Going into Friday night’s game Cleveland head coach Ron Crawford had one goal — to see his team reach the halfway point with a 4-1 record.
That goal was easily met by the fifth-ranked (5A) Blue Raiders, who forced the Soddy-Daisy Trojans to run the gauntlet of a 51-14 District 5-AAA game.
Cleveland is now 2-0 and tied for first place with Ooltewah (4-1, 2-0) in district play, while Soddy slips to 2-2 overall with both of their losses coming to 5-AAA squads.
Despite outscoring the Trojans by 37 points, Crawford was still not overly pleased with his team’s performance.
“I didn’t think we played that well tonight, we didn’t come out with a lot of energy, but it was a district game that we won by a substantial margin. We’re tickled to death with the victory but now its time to go back to work and continue to improve,” Crawford commented.
Cleveland’s senior QB Austin Herink once again put up an impressive performance on the field, and completed 24 of his 37 passes for a total of 385 yards and four touchdowns. Herink also ran in a touchdown of his own Friday night.
Senior wide receiver DJ Jones and junior running back TJ Parker also had a big night for the Raiders. Jones had five receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns, while Parker rushed a total of 186 yards in 24 attempts, one for a score.
“We were lucky to get some really big plays out of DJ and our quarterback. Austin has done a great job and is more mobile just through his own hard work and effort,” Crawford said. “We’re proud of him and DJ, they made a lot of plays for us and they will continue to. In the second half we blocked for TJ Parker better so it was exciting to see our running game finally get cranked up.”
Even though the Raiders opted to receive first, Soddy-Daisy was able to use an onside kick to gain possession of the ball.
An interception by senior Jonathan Terrero on the second play from scrimmage got the ball back in the hands of the home team on their own 41 yard line.
Cleveland got things going just 42 seconds into the first quarter as Herink fired off a 59-yard rocket to Jones for the Raiders first touchdown of the evening.
Soddy-Daisy was able to tie things up 7-7 at 10:06 in the first, with an 18 yard pass from QB Hunter Maynor to Tre Carter.
With 2:53 remaining in the quarter, a five-yard pass from Herink to Eric Goodwin gave Cleveland back the lead.
That lead would be added to in the last 38 seconds of the first quarter as another pass from Herink to Jones, this time for 41 yards, resulted in yet another touchdown.
The second quarter was dominated by Cleveland, who added 13 more points to their lead.
At the 6:40 mark, Herink fired off yet another 41 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Tyler Davis.
With 1:52 remaining in the half, Terrero made a five-yard scamper into the end zone, which put Cleveland up 34-7 going into halftime.
Going into Friday’s district matchup, Coach Crawford hadn’t expected the Raiders passing game to outshine their running game.
“We really thought that we could run the zone on them, but give Soddy-Daisy some credit they did a great job and their kids came to battle and fight. We challenged our guys at halftime to execute better and be more physical,” Crawford explained. “In the second half we came back, blocked better and found a play that we liked and TJ really hit it good so it was exciting for us.”
The Trojans were able to start off the third quarter with a 67-yard pass from Maynor to Carter for what was their final touchdown just 21 seconds into the frame.
Cleveland’s sophomore kicker Oscar Galvan, who went 6-for-7 on extra point attempts, connected on a 29-yard field goal to add three more points with 5:05 remaining in the third.
Herink was able to run nine yards for the Raiders’ sixth touchdown at the 3:04 mark.
Cleveland’s final trip to the paydirt came from Parker, who got a two-yard touchdown carry with 10:53 remaining in the game.
While Herink found himself sacked by a Trojan once in the third quarter, four different Raiders were able to get to Maynor during the game.
In the second quarter Malik McDermott found Soddy-Daisy’s QB unprotected. Maynor was sacked by Kimsey Bell twice in the third quarter and once by Darius Pillow, with Chris Ofori getting a piece of the Trojan QB in the fourth.
Now that the first half of the season has come to a 4-1 finish, Cleveland is now staring down a difficult second half which is comprised of battle against a fellow state-ranked team, plus four straight District 5-AAA games..
The Raiders will travel to Knoxville to take on Knox West next Friday, who are currently the fourth-ranked Class 5A team.
“If you look at our next five games its pretty tough. The next thing to do is focus on the task at hand, and that’s to get ready for Knoxville West,” Crawford stated.