5 Keys to success for the Raiders first round playoff game against McEwen on Friday

On September 16, Raider option quarterback Dawson White and running back Logan Hegwood put up nearly 400 combined yards against Fayetteville. Moore County came closer than anyone to upsetting the Tigers. They pulled within four points in the second half before a couple of turnovers cost them the game. (PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Reed)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — They’ve progressed all year and earned a one loss regular season record and second place in Region 5A. On Friday, the MCHS Raiders (9-1, 5-1) will take on the McEwen Warriors (6-4, 3-3) in Lynchburg for a TSSAA Class 1A State Football Playoff game. Kick off will happen at 7 p.m.

It will be the second meeting for the two teams. They met in the playoffs for the first time in 1994. Moore County leads the series 1-0. They beat the Warriors 41-7 in the first round that year before moving on to blank USJ 14-0 in the second round. The 1994 Raider team exited the playoffs with a 14-0 quarterfinal loss at Bruceton. South Pittsburg earned the Class 1A state championship that year. {Click here to see the 1994 playoff bracket.}

McEwen travels to Moore County as the Region 6A third place team with a 6-4 regular season record and a 3-3 district record. According to Murfreesboro Daily News Journal sports reporters Cecil Joyce and Joseph Spears, the Warriors enter Doug Price Field as the thirteenth best 1A team in the state.

Moore County’s ranked in the Associated Press’s top 10 high school teams every week since mid-season and enter the playoffs as the number five Class 1A team in the state, according to Joyce and Spears. “The Raiders came the closest to upsetting top-ranked Fayetteville before a couple of turnovers late doomed them to 12-point loss,” the two stated in their November 2 article.

Here are five things The Times staff thinks are keys to success for tomorrow:

1 | Thunder and Lightening need a good night. Here’s hoping there’s a storm brewing over Doug Price Field on Friday. No, we don’t want rain but we do want a burst of activity from Moore County’s “Thunder and Lightening” – junior option quarterback Dawson White and junior running back Logan Hegwood. The two have perplexed Region 5A defenses all year. Do you bring pressure to stymy White and risk the elusive Hegwood cutting outside or do you drop back to prevent Hegwood gaining momentum and hope White doesn’t burn you down the middle? Together they’ve combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards so far this season and account for 236 of the Raiders 393 total points. That’s nearly 60 percent.

2 | Avoid turnovers. Moore County will need to secure the football for four quarters if they hope to make a playoff run. They’ve thrown the ball into the opponent hands seven times this year and coughed up the ball – sometimes in the red zone – another seven times. Offensive possessions don’t grow on trees during the playoffs and Moore County will need to make the most of each one if they plan to make it to the championship game.

3 | Defense matters and it especially matters during the playoffs. Speaking of turnovers … the Raider defense bailed out its offensive multiple times over the regular season and defensive play makers will need to continue to step up through the playoffs. Moore County averages an impressive 63 tackles per game and an even more impressive 47 tackles for a loss. Sophomore Peyton Martin – who started the season as a running back – leads the Raider defense with 90 total tackles including 61 solo tackles. He’s followed closely by sophomore Landon Smith with 74 tackles and junior Wes Clifton with 69. Sophomores Logan Cashion (46) and Bryson Carter (36) as well as junior Eli Brown (41) have also been clutch defensively.

4 | Depth is key. Moore County earned a couple of blow out wins over the regular season including a 42-0 win in Collinwood and a 53-0 win over Cornersville at home. This means the Raider back ups earned valuable game time reps. Junior Will Parker and senior Landon Brann in particular have come on strong late in the season and the Raider coaching staff will need them to be ready when called. Interestingly, McEwen comes into the game with seven fewer players on a roster that includes nine freshmen and three eighth graders.

5 | Raiders need clutch plays from their receivers. Moore County’s put up over 2,100 yards on the ground this year but the receiving corps have also put in work with over 1,600 yards through the air. Senior Will Baker leads with 478 yards and 28 total catches. He’s scored four receiving touchdown through the regular season. Keller Morey, Alex Copeland, and Isaiah Petty also account for seven total Raider touchdowns. They’ll need to continue to make smart plays to keep the Warrior defense honest.

The Raiders will host a bonfire Thursday night at 6 p.m. to get the team fired up for Friday’s game (pun intended). It will take place on the visitors side of the football stadium and students as well as community members are welcome to attend.

On Friday, the gates will open for the Raiders versus McEwen game at 5:30 p.m. You can purchase tickets at the gate for $10 each or in the GoFan app for $8 (plus a $1.40 ticket fee) prior to the game. For anyone who can’t attend in person, The Times will broadcast the Moore County Sports Network’s game broadcast for free on Raider Radio or you can watch on the NFHS Network. •

{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.}