In some seasons, Science Hill’s football team might have folded under the magnitude of injuries this year’s bunch has endured.
Friday night against Tennessee High, the Hilltoppers took a step forward as a program.
The Big Seven Conference victory, a tight 35-33 decision, not only kept the ’Toppers at the top of the league, it also set them up for two weeks of heavy favorite roles — where head coach Stacy Carter will have the option of giving his standout players more time to recover from injuries.
Those decisions got more comfortable because of several players’ performances Friday.
Against a solid opponent, Carter said he was concerned about the absence of quarterback Malik McGue, linebacker Isaac Story, and cornerback Mikey White. And then in the first quarter, standout linebacker Gad Nagba went down with an injury.
“With all of the adversity, we were nervous,” said Carter. “We knew Tennessee High was talented.”
What could have been a mess was turned into a gut-level triumph, inspired by the understudies.
“We’ve relied so much on Malik, it’s good to get a win without some of those guys,” Carter. “So many people came up big. We had a junior-varsity outside linebacker (sophomore Brett Marcus) get a big interception, and he just played fantastic.
“The seniors — Aaron Adams, Chad Backus, Chance Pierce, Addison Adams — stepped up. And the defensive backs, sophomores and juniors, made the plays they had to make. Brandon Westmoreland had a big game, and Jordan Holly had a big interception. I’m proud of those guys also.”
Science Hill also got a glimpse of things to come with the play of sophomore quarterback Justin Bedard.
“Justin is the future,” said Carter. “He’s as talented as can be. We hope to get him a start, and see what he can do.”
McGue is certainly not a forgotten player, but Carter said he wants the junior to be healthy before returning to the lineup.
“I want him as close to 100 percent as we can get him,” said Carter. “We don’t want him to get another nagging injury. He progressed a lot this week, and we will see how next week goes. If he can go without risking further injury, I will play him.”
Carter said Nagba could miss a couple of weeks with a high-ankle sprain. White and Story could be back for this week’s contest.
“The good thing is the injuries are nagging things,” said Carter.
Also, with every injury comes an opportunity.
“The ones who aren’t playing, we know they can play,” Carter said. “We need to get the younger guys some reps, so they can play.”
Next up for the Hilltoppers is a home contest against Sullivan Central, followed by a road encounter with winless Volunteer. Central has three wins but is coming off a 35-8 loss to a David Crockett team Science Hill defeated 90-21.
“Tennessee High was a pivotal game,” said Carter, whose team is 2-0 in league play and 4-2 overall. “We are still on track for our No. 1 goal.”