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CHATTANOOGA – The Red Bank Lions flag football team hustled onto the field that December afternoon, eager to prove why they’re considered the best in the state of Tennessee. The season was long over – the grass had turned a dull yellow and the trees covering the hillside to the west were gray and bare – but the players reunited at Chattanooga’s Red Bank High School, two weeks before Christmas, for a special exhibition scrimmage. On that unseasonably warm and bright afternoon, the players experienced an early bout of spring fever, laughing and telling jokes as they lined up on the 10-yard line. Richard Wozniak (’81), the Lions’ coach and a former All-American defensive tackle for Austin Peay State University, handed a football to Micah Hutcherson, the team’s center. “He can snap it out of the shotgun,” Wozniak said as he walked slowly backward from the line of scrimmage. “No one else does that but us.” When Hutcherson leaned forward and put his right hand on the football, the rest of the players calmed down. For a moment, everything was quiet except for the passing traffic on a nearby street, and
Micah Hutcherson snaps the ball out of the shotgun during a scrimmage.
a breeze passed low over the football field, making the air rich with the odor of mud and grass. The young athletes on both sides of the line of scrimmage waited, their nerves in check, for Hutcherson to snap the ball. “It’s like they’re playing for the Super Bowl every single time they play,” Kristi
“It’s like they’re playing for the Super Bowl every single time they play. It gives me chills thinking about it.”
–Kristi Totherow (’79)
Totherow (’79), a special education teacher at Red Bank Middle School and Wozniak’s sister-in-law, said. “It gives me chills thinking about it.” Totherow stood in the end zone, her arms folded across her chest, and watched Hutcherson hike the ball to quarterback Cody Reed. At that moment, defensive lineman Brandon Minton came alive, rushing across the line of scrimmage. “Get him, Brandon,” Wozniak yelled.
What happened next took a mere three seconds. Just as Minton was closing in, Reed threw a high spiral toward the sideline. That’s where Devonte Clark, a utility player filling in at wide receiver, was running at a full sprint. The pass, at first, seemed overthrown, but Clark stretched out his arms and then his fingertips and he somehow was able to pull the ball to his chest. Touchdown. There was a burst of applause from the small group of spectators gathered in the end zone, but Wozniak was busy preparing his team for the second play of the day. At 54, he still has the athletic build of a defensive tackle and the thick, reddish hair he was known for on the APSU campus. He should be an intimidating presence having spent 28 years with the Metro Transit Police in Washington, D.C., but his players swarmed around him after each play. “We’re going to overload the left side for what we call a Micah special,” Wozniak said. The team set up for another pass play, but this time the defense was ready. Minton charged forward, causing Reed to under throw the pass to his receiver. The efficiency of the team on both sides
Red Bank Lions demonstrate that the game isn’t “warm and fuzzy.”