Science Hill always wants to beat to Elizabethton in football, but the long-time rivals are no longer conference foes.
However, the Hilltoppers lost their season opener, and an 0-2 start in a 10-game season is pretty significant in terms of player confidence — especially since last week’s loss was against Class 4A Greeneville and this week’s game is against Class 3A Elizabethton.
“Elizabethton and Science Hill is always important,” said Hilltoppers’ head coach Stacy Carter. “But by losing the first game, it really makes this game even more important. It does give you a sense of urgency.”
The long-time rivals will battle tonight at Tipton Stadium with kickoff set for 7:30. It is the home opener for the Hilltoppers.
Elizabethton enters with a record of 1-0, having crushed Daniel Boone by a score of 31-3. The Cyclones have been a Class 3A powerhouse under head coach Shawn Witten, but haven’t fared very well against Science Hill (1-3) or Stacy Carter (0-2 with South and 0-1 with the ‘Toppers).
“Coach Carter has had our number the last four years,” said Witten, whose team is 16-4 against Class 3A teams since 2009 and 5-4 against bigger schools. “We’ve got to find a way to get on the other side of that. But their program is starting to make huge strides, and there’s a huge difference between 6A and 3A.”
Science Hill opened its season with a 26-18 loss to Greeneville. The Hilltoppers were right there against the defending Class 4A state champions, but couldn’t overcome the Greene Devils’ powerful lines.
“They went foot to foot and they were just huge,” said Carter. “Elizabethton is a different matchup, and it’s better for us. They’re fast, but we’re bigger than they are. If we have an advantage, it’s our size and strength.”
Carter said his defense will be particularly aware of Elizabethton running back Terrence Turner and quarterback McKenly Berry.
“The quarterback is a good player and the Turner kid is a great player,” said Carter. “Those two kids are definitely weapons.”
When Science Hill has the football, the Cyclones will have to be aware of big-play threats like running back Jahmar Adams, receiver Aaron Greene and quarterback Justin Snyder.
“They’ve got some weapons with big-play capability,” said Witten. “We just can’t give up any big plays. We’ve got to tackle well. We tackled well against Boone, but this week we will have to tackle well in open spaces.”
The rivalry takes a new stage with the first ever meeting at the Hilltoppers’ new stadium.
“We’re proud of the stadium and we’re ready to get it kicked off,” said Carter. “Whether it’s Memorial Stadium or Rider Field, whoever is at home has an advantage. The players are more comfortable and have the fan support. We probably don’t put as much emphasis on (home-field advantage) as we should.”
Witten said he expects quite a battle, as usual.
“These games are always fun and always close,” he said. “And it’s a great opportunity to play in a great stadium.”