Chuck Sutton, left, and Trey Sutton
When Science Hill junior Trey Sutton plays football against David Crockett on Friday, his pads are sure to feel pops.
Sutton’s father, Chuck, is the defensive coordinator at Crockett, which has made for an odd game week around the house and on the practice field.
“I’ve told Trey he better strap up tight,” Chuck said. “I had a defensive lineman ask me (Tuesday), ‘Can we decleat No. 35?’ I said, ‘You better.’
“I mean, we were joking around, but I was serious. And Trey knows that.”
Trey reacted with an uneasy chuckle when hearing dad’s stern instruction to the enemy, but he wouldn’t expect anything less from a tough-love father that ended up helping East Tennessee State get to the playoffs in 1996 after moving from the backfield to become an undersized defensive end.
“He’s pretty tough on me,” Trey said. “I expect that and I want that, because that brings out the greatest in me.”
Chuck is helping bring out the best in first-year head coach Jeremy Bosken’s Pioneers (2-0). Bosken is a former Science Hill assistant, and Crockett defensive assistant Malcolm Foreman played at Science Hill.
“We’re gonna come regardless of what and who shows up, and it starts up top with Coach Bosken,” Chuck said. “He sets the tone. ... Malcolm’s a great coach. His voice carries, and you better get in line.”
It’d be easy to understand if the Pioneers’ 27-6 win against Sullivan East and 48-26 victory at Unicoi County haven’t made believers of the Hilltoppers. Science Hill (1-0) has outscored Crockett 167-28 in three games since Stacy Carter took over.
“We aren’t going to take them lightly,” Trey said before a smile crept across his face as he looked at his dad. “But I do feel a repeat coming back. … I hope they win the rest of their games, especially against D-B (Dobyns-Bennett). I hope the best for y’all – other than Friday.”
The feeling couldn’t be more mutual. Would Chuck prefer beating Science Hill 56-0 or win 21-14 and Trey run for two touchdowns against his Crockett defense? Obviously, he doesn’t see such a hypothetical materializing, but eagerly offered a preference.
“I’m talking 56 to nothing,” Chuck said. “That’s just me. I’m competitive like that. Look, I have mixed feelings. I want Trey to do well. I love my son and the guys I coached (with Trey for three years in the Junior ‘Toppers program). But it comes down to growth and competition for our guys, and I’m a leader for Crockett right now.”
The preseason Big Seven Conference jamboree was a memorable night. Trey ran for a long touchdown against Sullivan Central, and about an hour later, Crockett bested heated rival Daniel Boone, 6-0, in a Bosken debut that was unofficial with everyone except Crockett. Even some Science Hill fans mentioned being pleased to see Crockett players with heads held high.
“I was happy for him to do well,” Trey said, “but I was happy to get that touchdown, too.”
The jamboree was sensory overload for a proud pop/excited coach.
“I didn’t go to sleep until about three or four o’clock that night,” Chuck said. “I was a little bit more excited about the possibility of what we could be as Crockett, and I was also excited for Trey. He had a good, long run for a touchdown, and I got to see it.”
Chuck might get to see a long Science Hill TD run or two on Friday at Steve Spurrier Field. Hilltoppers junior Malik McGue is hard to corral, but Chuck says that’s exactly what the Pioneers defenders must do.
“I know how shifty Malik is,” Chuck said. “He’s not the only one on the team, but that’s one person that we have to watch out for. We have 11 guys. We teach disciplined football. … We have to be sound. We have to stay in our gaps, keep our shoulders squared and be aggressive. We have to be smart, because Science Hill lives off explosive plays.”
Chuck received similar analysis from his father when he was at ETSU. Charles Sutton, a defensive back, was a teammate of “Bullet Bob” Hayes in high school in Jacksonville, at Florida A&M and with the Dallas Cowboys.
In fact, Chuck said Charles has his ETSU video, which Trey has never seen. Trey did get to see Chuck carry the ball in Science Hill’s old Memorial Stadium when he played for the semi-pro Mountain Empire Warriors. Chuck’s speed stood out on a roster full of it.
“That was the only time I’ve seen him play,” Trey said while smiling at the childhood memory of how fast his father was. “It was pretty cool.”
Trey’s maturation has impressed Chuck.
“Number one, he’s gotten bigger,” Chuck said. “And he plays a lot faster than a lot of the guys out there. That’s something I’ve preached to him.
“He sees the field better. It’s more mental. He recognizes certain things on defense and offense. The level of maturity comes in with him being a little bit more physical with his size and seeing the field a lot better and knowing the Xs and Os.”
Chuck and Trey laugh about looking for any Xs and Os lying around the house this week. For those old enough to remember, The Brady Bunch “Quarterback Sneak” episode with Marcia’s scheming boyfriend comes to mind.
“I do cover my stuff up,” Chuck said. “Every Sunday we meet, and when I came back from our meeting (Sunday), I said, ‘We studied so much we know every move that y’all are gonna make.’ I was calling formations out and Trey was just looking at me crazy.”
Trey agreed that the most productive preparation Science Hill might have received for Pioneers running backs TK Hill and Dalton Brown was Elizabethton’s Ethan Thomas, who rushed for over 200 yards against the Hilltoppers last week.
Chuck said Unicoi County running back Luke Fronckoski challenged the Pioneers defense on Friday.
But it must be impossible to prepare for the rush of emotions the Suttons will experience Friday. Trey’s mother, Barbara, who teaches him in English at Science Hill, will be conflicted.
Maybe she could wear a Science Hill jersey and a Crockett cap. Chuck smiled while agreeing that she’ll probably ultimately cheer for her son over husband, if only because Science Hill signs her paychecks.
“She’s excited and she is (torn),” Chuck said. “She wants Trey to do well. She did say she hopes it’s close. I don’t care about close, I just want to win.”
Obviously, gaining such ground on Science Hill in a year isn’t likely. But Chuck isn’t looking for moral victories, and would be disappointed with anything less than a respectable showing.
“It’d show the community we’re for real,” Chuck said. “I want Trey to play well, but I want us to play better.”