Raiders look for a little payback against McKenzie on Friday

Raiders running back Logan Hegwood
Logan Hegwood muscles in for Moore County’s first six point against Eagleville last Friday night. The senior got bottled up by McKenzie defenders last year and will be looking for a little payback on Friday night in Lynchburg. | PHOTO CREDITJeff Reed

By Tabitha Evans Moore | EDITOR & PUBLISHER

At the end of last season’s disappointing 56-21 loss at McKenzie, the Moore County Sports Network’s Josh Deal ended things on an optimist note.

“This is a talented bunch,” he stated as he and Kyler Parker closed the final broadcast of the season. “And just maybe, they can come to our house one time.”

Thanks to an undefeated season, Deal got his wish. As the #1 seed in Region 5A, Moore County earned home playoff games in the first three rounds including this Friday’s home game against their post-season nemesis, the McKenzie Rebels. For the past several years, the Rebels have become the obstacle the Raiders need to overcome to succeed.

“For my seniors, it’s time to get that monkey off our back,” Coach Kris White told his team in the post-game huddle. “They put us out the last two years in football, girls basketball, and baseball. So, we owe them something. We own McKenzie one. Let’s give it to them.”

Disappointing 56-21 loss last year

The Rebels ended Moore County’s season last November in the second round and moved on to beat Fayetteville and MASE before ultimately claiming the Class 1A crown with a 34-14 win over Clay County.

In that game, Moore County came out strong – matching the Rebels score-for-score until the second quarter. Following a Moore County fumble, the Rebels scored 28 unanswered to go up 42-14 by the end of the third quarter. The Raiders eventually fell by a final of 56-21.

McKenzie’s eventual Mr. Football winner QB Jackson Cassidy ran right up the gut on the Raider defense all night, while their defensive line harassed both Raider QB Dawson White and running back Logan Hegwood. To add insult to injury, the Rebel safeties did a great job of defending the pass while Moore County’s offensive line struggled to give White enough time in the pocket. It was a recipe for disaster.

Last year, the Rebels placed a defensive spy on Raider QB White in an effort to keep him out of the end zone. Interestingly, so far in the playoffs, the Raiders haven’t depended on White for scores – instead using him mainly on third down and short yardage plays. He didn’t score at all against Houston County while passing for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Against Eagleville, he managed a single rushing touchdown and passed for three more. His completion rate has been over 80 percent in both games.

A roster full of veteran playmakers

But this year is not like last year. In addition to Cassidy, the Rebels lost several of their hoss linebackers. On the Columbia blue side, Moore County returns not only its own Mr. Football semifinalist Dawson White but also running backs Logan Hegwood and Wes Clifton and wide receivers Alex Copeland, Keller Morey, and Will Parker. This year, the Raiders boast a roster full of seasoned veterans itching for a little payback.

On defense, seniors Peyton Martin (89), Eli Brown (73), Landon Smith (67), Clifton (64), White (54), junior Logan Cashion (38), junior Aydan Blair (31), senior James Laster (29), and sophomore Isaac Petty (23), and Hegwood (21) are the top 10 leading tacklers. They’ve allowed zero point so far in the post season and will be hungry to keep the Rebels to a low-scoring affair.

And we should also mention the unsung heroes of the last two games the Raider offensive line. They’ve been giving White plenty of time in the pocket while creating holes up front for Hegwood and Clifton.

Raider Nation is sure to show up and show out on Friday to create an electric home field advantage. But even with home field advantage, the Raiders should expect to duke it out in the trenches. The Rebels are currently on a 10-game win streak and have currently won their games by a margin of 34 points while allowing just 11 points per game. Moore County stats are similar. They win by an average of 32 points and the staunch Raider defense allows just nine points per game.

It’s going to be a tight match up and Moore County will need to play mistake-free football in order to hand the Rebels as few opportunities as possible. The best case scenario will be to produce long, sustained drives that put up points while keeping the Rebel offense off the field combined with continued lights out play by the Raider defense. The Rebels will try to use their quick-strike offense to get out early.

The Rebel faithful like to state that all roads to the Class 1A Championship game go through McKenzie but this year, it will go through Lynchburg and these Raiders are not the team from last year.

“No one gave us a chance against Huntington several years ago, and no one will give us a chance on Friday,” Coach White told his team on Friday night. “But we know what we are.”

Friday night will be a slug fest and an example of what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force – on both sides of the ball. Get your cowbells ready, Raider fans. Kickoff will take place at 7 p.m. on Doug Price Field. If you can’t attend, the Moore County Sports Network will broadcast the game live on the NFHS NetworkThe Times will also post live score updates on our Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover local news and events as well as the tourism and whiskey industries in southern, middle Tennessee. Click here to subscribe.}