Science Hill is coming off a pair of punishing losses, but in one respect it is no worse off than before the defeats.
The Hilltoppers haven’t won a Big Seven Conference title in almost 20 years, and they enter tonight’s game at Tennessee High still basically tied for first place in the league.
“This game is way more important than the last two,” said Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter. “The No. 1 goal is to win the conference, and it’s something that hasn’t been done here in a while. This is a must game right here.
“We’ve got to take steps. We want to beat some of the top teams in the state and go deep into the playoffs, but the fact is we haven’t won the conference. We need to do that, and take that step first.”
Both Science Hill and Tennessee High are 1-0 in league play and 3-2 overall.
The Vikings’ losses came against Class 4A powers Sullivan South and Elizabethton. The Vikings were whipped by the Cyclones 35-13 last week, so they know something about how Science Hill feels.
The Hilltoppers are coming off a 64-38 loss to Murfreesboro Siegel and a 45-0 crunching at the hands of Brentwood Academy in back-to-back weeks.
Last year the ’Toppers and Vikings staged a wild shootout with Science Hill earning a 76-48 win. Carter said he doesn’t expect this year’s game to mirror that contest.
“I’m sure that won’t happen again,” said Carter. “I doubt it, I really do. There’s a difference for sure with them. They are focused more on running the ball, and they aren’t doing as many four-wide sets.
“I think they are huddling some this year. Last year they didn’t huddle at all. And we may go slower if we don’t have Malik (McGue).”
The Hilltoppers’ junior quarterback, McGue suffered an ankle injury against Brentwood and is questionable for tonight’s game. Tucker McPherson and Justin Bedard would take snaps in place of McGue if he can’t go.
“We’ve practiced like we won’t have him,” said Carter. “He got some reps (Wednesday), and we will see how he’s doing. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a long-term thing for him. We think we have a good game plan for him, and for the others, too. We’ve looked pretty smooth in practice, but what Malik can do is cover up mistakes when you have him. If it’s a bad play call or somebody does something wrong, he can take a busted play and turn it into a 50-yard touchdown.”
Tennessee High will attack Science Hill with the running of Kauhlil King, but more so utilize the accurate passing of Peyton Henley. The senior quarterback has connected on 82 of 104 passes (79 percent) for 1,189 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Henley’s favorite target is Adam Mitchell, who has 28 catches for 468 yards and six scores.
Carter said he likes taking his team to the Stone Castle.
“It’s a great place to play, for visitor, home, whatever,” said Carter. “We’re glad we don’t have to travel five hours to play. It’s a short trip.”