Getting mentioned in the same sentence as Dobyns-Bennett, Sullivan South and Greeneville, North Greene’s football program has definitely taken a big step forward.
With its 20-0 win over Unaka on Friday night, the Huskies became the first Northeast Tennessee team in 20 years to begin the season with three consecutive shutouts. Sullivan South notched four straight in 1991 before surrendering 14 points in a win over Science Hill in game five.
According to available historical data, the only other area teams to begin a season with at least three straight shutouts are Dobyns-Bennett — which did it seven times from 1923 to 1947, including 10 in a row in 1947 — Johnson County (1980), Greeneville (five times from 1924 to 1945) and South.
“To be one of those five clubs, and to be mentioned in the same breath with South — especially those teams from South in the early 1990s — D-B, Greeneville, and a hard-nosed place like Johnson County, it makes you feel good,” said Huskies second-year head coach Josh Edens, who is a former David Crockett standout. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be mentioned with those teams. It’s huge for North Greene to come from where we started last year to where we are this year.”
Last year was a 2-8 finish after the team had gone 1-29 over the previous three seasons. But the Huskies ended 2010 with a win, and started this year by beating Tri-Cities Christian (37-0), Jellico (46-0) and Unaka.
In those three wins, North Greene has allowed a total of 126 yards and created 14 turnovers.
Starting a season with three straight shutouts doesn’t happen very often these days for two reasons: Teams pass the football much more effectively than they did back in the old days, and defensive players are more likely to make a mistake that leads to a score in the first couple of games of a new season.
North Greene made mistakes in its first three games, but mostly of the offensive variety. The Huskies had six turnovers against Unaka and gave the Rangers prime field position on three different occasions.
Each time, the defense denied the Rangers.
“Unaka had ample opportunity, but our defense bowed its back,” said Edens. “The defense drew a line and said you’re not getting in the end zone. Our kids have got a lot of heart.”
Among the key players on defense are senior linebacker Zach Britton, senior nose guard Wes Asbury and junior linebacker David Triantis.
Offensively, the Huskies have been led by junior running back Mason Early.
If the Huskies are going to extend their shutout streak, it would really be a marvel. Their next opponent is South Greene, which has totaled 42, 67, 57, 57 and 56 points in the last five games against North Greene.
“Something has to give, that’s for sure,” said Edens. “They’ve put up big numbers on us in the past. But I think it goes back to that chip on our shoulder.
“You have to take the memories of those last five years, and the 20 years it has been since we beat them, and you have to go to practice with it, get on the bus with it, warm up with it, and play four quarters with it.”
n Here’s a look at how the Johnson City Press voted in this week’s Associated Press state football poll:
1. Maryville, 2. Riverdale, 3. Dobyns-Bennett, 4. Oakland, 5. Mt. Juliet, 6. Farragut, 7. Siegel, 8. Science Hill, 9. Bradley Central, 10. Sevier County.
1. Columbia, 2. Powell, 3. Henry County, 4. Morristown West, 5. Gallatin, 6. Craigmont, 7. Clarksville NE, 8. Shelbyville, 9. Ooltewah, 10. Knox West.
1. Greeneville, 2. Signal Mountain, 3. Lexington, 4. Maplewood, 5. Giles County, 6. Red Bank, 7. Mitchell, 8. Obion County, 9. Liberty Magnet, 10. Covington.
1. Alcoa, 2. CAK, 3. Milan, 4. Elizabethton, 5. CPA, 6. Fairview, 7. Camden, 8. Kingston, 9. Sequatchie Co., 10. Smith County.
1. Boyd Buchanan, 2. Trousdale Co., 3. Hampton, 4. Grace Christian, 5. Humboldt, 6. Cascade, 7. McKenzie, 8. Watertown, 9. North Greene, 10. Mt. Pleasant.
1. South Pittsburg, 2. Wayne County, 3. Perry County, 4. Huntingdon, 5. Greenback, 6. Columbia Academy, 7. Jo Byrns, 8. Coalfield, 9. Sunbright, 10. Eagleville
n Football games of the week — Science Hill at Morristown West, Sevier County at Dobyns-Bennett, Happy Valley at Daniel Boone, Hampton at Unicoi County, North Greene at South Greene.
Hilltoppers vs. Trojans — This could be the second-toughest game on Science Hill’s regular-season schedule. The Trojans are 3-0 with wins over Knox Fulton, Greeneville and previously undefeated Cherokee, which was hammered by West 56-13 on Friday.
Smoky Bears vs. Indians — Both teams are off to 3-0 starts and this game takes on a playoff-significance atmosphere.
Warriors vs. Trailblazers — Boone is coming off a 41-0 win while Happy Valley is coming off a 41-0 loss. Both teams have played Elizabethton, and combined to score only three points against the Cyclones.
Bulldogs vs. Blue Devils — In the last seven meetings, the final margin has been three points or less four times, including three of the last four. However, Hampton has won six in a row in this matchup.
Huskies vs. Rebels — North Greene hasn’t beaten its southern rival since 1992.
n Pick of the week — Morristown West 28, Science Hill 23.
The Hilltoppers should have the offensive prowess to put a few touchdowns on the scoreboard, but stopping West’s explosive offense will be a very tough task.
Picks record: 3-0.
n Player of the week — McKenly Berry of Elizabethton.
The Cyclones’ senior quarterback answered a rivalry challenge by connecting on 14 of 15 pass attempts for 198 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-0 whipping of Happy Valley.
Berry had scoring tosses of 10, 21, 26 and 19 yards to three different receivers.
n The Hogs Award — Dobyns-Bennett Indians.
In a 63-21 hammering of Sullivan South, the D-B linemen paved the way for 296 yards rushing on 35 carries, an average of 8.5 yards per attempt.
The pass protection was solid, allowing for 60 percent completions (3 of 5).
n Defensive unit of the week — Daniel Boone Trailblazers.
In a blitzing of Volunteer, the ‘Blazers hung a shutout on the Falcons.
Boone won 41-0 thanks in part to a defense that limited Volunteer to six yards rushing on 21 attempts. Boone gave up just 64 yards of total offense, allowed just 33 percent pass completions (6 of 18), intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, and forced six punts.
n This Week in Prep History — Sept. 1, 2001.
Making the move from Class 2A all the way to Class 4A, Johnson County did it seamlessly. The Longhorns’ Class 4A debut was a successful one with a 7-6 upset of Sullivan Central.
The Longhorns got a first-quarter touchdown pass from Adam Johnson to Michael Reid and made it stand up for the win.
n Sullivan North is up two spots to No. 7 while three new teams enter this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 3-0 1
2. Greeneville 1-1 2
3. Science Hill 2-1 3
4. Elizabethton 2-1 4
5. Tennessee High 2-1 6
6. Hampton 2-0 7
7. Sullivan North 3-0 9
8. Happy Valley 2-1 5
9. South Greene 2-1 nr
10. Unicoi County 2-1 nr
(tie) North Greene 3-0 nr