There hasn’t been a league game played, but the Three Rivers Conference title race took some shape Friday night.
It appears there are four really good offensive teams in the Class AA league, and some shootouts could be on the horizon. Each of the wins by Elizabethton, Happy Valley, Sullivan East and Sullivan North came against teams from the Class AAA Big Eight Conference.
The biggest surprise in Week Zero, without question, was Sullivan East’s 46-13 blowout of David Crockett. Coming off an 0-10 season, the Patriots scored nearly half as many points as they totaled for the entire 2010 season (105).
First-year head coach Mike Locke said it was a product of execution.
“If you look at the film, we executed pretty well,” said Locke. “We took advantage of what the defense gave us. I couldn’t put a finger on one thing, but I would say preparation and execution led to the high production.”
East broke loose for 426 yards of total offense, but that wasn’t even the league-best total. Happy Valley put up a 468-yard effort, with 444 on the ground, in a 39-13 beat-down of Sullivan Central.
Elizabethton had the best mix of run and pass with 164 on the ground and 135 through the air in a 31-3 pounding of Daniel Boone. Also, Sullivan North handled Volunteer, 35-25.
However, nobody should proclaim the Three Rivers as the area’s best league. Tennessee High’s 52-point mauling of Johnson County is one reason for that.
Next week’s schedule should add quite a bit of information on how things are shaping up. Elizabethton will travel to take on a Science Hill team that is licking its wounds from a season-opening loss to Greeneville.
And Sullivan East will play host to a Volunteer squad that put up 284 yards of offense against North.
Locke said he’s not making predictions about his team’s offensive output this season, but added he believes in the players’ effort.
“These kids worked extremely hard in the offseason, spring and summer,” said Locke. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. These guys are very hungry for victory.”
And that hunger could turn into points on Friday night.
“I believe if we execute, we have the potential to move the football,” said Locke.
East can’t necessarily claim the role of favorite against Volunteer, and the Patriots certainly don’t face the same test as Elizabethton in Week 1. Not only is the Cyclones’ game against Science Hill a rivalry contest, the Hilltoppers are picked to finish second in the Big Eight.
Cyclones running back Terrence Turner said his team needs to play next week like it did Friday.
“We need to come out on fire like we did (Friday night),” said Turner. “If we have the same mindset next week that we did (against Boone), there’s no doubt we can win.”
As for Happy Valley and Sullivan North, the Week 1 tests may be more like a planned quiz. The Warriors will be overwhelming favorites against Unaka, which is coming off a 54-6 crushing by Chuckey-Doak.
Meanwhile, the Raiders will get the first of three games against newly created Virginia schools when they host Eastside.