Run, run, run, and more run. That may sound like game script from an offensive coordinator in the early 1900s. but for the Rhea County Golden Eagles, this is 2020. And that offense that some would call outdated, pounded the ball 43 times for 361 yards.
Their offense runs like a well-oiled machine and looks eerily similar to the triple option offense of the U.S. military academies such as Navy and Air Force. It’s possible that you couldn’t fit a playing card between the splits of the offensive linemen.
But this showdown between rivals was not a rout from start to finish. After all, Soddy Daisy rode a two game winning streak against Rhea County. Soddy Daisy’s Isaac Barnes came out wheeling and dealing in the first drive. After a couple nice runs from Tanner Whittenbarger, the Trojans found themselves with an early rhythm on offense. Then, Barnes connected on two strikes to Logan Rickets before finding Will Ackerman in the endzone for an eight-yard touchdown. The first drive covered 70 yards and put Rhea County on notice.
“We had to start going after him (Barnes),” said Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton. “We knew if we let him sit back there, he’d pick us apart; we had to start sending more than they could block.”
Linebacker Drew Fisher delivered in the next drive, sacking Barnes for an 11-yard loss. With this sack, the message was sent that they were going to keep Barnes uncomfortable for the rest of the game.
After an uneventful offensive first quarter for the Golden Eagles, they found themselves in a 7-3 deficit. “We had two guys wide open for touchdowns in that first quarter, but we just didn’t connect on them, said Pemberton. “We finally warmed up as the game went on and completed a few passes.”
Those few completions from Rhea County quarterback Kaleb Martin (3-10 and one interception) were just enough to keep the defense honest and loosen up the secondary. Tailbacks Dalton Hampton and Ethan Davis came into tonight’s matchup averaging over 100-yards rushing per game each. Tonight, the star duo replicated much of the same. At the start of the second quarter, Hampton began to catch fire. He tallied 74 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries in the first half, then never slowed down with another 10 carries for 125 yards and a score in half two. He also secured two grabs for 41 yards.
After an unproductive first half from the short statured Ethan Davis (9 yards on six carries,) he played the role of the closer with a huge explosion in the late third and fourth quarter, highlighted by a 46-yard touchdown scamper.
As the game threatened to turn ugly at halftime, (17-7) the two-way starter, Landon Maynor intercepted Martin on the Golden Eagles’ first drive of the second half. With the addition of a late hit by the visiting team, Soddy Daisy set up shop just six yards from the red zone. Fisher got home again and sacked Barnes for a 13-yard loss, effectively crushing the Trojan’s drive, which ended in a short punt. They failed to pick up a single first down in the third stanza. Any momentum that Soddy Daisy had, left the stadium.
Pemberton was confident that his team would response appropriately after a silly turnover. “This group is different, they don’t seem to ever get down,” said Pemberton. “We always tell them to just flush a mistake and move to the next play; and they did that.
Barnes looked flustered from that point on. He completed 21-27 passes for 193 yards, but the offense was never able to sustain drives. Throughout the game, Barnes would thread the needle for a substantial gain, but the drive would be killed by false starts, holdings, sacks, and a lacking rushing attack. He finished the game with negative 27-yards due to sacks and the inability to get rid of the ball.
The Golden Eagles finished with five rushing touchdowns and abandoned the passing game as the hogs up front cleared way to a no-doubter fourth quarter, finishing off Soddy Daisy, 38-14 to extend their regular-season winning streak to 10 games.
RHEA COUNTY 3 14 21 0 – 38
SODDY DAISY 7 0 0 7 – 14
SD – Will Ackerman 8 pass from Isaac Barnes (Chandler Hartman kick) (8:25, 1st)
RC – Cole Ruehling 26 field goal (3:04, 1st)
RC – Dalton Hampton 18 run (Cole Ruehling kick) (9:31, 2nd)
RC – Dalton Hampton 3 run (Cole Ruehling kick) (1:24, 2nd)
RC – Dalton Hampton 15 run (Cole Ruehling kick) (9:13, 3rd)
RC – Kaleb Martin 11 run (Cole Ruehling kick) (3:20, 3rd)
SD – Isaac Barnes 10 run (Chandler Hartman kick) (10:08, 4th)
RCHS Stats SDHS
15 1st Downs 12
43-361 Rush 25-27
59 Pass 200
420 Total 227
3-10-1 Passes 22-28-0
13-135 Penalties 4-40
Rushing: Dalton Hampton 17-199, Ethan Davis 18-102, Ryan Young 7-49, Kaleb Martin 1-11 (RC); Tanner Whittenbarger 9-25, Trent Johnson 4-7, Landon Lewis 1-5, Slater Hickman 1-2, Isaac Barnes 9-(-27) (SD).
Passing: Kaleb Martin 3-10-1 59 yards (RC); Isaac Barnes 21-27-193 yards, Slater Hickman 1-1 7 yards. (SD).
Receiving: Dalton Hampton 2-41, Ryan Young, 1-18 (RC); Logan Rickets 8-99, Landon Maynor 6-43, Will Ackerman 3-40, Tanner Whittenbarger 3-18 (SD).
Records: Rhea County (8-0, 3-0 5-4A); Soddy Daisy (3-5, 1-1 5-4A).