Patrick Henry's Ean Rhea brings down Honaker's Chandler Hubbard.

Ean Rhea was here.

Ean Rhea was there.

Ean Rhea was everywhere.

At least it seemed that way for the Holston Cavaliers during their 29-6 loss to Patrick Henry last week in the semifinals of the VHSL Region 1D football playoffs.

Rhea, PH’s 6-foot-2, 220-pound force of nature, dropped Cavs ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage more than once. He sacked Holston quarterback Quaheim Brooks a couple of times.

There was the fumble he forced late in the first half that Chase Brown scooped up and returned for a touchdown.

Go ahead and try stopping this guy, because nobody’s been able to do it yet.

“In the run game he has the size, strength and skill to beat any block if you run to him,” Holston coach Derrick Patterson said. “If you run away from him he has the speed to chase you down from behind.

“We have even employed reading him some on plays instead of blocking him and he makes you wrong with his instincts and natural athleticism. He is a huge difference-maker for them on an already solid defense.”

Rhea has indeed been a leader for the Rebels (12-0), who play J.I. Burton (10-2) in Saturday’s Region 1D title game at Emory & Henry College’s Fred Selfe Stadium.

Rhea and middle linebacker Cody Pruitt have been the top tacklers for a defense that is allowing just 10.6 points per game.

As a tight end, he has 17 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns.

The term college prospect has been bandied about when describing Rhea, who is still just a junior.

“Ean has made big plays all season on both sides of the ball,” said PH coach Mark Palmer. “From timely sacks to defending the edge on sweeps, he makes plays. One big play happened at Hurley, when we were up 8-0 early in the game and Hurley had momentum and was driving. He deflected a pass that turned into a 90-yard interception return that changed the momentum. He also had a huge third-down catch late in the game against Chilhowie [in a 16-13 win] and held on to the ball while absorbing a huge hit.”

The Rhea reel of highlights has a pretty lengthy run time.

“At Lee High, they tried to run a jet sweep,” said Patrick Henry senior Dakota Rector. “He grabbed the kid and just slung him down with ease.”

You better believe that Rhea relishes making such plays.

“The emotion he brings on the field,” said PH running back Cody Smith. “You can always expect Ean to be doing some kind of dance or celebration after making a play.”

Rhea admits there’s nothing like delivering one of those trademark hard hits of his from his spot at outside linebacker.

“Those are the moments you live for and my teammates rely on me to make those big plays,” Rhea said. “So when I make the plays I feel relieved, but it also gets everyone pumped and ready to keep going.”

Rhea has always been a good football player.

Palmer recalls during Rhea’s freshman season that Patrick Henry’s juniors and seniors had trouble blocking him in practice.

However, he’s transformed into a big-time player this season.

“Everything has just came together well,” Rhea said. “I’ve been in the weight room since we lost [to Chilhowie in the regional finals] last year, along with growing and watching film to see what I was doing wrong, so I could work on that and fix it.”

Saturday’s matchup between Rhea and J.I. Burton’s stable of strong rushers will be intriguing to watch.

“Rhea is a great defensive football player,” said Burton coach Jacob Caudill. “Watching film, he is always around the ball and that says a lot about his heart and pride.”

Patrick Henry will try to win the first regional championship in program history on Saturday, so Rhea will have to be at the top of his game, something that hasn’t been a problem thus far in 2019.

“He is as good as any defensive player I have had the pleasure to coach,” Palmer said. “He is aggressive, tackles well, has long arms which gives offensive players trouble and he understands the game. He is a very smart defensive player.”

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thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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