Sep. 18—Briley Mayberry knows that if Rhea County can just be effective in the passing game, the Golden Eagles’ offense will be tough to stop.
Rhea County entered Friday’s Region 4-5A game at Ooltewah averaging 289 rushing yards per contest, a number it nearly matched in a sound 35-7 victory over the Owls. But it was Mayberry’s 123 receiving yards on four passes from Kaleb Martin — one of them a touchdown — that changed the scope of the game.
“If we can be good in the passing game, the defense will be all over the place,” said Mayberry, who added 32 rushing yards. “We know they expect us to run, and we’re able to blow past them for a wide-open 50-yard gain.”
Martin and Mayberry’s connections were few Friday, but each one seemed to come at a perfect time.
With yellow flags driving the Golden Eagles (3-1, 2-0) back on their second offensive series — they had 90 yards in penalties in the first half and finished with 120 — the two connected on a 27-yard completion on third-and-26, and Rhea scored four plays later. Their second connection went for 22 yards on the second play of Rhea’s fourth possession, which ended with Martin lofting a ball over the defense to a wide-open Mayberry for a 28-yard touchdown catch.
The last Martin-to-Mayberry pass went for 46 yards and set up a Martin scoring plunge, one of three 1-yard rushing touchdowns for the sophomore quarterback Friday night.
The passing opened up the running lanes for sophomore Ethan Davis, who had 72 of his 92 rushing yards in the first half, and freshman Latron Alloway, who had 81 yards on 15 carries.
“We felt going in we could take advantage of some of the things they were doing defensively,” Rhea coach Mark Pemberton said. “We’ve got a quarterback who can throw the football, and we’ve got some guys who can catch it. If we add a productive passing game with what we do, it makes us hard to defend.”
Rhea’s Jaden Pankey had a 55-yard interception return that set up Martin’s final score.
The Owls (0-4, 0-2) were held to just 29 yards on the ground, but they had a standout performance by senior receiver Christian Doty, who scored a touchdown and had 109 yards on nine catches. Ooltewah’s A.J. Robinson passed for 179 yards.
Contact Gene Henley at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.