Northeast Tennessee boasts The Big Three this Friday: a trio of championship contests between teams undefeated in league play.
It’s a rare treat for area fans with the only negative thing being everybody’s refusal to move one of the games to Thursday so area fans wouldn’t have to choose between the three.
Ask enough people, and compelling reasons will likely be heard for a victory from either side of the Big Eight Conference title game between Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett in Kingsport on Friday. Not as much has been made of The Streak this year, but Dobyns-Bennett has beaten Science Hill 19 straight times.
Both sides can be argued for the Three Rivers Conference title game between Elizabethton and Sullivan South in Kingsport. Ditto for the Mountain East Conference championship between Hampton and Cloudland in Roan Mountain.
So instead of becoming more white noise, we went into film study — sort of — to figure a way for each of the six teams to win. We had a pair of anonymous sources give us a helping hand, people who had first-hand film eyeballs on these teams.
Need a recipe for a Science Hill victory? How about one for the Indians?
Here is the director’s final cut:
How Science Hill can beat D-B
Defense: Win first down. Second and short, or third and short will be tough to stop. Force the Indians to put the ball in the air.
Offense: Keep the ball in McGue’s hands as much as possible. Let him have the option to run or throw on a high percentage of the plays.
How D-B can beat Science Hill
Defense: Keep a spy consistently on McGue. Stick with receivers when McGue turns a play into a scramble drill. Disrupt McGue and make him throw on the move.
Offense: Make it a physical game. Force the issue until the offensive line takes control. When the Hilltoppers start to load the box, use play action with deep passes.
How Elizabethton can beat South
Defense: Focus on the run, even though quarterback Dylan Wieger has 11 touchdown passes in the last two weeks. Get the Rebels’ linemen outnumbered inside. Get them out of their tempo.
Offense: Shorten the game with long, sustained drives. Use off-tackle running plays, and complement them with short play-action passes.
How South can beat Elizabethton
Defense: Load the box — nine at the line of scrimmage — and limit running back Ethan Thomas. Make the quarterbacks throw the ball to win the game.
Offense: Take your shots against Elizabethton’s secondary, short and long. Throw some long passes early in the game to soften the Cyclones’ run defense.
How Hampton can beat Cloudland
Defense: Focus efforts on Austin Whitehead and Colby Birchfield running the ball. Give the Highlanders a soft perimeter and try to coax passes.
Offense: Keep the ball and shorten the game. Use an unbalanced front to try to outflank the Highlanders’ defense. Assign two people to linebacker Mason Carnett as often as possible.
How Cloudland can beat Hampton
Defense: Put eight or nine guys within six yards of the line of scrimmage. Give the Bulldogs perimeter shots in the passing game and see if they will take them. If not, try to force long drives and hope for a turnover or key penalty.
Offense: Take care of the ball, and do what has been done all season with Whitehead and Birchfield.
Playoff updates: The following matchups are based on current standings and favorite roles for upcoming games.
If Hardin Valley or Powell doesn’t sneak in, this bracket could have Cookeville involved. That could bump the D-B/Science Hill loser to No. 6, and force a first-round rematch between the Indians and Hilltoppers.
— Hardin Valley at Maryville
— Bradley Central at Sevier County
— Knox Farragut at Science Hill/Dobyns-Bennett winner
— SH/D-B loser at Morristown East
There is still a scenario where Crockett could get a home game, but it includes a Tennessee High loss to Volunteer.
— Cherokee at Anderson County
— David Crockett at Campbell County
— Knox Central at Knox West
— South-Doyle at Tennessee High
Unicoi County has a decent shot to get in with a victory over Sullivan Central.
— Unicoi County at Knox Fulton
— Grainger at Greeneville
— Knox Catholic at Eliz-SS winner
— Eliz-South loser at Knox Carter
West Greene is the wild card. The Buffaloes probably need a win to get in, but will be an underdog against Chuckey-Doak.
— Johnson County at Alcoa
— Happy Valley at Gatlinburg-Pittman
— CAK at Chuckey-Doak
— Pigeon Forge at Sullivan North
Class 2A and 1A
First-round byes enter the picture here. Currently Hampton would be No. 5 and travel to face Tellico Plains in the first round.
In Class 1A, Coalfield could jump past Cloudland for the No. 1 seed if the Highlanders lose to Hampton. Unaka has a chance to get in with a win, but will need some help.
Follow Douglas Fritz on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz.
Greeneville’s Trevor Wright, regarded as one of the best defensive players in Northeast Tennessee, had a superb all-around effort in the Greene Devils’ 47-20 win over Signal Mountain on Friday.
Wright, a receiver and defensive back, totaled 151 yards on four catches and scored a pair of touchdowns. Defensively, Wright had an offense-wrecking 24 total tackles.
Points of interest: Knox Fulton is the state’s highest scoring team, with a manly average of 60.3 points per game. At its current pace, Fulton would score 905 points in 15 games and smash Greeneville’s all-time record of 748.
Interestingly enough, the Greene Devils are also on pace for a record with 53.4 points per game. That would give them 801 in 15 games.
It should be noted that only one of those two Class 4A teams could play 15 games. …
Sullivan South (43.8) is in 10th place while Science Hill (43.6) is No. 11 on the scoring list. ...
Memphis Trezevant is the state’s best defensive team, allowing just 5.6 points per game. Next is Greeneville at 6.0, followed by Fulton at 6.3.
Cloudland (9.7) is in 10th place while Elizabethton (10.1) is at No. 11.
Volleyball update: Ravenwood was unable to make it four Class AAA state titles in a row, losing to Brentwood in the finals in four games.
Brentwood (59-4) reached the finals for the 16th time in the last 22 years and won its ninth title by coming out of the losers’ bracket to beat Ravenwood in the finals. …
In Class AA, Sullivan South (47-8) powered to the title, beating Hume-Fogg in the championship match.
It was the fourth state championship for the Lady Rebels, but their first since 1996.
And in Class A, South Greene went as far as it could go before losing twice to undefeated Goodpasture Christian, which finished with a record of 48-0. It was the second straight title for the Lady Cougars.
Soccer update: Dobyns-Bennett takes aim at a Class AAA state title, beginning in the quarterfinals against Franklin on Wednesday at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro. The Lady Indians (16-2-3) earned their berth with a sectional win over Hardin Valley.
The semifinals are Thursday and the championship is Saturday.
Football games of the week: Science Hill at Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone at David Crockett, Unicoi County at Sullivan Central, Elizabethton at Sullivan South, Happy Valley at Sullivan North, Hampton at Cloudland.
Hilltoppers vs. Indians — These teams aren’t undefeated overall like last year, but they’re unbeaten when it counts most — in league play. Both teams barely edged Tennessee High, but the Hilltoppers whipped Daniel Boone while the Indians needed a late-game miracle.
The ‘Toppers might have been a slight favorite, but since the game is in Kingsport it looks more like a 50-50 battle.
Trailblazers vs. Pioneers — It doesn’t matter what the records are, or if one team is headed to the playoffs and the other isn’t. This rivalry should produce a heated battle.
Blue Devils vs. Cougars — A chance to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, which would be a first for Unicoi since the mid 1980s, is on the line.
Cyclones vs. Rebels — If preseason jamborees mean anything at all, South will blow Elizabethton out of the water. But since the Cyclones have played much better on defense once the season started, look for more of a close contest.
Warriors vs. Raiders — It’s a big challenge for Happy Valley, but the chance of earning a Class 3A playoff berth could inspire the Warriors.
Bulldogs vs. Highlanders — It’s going to take a special effort for Hampton to win, but then again the team with Mike Lunsford on its sideline has held the upper hand in this rivalry. Lunsford, Hampton’s head coach, formerly coached at Cloudland.
Pick of the Week — Dobyns-Bennett 27, Science Hill 24.
When push comes to shove, a big majority of close football games are won where the pushing and shoving is done — in the trenches. Also, the Indians have had two weeks to prepare for this one.
Picks record: 10-0.
Since 2010: 29-1 (regular season), 36-2 (overall).
Player of the week — Dylan Wieger of Sullivan South.
One week after tying a school record with five touchdown passes, Wieger went one better in a 41-14 whipping of Johnson County.
Wieger hit scoring tosses from 10, 8, 30, 23, 18 and 28 yards. He completed 13 of 26 passes for 239 yards and also rushed for 66 to give him 305 total yards.
The Hogs Award — Elizabethton Cyclones.
The “Clone Hogs” returned to area prominence by steamrolling Unicoi County’s defense in a 42-7 win. Elizabethton’s linemen paved the way for 402 yards rushing on 47 carries for an average of 8.6 per attempt. Two players went over 100 yards rushing and a third was just eight yards short.
Pass protection was good enough for 50 percent completions (9 of 18).
Defensive unit of the week — Elizabethton Cyclones.
It was a shutout for the Cyclones’ defenders as the game’s only score came on a 95-yard interception return. Elizabethton allowed 206 yards of offense, recovered a fumble, picked off two passes, forced 14 incompletions in 18 attempts, and forced four punts.
This Week in Prep History — November 4, 2000.
David Crockett’s Wes Dulaney hit on 13 of 20 passes for 262 yards, but it wasn’t enough to lift his team to victory. Tennessee High, which got 523 yards rushing, defeated Crockett 42-20 in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs.
Chuck Baker had 182 yards rushing for the Vikings while Chad Belcher added 180.
Everybody stayed in the same position for this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Greeneville 9-0 1
2. Sullivan South 9-0 2
3. Elizabethton 8-1 3
4. Science Hill 7-2 4
5. Dobyns-Bennett 6-3 5
6. Cloudland 9-0 6
7. Tennessee High 5-4 7
8. David Crockett 5-4 8
9. Sullivan North 5-4 9
10. Chuckey-Doak 6-3 10