Raiders down Cascade 32-20 in season opener

Senior Blake Bradford (#57) celebrates with his teammates after a fumble recovery on Friday night. The Raider kicker was two of four on the night and managed eight tackles, including five solo tackles, against the Champions. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Moore County High School Head Coach Kris White walks the sidelines just prior to kick off on Friday night’s season opener against the Cascade Champions and he’s just not sure. The Raiders have put in the reps and the hours on the practice field but coaches can never predict how the first game will go.

What he got was a 32-20 victory and the emergence of some playmakers.

Last year, Moore County dropped their season opener at Cascade suffering a 29-14 loss to the Champions. The Raiders fought back in that game, tying the score a 7-7 at halftime, before Cascade pulled away in the second half. It was a game full of miscues and first game jitters that Coach White hoped to avoid on Friday. And, for the most part, he got that wish.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball

Cascade won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. On their first offensive possession of the year, the Raiders – led this year by junior option quarterback Dawson White – alternated the pass and the run to earn their first six points in just six plays.

Moore County’s Peyton Martin returned the opening kickoff to around the 30 yard line before White went to work under center. His first pass of the season went to senior Will Baker who nearly made it into the end zone. Instead, a Cascade player tackled him from behind, giving Moore County a fresh set of downs near the goal line.

On the first down, the Champions stuffed White in the backfield and batted down a pass on the second down. Then on third and goal, the refs called offsides giving the Raiders one more shot at the end zone. On third and goal from the three yard line, junior Wes Clifton scampered in for the first Raider points of the season. Moore County led Cascade 6-0 with 10:11 to play in the first quarter.

The Raiders then forced a fumble on the Champion kick off and sophomore Tripp Hammond recovered to give the Raiders the ball back with short yardage. Three Raiders – Logan Hegwood, Keller Morey, and QB White – did the heavy lifting to get Moore County into third and goal, then Peyton Martin punched it in for six more points. Senior kicker Blake Bradford made the extra point to make it Moore County 13, Cascade 0 with 5:42 to play in the first quarter.

Cascade managed just one first down on their first offensive series thanks in part to some lights out defense by Landon Jolley, Wes Clifton, and Peyton Martin. They successfully shut down the run and forced the Champions to pass. That didn’t work either with eagle-eyed safety junior Keller Morey in the backfield. He successfully defended Cascade’s third and eight pass attempt to earn a fourth down.

The Raiders took over the ball with 3:30 to play in the opening quarter. Cascade stiffened and managed fourth and one before another offsides penalty gave Moore County a fresh set of downs at the 41. They took advantage of the misstep with a long, sustained drive that ate up the rest of the first quarter and three minutes of the second quarter. With 10:44 to play in the half, QB White lowered his head and muscled forward for another six points. Blake Bradford’s point after gave Moore County a 20-0 lead.

Blake Bradford, Logan Hegwood, and Peyton Martin managed three plays for small yardage to force the Champions into fourth and three. Deciding that it was now or never, Cascade went for it and converted. Four plays later on first and goal, Cascade’s Connor Huie scampered in for the Champions first six points. With 4:58 to play, the Raiders continued to lead 20-7.

The Raiders then fumbled on the kick off to give Cascade a shot at more points before the break. Instead, they were met by the Blake Bradford and Landon Jolley show and turned the ball back over on downs with 3:05 to play in the half.

On the second play of the next series, Dawson White connected with Keller Morey on a long touchdown pass, much to the delight of his teammates. Their “excessive” celebration earned the Raiders an unsportsmanlike penalty but also a 26-7 halftime lead.

Bend but don’t break defense

Cascade got the first possession of the second half but a determine bend-but-don’t-break Moore County defense shut it down. The D line rushed the Cascade quarterback on the first down and his pass went well over the head of his receiver – falling into an empty backfield. On second and 10, Landon Jolley tackled behind the line forcing Cascade to settle for a one yard gain. On third and nine, Logan Hegwood ran around the left edge and stopped a Champion run before it could begin. The Champions then managed a first down but got nothing on the second. On third and five, junior Eli Brown got the stop – forcing Cascade to punt with 7:48 to play in the third quarter.

Despite some big plays, Moore County walked away pointless on the next possession – handing Cascade back the ball first and 10 with 3:42 to play in the third. Keller Morey again sniffed out the pass – snagging the interception and giving Moore County a chance to add more points. QB White connected with Will Baker on a long pass for a first down before calling his own name four straight times to get the Raiders to second and short yardage. On second and three near the goal line, White forced forward for another six points. Cascade blocked the PAT. As the third quarter expired, Moore County continued to lead 32-7.

Cascade managed two score in the fourth period but it wasn’t enough. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Raiders earned their first W of the 2022-23 season much to the delight of the home crowd.

Following the game, Coach White told his Raiders he was proud of their effort.

“You guys played your tails off,” he said. “You played hard, you played fast, and most importantly, you played together. We’ll see on film that their are a lot of things we can correct. Cascade is a good team and we handled them for the most part.”

Dawson White led for the Raiders with two rushing touchdowns and 334 total yards including 113 rushing yards. Keller Morey was the top receiver with 86 receiving yards followed by Will Baker with 72. White scored 12 points followed by Morey, Wes Clifton, and Peyton Martin with a touchdown each. Kicker Blake Bradford was two of four for the night.

On defense, Peyton Martin led with 12 total tackles followed by Blake Bradford and Landon Jolley with eight tackles each. Keller Morey snagged an interception and junior Will Parker and Martin forced a fumble each while Tripp Hammond and Blake Bradford both recovered fumbles.

Moore County will play the second of three straight home games on Friday, August 26 with a non-district match up against Bledsoe County. The Warriors currently sit at 1-0 after a 28-14 victory over York Institute on Friday. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}