Elizabethton is a strong favorite, but Unicoi County is playing its most important late-season game in six years.
“If you look at where we’re at, and where we could possibly be, it’s a pretty big one,” said Blue Devils’ head coach Jerad Huskins. “We have talked about the opportunity at hand. It’s something that could be part of a special season.”
Unicoi (1-1, 3-3) could tie Elizabethton (2-0, 5-2) for first place in the Three Rivers Conference with an upset win tonight at Gentry Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
The rest of the Three Rivers Conference teams play non-conference games. It’s the same story for the Mountain East Conference.
In the highlight contest of the Blue Ridge Conference, Greeneville plays host to Cumberland Gap.
Unicoi’s biggest challenge will be handling the Cyclones’ running game. Ethan Thomas has rushed for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns while Terrence Turner has 392 yards and five scores after limited playing time at running back for the first four games of the season.
“Watching them on film, they are dang good,” said Huskins. “They really do a good job of running the football.
“It’s not a typical Elizabethton team. They grind it out and have a stable of running backs. We will try to load the box and see if we can slow them down and hopefully get some turnovers.
“We’ve got to make them drive the ball. We can’t give up 50- and 60-yard gashes.”
When Unicoi has the football, it will welcome the return of leading rusher Hunter Abbott, who missed a game and a half because of an injured ankle. Also, Lucas Hensley, who was slated to be the starting quarterback this season, returns from a finger injury.
“We will play him some,” said Huskins. “He’s still not 100 percent.”
Elizabethton’s defense has been very tough this season, allowing just over 10 points per game.
“Their defense is pretty stout,” said Huskins. “Their linebackers and safeties do a good job. Moving the ball will be a challenge.”
Huskins said he hopes to have a big enthusiastic home crowd.
“It’s the Apple Festival, so there will be a lot of people in town,” said Huskins. “And we usually have a solid home crowd anyway.”
Wise (Va.) Central (3-2) at Johnson County (3-3) — With important league games remaining, the Longhorns need to recapture the momentum surrendered in the loss to Sullivan North last week.
Johnson County quarterback Warren Kerley, a sophomore, seems to be coming into his own and has completed 68 percent of his passes this season.
Hampton (5-1) at Sullivan East (0-6) — Despite being a larger school, the Patriots figure to have a lot of trouble with the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Lane Smith leads a potent Hampton offense, and running back B.J. Taylor is a big threat as well.
Cumberland Gap (3-0, 5-1) at Greeneville (2-0, 3-3) — This will be Greeneville’s first test inside league play.
The Greene Devils crushed South Greene and West Greene, but the Panthers boast an offense that is averaging over 37 points per game.
However, the combined score of the three league games between Greeneville and Cumberland Gap teams is 186-6 in favor of the Greene Devils.
North Greene (4-3) at Chuckey-Doak (4-2) — The Huskies are still looking for that breakthrough win against a Greene County team, but the Black Knights have put together a strong season and are trying to keep the momentum for a playoff run.