Red Level defeats Highland Home
Pristine field conditions, a packed house and enough energy to light all of Covington County. That was the atmosphere at Red Level's Crystal Springs Park as the Tigers took on the Flying Squadron from Highland Home and walked away with a 28-15 victory Friday night.
Both the Squadron and the Tigers appeared to have the playoff jitters. Both teams punted on their first possessions before calming down and getting things going.
The rest of the first quarter saw both teams exchange the ball on downs and punts - with neither team finding the end zone.
The Tigers drew first blood when quarterback Russell Rigdon found Evan Kervin through the air in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. The point after attempt was no good, giving a shot in the arm to the Squadron.
Jeremy Robinson got things going for the Squadron on its next possession, finding the end zone on foot, leveling the game at six all.
The point after attempt provided its own drama as it bounced off both uprights of the goal post before finding its way in. Highland Home 7, Red Level 6.
The Tigers wouldn't trail for long, finding the end zone again with 41.5 seconds left in the half.
Larry Hudson rushed for a touchdown, but again, the Tigers couldn't convert the follow-up, missing a two-point conversion, and giving the Tigers a 12-7 lead.
That lead wouldn't last as the Squadron took to the air, with Robinson snatching the ball from the sky and finding the end zone with 4.7 seconds left in the half. The Squadron added to the lead, with a two-point conversion, making the score 15-12 at half time.
In the second half, both teams came to life, moving the ball down the field.
Highland Home recovered its own kickoff on a pooch kick. Despite the bleak feel in the air for the Tigers, the defense stepped up and took control of the situation.
Red Level's Josh O'Ferrell kept the pressure up on the Squadron quarterback, dropping him for a 15-yard loss. The series didn't get any better for the Squadron as the Tiger defense held strong, pushing the Squadron deep into its own territory, forcing a punt.
The Tigers were unable to gain any points off their first possession of the second half, but found the running game acceptable on their second attempt.
Red Level's Princeton Ryce racked up good yardage for the Tigers, giving them two first downs. Derrick Dulaney put up a strong defensive effort for the Squadron on the drive, but the Tigers offense was looking for six.
On fourth down, with three yards to go, Larry Hudson found another Tiger first down, then found the end zone with 2:24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hudson again found the end zone on the two-point conversion, giving the Tigers a 20-15 lead.
The Squadron wouldn't go down without a fight though, as the boys in blue passed and rushed their way deep into Tiger territory.
Highland Home was knocking on the door to the end zone, but Randy Howard stood strong for the Red Level "D," forcing the Squadron to give the ball back.
The Squadron got the ball back and went looking for six once more, but O'Ferrell had other things on his mind - like intercepting the ball and stopping the Squadron for good.
The Tigers drove deep into Highland Home territory, and Ryce found the end zone, with Rigdon finding the end zone for the extra two points.
The Tigers led 28-15 and never looked back, with Jermaine Jackson intercepting another Squadron pass with 3:50 left in the game, sealing the fate of Highland Home.
With the Squadron and Tigers each seeing the ball one more time, numerous penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls kept Highland Home from being able to move out of their own territory, giving the Tigers a 28-15 victory.
After the game, Tiger fans rushed onto the field to celebrate a feat no Red Level team had accomplished since 1984 - a nine-win season.
"This is the first time since 1984 that we've won nine games," said Tigers Head Coach Tim Grimes. "This is a great bunch of people to be around and I am proud to be a part of this team."
Although a little shaky at the start, Grimes said the Tigers played their brand of football in the second half.
"We came out in the second half and played like I knew we could play," he said. "We came out, and took it to them. Highland Home is a great team, but we were able to really back them up in the second half.
"We challenged the kids in the locker room at half-time to come out and play strong," Grimes continued. "Things were a little rough with Highland Home recovering their own kickoff, but we settled down and played good, solid football in the second half."