left in fourth.
YARDSTICK RED BANK BRAINERD
First Downs 17 6
Rushes-Yards 41-190 11-23
Passing Yards 105 182
Total Yards 295 205
Passes (Com-Att-Int) 9-13-1 14-28-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 8-75 14-125
Punts-Avg. 2-35.5 4-21.5
RED BANK RUSHING: Calvin Jackson 22-131; Lumiere Strickland 13-67; Michael Porter 1-14.
RED BANK RECEIVING: Lumiere Strickland 2-48; Calvin Jackson 2-14; Tyler Jones 2-24; Clark Lockerby 1-12.
RED BANK PASSING: Madox Wilkehy 9 for 13 for 105 yards.
BRAINERD RUSHING: Robert North 3-16; Xiyeer Lattimore 1-8.
BRAINERD RECEIVING: LeDarrion Freeman 4-105; Jeff Pinkerton 1-58; Trey Owton 7-16.
BRAINERD PASSING: Xiyeer Lattimore 14 for 28 for 182 yards.
INTERCEPTIONS: Red Bank Michael Porter; Brainerd Kiwon Tony.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)