J.R. Tidwell/FCT Red Bay senior wide receiver Tra Elliott (13) fights for yardage against two Westbrook Christian defenders Friday night.

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Red Bay downs Westbrook Chr.

Published 11:51pm Friday, November 9, 2012

RED BAY — It is a wonder that Red Bay’s defense saw anything Friday night against the Westbrook Christian Warriors because the group played lights out for four quarters.

Before the final second ticked off of Red Bay’s 14-7 win in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs the Tigers’ defense had forced three turnover on downs in their own territory, two interceptions and a fumble.

Combine that effort while having no penalties called them and Red Bay pulls off the close, defensive victory.

“There is no doubt that our defense won us this game,” Red Bay head coach John Ritter said. “Our kids never buckled, and my hat’s off to our defense for never giving up.”

Red Bay was in dire straights early on in the contest. The Tigers fumbled the opening kickoff and the Warriors recovered.

This mistake cost Red Bay seven points just over a minute later when Westbrook Christian’s star quarterback Jonathan Ford took a keeper into the end zone from six yards out.

The ensuing PAT was good, putting the Warriors up 7-0 just two minutes into the first quarter.

The Tigers secured the next kickoff but fumbled on their first offensive play from scrimmage, giving Westbrook Christian another possession deep in Tiger territory.

Red Bay’s defense then came to life and stayed solid throughout the rest of the contest.

The Tiger defense forced the above turnovers and did not allow the Warriors another point in the game.

Westbrook Christian seemed bound for the end zone yet again, but Red Bay forced a turnover on downs on its own 11-yard line.

The Tigers offense could not pick up any steam on the next drive, and the Warriors found themselves with the ball once more.

Westbrook Christian had a tipped pass fall into the hands of one of their receivers, a catch made on the sideline with one foot inbounds on a fourth and six just one yard past the first down marker and a touchdown pass to a receiver in the back of the end zone all within a few plays of each other.

Accept that touchdown pass was caught just out of bounds, or Red Bay’s season might have been over.

The Tigers did not give the Warriors anymore chances and forced another turnover on downs, this time on their own 26.

The Tigers’ offense finally got rolling just before the end of the first quarter. Red Bay picked up its first first down with 2:30 left in the quarter. Just a few plays later senior quarterback Justin Payne found a hole in the defense and picked up a 31-yard run.

That effort set up a 1-yard touchdown scamper by senior fullback Matt Belue, and the point after by junior Clay McNatt tied the score at 7-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.

The Tigers made the most of their next offensive possession by making a sustained drive down the field that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Steven Wood.

The PAT by McNatt set the score at 14-7 in Red Bay’s favor, which would end up being the game’s final.

The score may have been settled (as found out 24 minutes later), but the game was far from over.

Just when it seemed like Westbrook Christian would tie up the game, junior defensive lineman Taylor Weclowski literally took the ball out of the Warrior running back’s hand to force a turnover, yet again in Red Bay territory.

The Tigers’ offense remained dormant for the rest of the night, and the next two drives for Westbrook Christian were ended prematurely by interceptions.

The first came at the hands of senior defensive back Austin Thorn with 7:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The second came after senior Levi Humphres tipped a pass that fell into the hands of Payne some four and a half minutes later.

“Our defense has been beat up some this season, but Thorn and Payne made some big interceptions for us,” Ritter said. “We have a great group of guys and things started off rough for us, but once they started believing we got back in the game.”

The Red Bay Tigers (8-3) will play at Woodland next week.

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