Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett have been streaking toward a showdown for nine weeks — and 18 years.
The undefeated Indians and Hilltoppers will meet tonight at 7:30 in what is expected to be a madhouse setting at J. Fred Johnson Stadium with a Big Eight Conference title on the line.
How good are Graham Clark’s Indians (6-0, 9-0)? The consensus of numerous people who’ve seen both teams would make the Hilltoppers (6-0, 9-0) a two- to three-touchdown underdog despite the fact that they have outscored opponents 446-161 this season.
As for how good Science Hill is, many of those same people didn’t mention the fact that it hasn’t beaten D-B since 1994 until long after talking about how much fun it is watching quarterback Reed Hayes, running back Will Adams and receivers such as Malik McGue and Tre Webster operate Stacy Carter’s up-tempo scheme. For the majority of this century, The Streak had been on the tip of every tongue.
Science Hill has lost 18 straight to the Indians, which won two games in the series in 1998, but Clark doesn’t think his players feel any pressure to maintain it.
“I always tell our kids, ‘Guys, pressure’s when you send your wife with your credit card to Pigeon Forge,’ ” Clark said. “I mean, this is a game, you know, and that’s how we try to approach it every week. Every year’s a different year.”
The only thing different about D-B this year is it’s been even more dominant than usual. The Indians have outscored the opposition 510-99.
Quarterback Malik Foreman moved from flanker when Chris Cook was injured early in the season, and Foreman and running back Devaun Swafford have lit up opponents’ scoreboards like pinball machines.
Swafford has averaged 11.9 yards on 70 carries (831 yards), which seems astounding until looking at Foreman’s 22.7-yard average per carry (30-682). Each has scored 21 TDs, and they have exceeded expecations despite having exceptional seasons on 2011.
“Obviously, we knew they were very athletic,” Clark said. “Ray Charles could see that. But I don’t know that you ever think guys are gonna average the yards per carry that they’ve averaged. They’ve been awful good for us. And so have Seth Barger and Zach Casey. I mean, they’ve got pretty daggone good averages per carry also, and that says something about your offensive line.”
Carter, like everyone else in the Tri-Cities, anticipates a shootout being more likely than a slugfest.
“They (Foreman and Swafford) are fantastic players,” Carter said. “They’re lucky to have those two kids. They both are phenomenal with what they can do and they use them very well. …
“You know they’re gonna make plays. … We’ve got athletes that can do the same type of stuff, and we’ve just gotta come right back at ’em.”
Hayes’ statistics shine about as brightly as D-B’s skilled stars. He’s passed for 1,886 yards, 27 TDs and five interceptions while completing 63.3 percent of his passes. His strong arm and scrambling ability concern Clark.
“He scrambles more than the head chef at the IHOP,” Clark said. “He makes plays last a long time and you’ve gotta get him tackled. But you can’t just concentrate on him.
“They’ve got a number of playmakers. Reed Hayes is a pretty special player. Will Adams is a pretty special player. And you go on down the list – McGue and then (Grant) Janeway on defense. They’ve got a lot of really good football players.”
Clark said D-B has sold an unusally high amount of advance tickets this week. The anticipation generated by the hype of two unbeaten rivals playing before an overflow crowd with a league title and an 18-game wins streak at stake could adversely affect players’ mindsets, but Clark would be surprised if both teams aren’t focused and sharp.
“Shoot, that ought to be what they’ve got up at 6:30 in the morning to lift weights for – games like this,” Clark said. “I always tell them, ‘Guys, these are the kind of games you were born to play in. It ought to be a lot of fun for you and excite you.’ …
“It ought to be a great crowd and two good football teams. We’ll see who takes care of business.”
Science Hill will get a Willis Reed-like appearance — or more — from senior offensive lineman/linebacker Tate Isbell, who tore an ACL on Oct. 5 against Daniel Boone. When he was in elementary school playing at the Boys Club, Isbell already wanted to know if the Dobyns-Bennett game was in Johnson City or Kingsport his senior year.
He will start on the offensive line tonight, and his presence should be more valuable than blocking charts can measure.
“This senior bunch, they’re gonna come out there to fight,” Carter said. “That’s the mentality they have.”
Carter doesn’t put any stock in The Streak having any bearing. Science Hill fell behind 14-0 en route to a 47-14 loss to D-B last year.
“Last year, how that went, we didn’t even compete,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re beyond that and we’re ready to roll. .You’ve got two good teams. You just want to get out there and compete and play well and the best team wins. ...
“It’s two good football teams and it’s great for high school football. We (coaches) are glad to be a part of something like this, too.”