ROSSVILLE, Ga. — The light switch for the Cleveland High School defense was turned on after allowing 34 yards on the ground two plays into a three-way scrimmage at Ridgeland High School Thursday …
ROSSVILLE, Ga. — The light switch for the Cleveland High School defense was turned on after allowing 34 yards on the ground two plays into a three-way scrimmage at Ridgeland High School Thursday night.
The hosts and Ringgold, also of Georgia, were only able to muster 26 yards on 25 plays the rest of the way against the first string for the Blue Raiders, who finished with two interceptions and four sacks over seven series.
Defensive captain Wilson Benefield and company only allowed one score, which came after CHS lost a fumble deep in its own territory on its first drive against the host Panthers.
In a new 3-3-5 defensive scheme, first-year DC Matt Harmon's group showed promise with its season opener a week away at home against Rhea County.
"We got in a groove defensively and settled in," Cleveland head coach Scott Cummings said. "We were missing three defensive starters tonight and guys made some big plays. I was really pleased how Aaron Jones filled in at corner and gave us some quality work with two of our corners out."
While slow to get rolling offensively against Ridgeland in a wild opening scrimmage, the offensive line started paving the way for a fresh-legged backfield.
Senior running back Jordan Hickey reeled off a 34-yard scamper down the right sideline for the longest play from scrimmage on the day for Cleveland on a 7-play scoring drive, which included 60 yards on the ground.
Hickey finished with eight carries for 62 yards. The physical runner was followed by senior Josiah "Bug" Bowman, who had nine carries for 42 yards. Junior Jeffrey Perez added 28 yards on seven carries.
"We have four to five quality running backs," Cummings stated. "We have Jordan Hickey, Javarus Bowman, Jeffrey Perez, Josiah "Bug" Bowman and Lael Crisp. The reality of it is that's what it takes to get through 6A football.
"Those guys have to be humble and understand they are going to have to share time, so we can stay fresh and win the fourth quarter too. We have that luxury as long as they don't care who gets the credit. We can really have a good rotation at our two running back spots."
Voted team captains earlier in the week, CHS senior quarterback Jackson Moore and senior receiver Arli Ferguson hooked up for scores of 8 and 27 yards.
Senior offensive lineman Caleb Flickner also will play with the "C" on his jersey this season.
"All of those guys deserve to be captains," Cummings said. "It was really cool to see our team have the respect they do for Jackson. He has had some bad luck the past two seasons with a broken arm and leg, but it hasn't stopped him from wanting to play."
Moore also hooked up several times with Robert Flowers for quick-hitters to pick up first downs, while a deep pass to his tallest wideout was almost reeled in but bounced on the chests of Panther defenders for an interception.
"It was fun to see Devarus come down with that ball," Cummings said. "This was a great scrimmage for us today. We got dropped by another school who we were originally supposed to scrimmage tonight, so we really appreciate Ridgeland and Ringgold letting us join."
Ringgold lost eight yards over seven plays against Cleveland's first team defense, as senior Victor Dodd blasted through for back-to-back sacks on the first drive.
Ferguson scored on a perfectly threaded needle on a deep post route, while freshman running back Tetoe Boyd scored from 11 yards out in the 16-7 victory.
Both scrimmages were comprised of two 15-minute quarters.
Senior ball hawk David Dorsey intercepted a pass along with junior Money Palelei, who also scooped up a fumble. Alex Higgins and Logan Strickland picked up sacks., while Benefield had five quarterback hurries.
Cleveland's big tune-up for the regular season brought back promising signs.
Ridgeland shut out Ringgold, 24-0, in the first scrimmage of the night.
Tonight, the Blue Raider first team offense and defense will play just one series in a jamboree scrimmage against Lenoir City at Rhea County.
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