After ending a nearly two-decade losing streak against rival Dobyns-Bennett, Science Hill has an opportunity to establish more new territory.
The Hilltoppers will be looking for their first-ever win over Knox Farragut as they play host to the Admirals in the opening round of the TSSAA Class 6A playoffs tonight at Tipton Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 o'clock, 30 minutes earlier than the regular season starting time.
Science Hill enters with a record of 8-2, having defeated the Indians last week to win its first Big Seven Conference championship in 19 years. Farragut is 6-4, having won four in a row before getting pounded 48-7 by Maryville in the regular season finale.
In another Class 6A first-round game, Dobyns-Bennett travels to take on Morristown East.
Science Hill lost to Farragut 28-7 in the 2008 playoffs. The Admirals also won regular season games in 1999 and 2000. Coach Eddie Courtney is 127-79 in 18 years.
“Their coaching staff has been around a while,” said Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter. “They are well-respected in that area, and in Knoxville they play tough competition.”
Science Hill's only links to Farragut this year are D-B, which beat the Admirals 21-20 in the season opener, and Knox West.
“We played D-B, and scrimmaged Knox West,” said Carter. “That's our scale of how good they are. We had a tough fight with Knox West and D-B, and I'm sure it will be the same (tonight).”
Carter said his players should benefit from taking down the D-B barrier.
“For one thing it gets you over the hump,” said Carter. “It has to give you a sense of confidence.
“Our kids are about the same as they always are. I can't tell a whole lot of difference between last week and this week. It's a pretty loose bunch. Sometimes I'd like to tighten them up a little.”
Farragut leans on its passing game, but the Admirals lost quarterback Bryan Phillips to a knee injury prior to the Maryville game. Left-handed sophomore Jacob Naumoff replaced him and went 8 of 18 for 75 yards.
“Phillips is good, and the left-hander wasn't bad, either,” said Carter. “They have more of a throwing attack than running. They runs draws and stuff like that, but they like to throw a lot of quick passes, bubble screens and slants. They get rid of it quick.”
Running back Tanner Thomas had a 47-yard touchdown for the only score against Maryville.
“They have a pretty good running back,” said Carter.
The Hilltoppers will try to take care of the little things, said Carter.
“We shot ourselves in the foot last week,” he said. “We were probably trying to be a little too fine, checking a little too much and trying to get ourselves in the best play. We just need to execute what we do well.”
Science Hill is led by Big Seven rushing champion Malik McGue (871 yards). The junior quarterback was also third in the league in passing with 1,147 yards and has accounted for 24 total touchdowns.
Running back Chance Pierce has rushed for 842 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Dobyns-Bennett (6-4) at Morristown East (9-1) — The Hurricanes were 1-9 in 2012, and have lost three of their last four playoff games.
They turned things around dramatically with a senior-laden group.
Meanwhile, the Indians have shaken off some first-round playoff blues, winning three years in a row. The Hurricanes are favored, but the Indians have played a tougher schedule so it should be a dogfight.