Rhea County wins thriller, hands Bradley Central first loss

·3 min read

Oct. 23—CLEVELAND, Tenn. — With the football game on the line, Rhea County found its playmaker.

And as he had done all night to that point, sophomore running back Ethan Davis delivered.

Davis hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from Kaleb Martin with 1:23 remaining, and Class 5A's 11th-ranked Golden Eagles held on for a wild 48-42 win Friday at fourth-ranked Bradley Central of Class 6A.

Davis rushed for 275 yards and four scores and also made the winning touchdown catch as he finished with 96 receiving yards.

"That's what we do," Davis said of the touchdown catch, his second this year but only his fourth reception overall this season for the ground-based Golden Eagles. "We just run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and then we catch teams off guard with a play-action pass. It was a perfect pass, and I just caught it and ran in the end zone.

"This win was big. They are a 6A school and undefeated, so it's a big win for us."

The Bears (8-1) came into the game having allowed just 82.6 rushing yards per game, but the Golden Eagles' option attack churned out 315 in the first half alone, with the visitors building their lead as big as 21 points. Bradley Central fought back behind the arm and legs of quarterback Aiden McClary to take a 36-35 lead with 4:27 to go in the third quarter and looked as if it had taken control, with the defense seeming to have adjusted to Rhea County.

McClary added his second touchdown run of the game a drive later, but a personal foul on the score led to a longer extra-point try, and the kick was missed. The Golden Eagles hit on a couple of pass plays on their next possession, with Martin finding Davis for 30 yards and Briley Mayberry for 22. Davis then found a hole for a 17-yard score to tie the game.

The Bears' next offensive series stalled at midfield, which forced a punt and resulted in Rhea taking over at its own 10-yard line with 2:42 to play. Four plays later, the Golden Eagles were back in front — for good.

Rhea County (7-2), which has already wrapped up a second straight region title and only has losses to reigning Class 3A champion Alcoa and reigning Class 4A champion Elizabethton, finished with 522 yards of total offense, with 401 of that coming on the ground. Mayberry had 91 yards of total offense, and Martin passed for 121 yards.

The Bears were led by McClary, who had 260 yards passing and 91 rushing with three total scores. Jackson Wilson had 96 yards on the ground with a pair of scores and 70 receiving yards, and J'Alan Terry had 103 receiving yards, with 55 coming on a screen pass for a touchdown in the first half.

"Our community is used to winning," Golden Eagles coach Mark Pemberton said. "They'd won a lot of ballgames here at Rhea County long before I got here, so this community expects to win, which is where you want to be.

"But to beat Bradley, a top-five team in 6A, is a huge win for us."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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