Special can mean extraordinary. It can also mean limited or peculiar.
Unfortunately for Science Hill, special teams play has been the latter instead of the former — especially when trying to tack on the extra point after a touchdown.
On 12 PAT attempts this season, the Hilltoppers have converted only six. It hurt Science Hill in the season-opening loss to Greeneville, made things a bit more difficult against Elizabethton, and cost the Hilltoppers in Friday’s 22-19 loss to Morristown West.
“I take it all on me,” said head coach Stacy Carter. “We are emphasizing it a lot. But when you play good teams, stuff like that shows up fast. You can get away with it sometimes, but real good teams exploit it.”
Sometimes it has been a lineof-scrimmage failure that leads to a blocked kick. But others have just been missed kicks.
“We’ve got a real good kicker (Perry Murdaugh),” said Carter, whose statement is backed up by the 20- and 30-yard field goals Murdaugh made against West. “This is the first year he’s ever kicked a football. I can’t put anything on him.”
Carter said the art of PATs is tougher in high school than college simply because of the time available to devote to special teams. But he said that’s not an excuse for the Hilltoppers.
“We went 57 of 58 at Sullivan South one year,” said Carter. “I’ve just got to get it fixed. And it is fixable.
“And we can have a real good football team if we get this straightened up.”
Other teams in the Big Eight Conference have had less difficulty getting the ball between the uprights this season. Dobyns-Bennett (24 of 24) and Tennessee High have combined to go 42 of 43. Daniel Boone is 8 of 10, David Crockett is 7 of 9, and Sullivan Central is 3 of 4.
However, it’s not an issue confined only to Science Hill. Sevier County missed two extra-point attempts Friday, including one late in the fourth quarter that would tied the game against Dobyns-Bennett. The Indians won, 42-41.
Carter said his team’s loss to Morristown West might help expedite improvements in the kicking game.
“You would like to get a win and learn,” said Carter. “But sometimes a loss hurts deeper and makes the coaches want to coach harder and the players play harder. And if you win, sometimes you sweep something like this under the rug.”
• Putting 200 wins in perspective, it would take 20 consecutive 10-win seasons reach the milestone.
Graham Clark is in his 19th season at Dobyns-Bennett, after two years at Chilhowie in Virginia, and he reached the victory milestone with Friday’s thrilling win over Sevier County.
“I don’t know what the big deal is,” said Clark, getting ready to deliver the witty oneliners he seems to have at hand just like a business card. “I’ve just won two games a year for 100 years.”
He said getting to 200 wins was possible because of “good players and healthy living.”
When pushed a little bit for a serious answer, Clark used a recent anecdote to sum up his coaching career.
“I saw a young man the other day who had been through a troubled life, and had played for us many years ago,” said Clark. “He told me he had gotten his life straightened out. He said, ‘Coach, I want you to know, I love you because you never quit on me. That’s the best part about coaching. When it’s said and done, the wins are fun and the losses are hard, but that’s the best part.”
• Stat chat: Dobyns-Bennett is the area’s highest-scoring team, averaging 42 points per game.
Next is Tennessee High at 37.3 per contest. …
David Crockett has allowed 173 points in three games, an average of 57.7 per contest. That’s the highest average in the state, but two teams have given up more total points.
Cannon County has allowed 199 while Mount Juliet Christian has surrendered 186. Both have played four games for averages of 49.8 and 46.5, respectively.
Crockett’s next game is at home against Science Hill, which has an explosive offense. Against a tough schedule so far, the Hilltoppers have averaged 28 points per game.
• Football games of the week — Dobyns-Bennett at Daniel Boone, Tennessee High at Sullivan South, Sullivan North at Elizabethton, Happy Valley at Unicoi County, South Greene at Greeneville.
Indians vs. Trailblazers — With the way the ’Blazers have been playing on defense, it seems reasonable to think they have a shot at the Indians. However, D-B has put up at least six touchdowns in each of its last three games.
Vikings vs. Rebels — The first order of business for Tennessee High will be regrouping from last week’s loss to city rival Virginia High, where a big late-game mistake — punting on third down while trailing by one point — cost the Vikings a chance to avoid the major upset. If South strikes early, the Vikings might be looking at a second straight upset.
Raiders vs. Cyclones — North has racked up a lot of points and a lot of yards in four wins, but Elizabethton has played a tougher schedule to this point. It should be an entertaining contest with the Three Rivers Conference title likely on the line.
Warriors vs. Blue Devils — It’s a really good rivalry, and Happy Valley is sorely in need of a win. If Unicoi can slow down the Warriors’ ground game, it has a good chance at the victory.
Rebels vs. Greene Devils — There’s no doubt Greeneville is a heavy favorite. But South Greene won’t come to town wanting to back down.
• Pick of the week — Dobyns-Bennett 31, Daniel Boone 20.
The Trailblazers have made a lot of strides in the last two weeks after a very slow start to the season. However, those strides will likely not be fast enough to keep up with the Indians’ explosive tripleoption offense.
• Player of the week — Phillip Waters of Hampton.
Just one week after rushing for 332 yards, the Hampton running back ripped off a 275-yard effort in a 43-20 win over Unicoi County.
Waters, a 6-2, 200-pound senior, did it on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 29, 5 and 51 yards.
• The Hogs Award — Hampton Bulldogs.
Waters made the highlight-reel runs, but the “Dog Hogs” made it possible with big blocks all over the place. Hampton’s linemen cleared the way for 364 yards rushing on 38 carries, an average of 9.6 yards per attempt.
• Defensive unit of the week — Daniel Boone Trailblazers.
In a 29-0 win over Happy Valley, Boone’s defense not only shut down Happy Valley’s offense, it produced as many touchdowns (2) as the Trailblazers’ offense earned.
The ’Blazers held the Warriors to 76 yards rushing on 29 carries and 112 total yards. They forced 16 incomplete passes, picked off two passes and ran both back for scores. They also recovered a fumble and forced seven punts.
• This Week in Prep History — September 10, 1999.
Daniel Boone running back Sean Hogan earned his second straight player of the week honor, rushing for 185 yards in a 48-14 win over Volunteer. He also had a 52-yard touchdown run.
• Elizabethton, Hampton and Sullivan North each power up a spot in this week’s Prep Top 10.