Coach Stacy Carter is excited about the possibilities for the second half of his second football season at Science Hill.
His Hilltoppers have suffered hard-fought road losses to Greeneville and Morristown West and a season-ending knee injury to senior linebacker Luke Hampton in their second game, but Carter talks like his Hilltoppers are on the verge of a quantum leap.
Science Hill (2-0, 3-2) is off Friday, and returns to Big Eight Conference play when it hosts Carter’s alma mater, Sullivan South, on Sept. 30.
“We’re so close to being a really good football team,” Carter said. “I hate that we have those losses … but I think it’s gonna help us down the stretch.”
Senior quarterback Justin Snyder has tallied nearly 1,200 yards of total offense. He played less than two quarters against Sullivan Central and barely beyond the first quarter at David Crockett.
“Justin is playing with all kinds of confidence,” Carter said. “He was completing 60.3 percent of his passes before he went 12-for-12 the other night.”
Senior receiver Aaron Greene has 19 catches for a league-leading 385 yards. Receivers coach Jeremy Bosken said Greene’s best catch might have come in the victory at Crockett.
“It was a deep comeback,” Bosken said. “He was dragging his toes inbounds and fully extended over the sidelines. … It looked like something you see in the pros.”
Bosken said Greene and senior Tab Britton set the tone for the receiving corps with an offseason that included showing up three days a week at 6 a.m.
“The leadership has been amazing,” Bosken said. “They’re doing drills on their own and holding each other accountable. I don’t have to say a thing.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Greene, who runs a 4.5 in the 40, was also the MVP of a Wide Receiver Academy camp this summer. He’s also gotten stronger, has become a true student of the position and relishes the opportunity to go against premier ’Toppers defenders such as Will Adams, Izzi McKenzie and even leading tackler O’Ryen Scott in practice.
“Aaron busted his tail this offseason,” Bosken said. “I don’t think there’s a kid that can press him in this area. … He’s blocking a lot better, too.”
Bosken said Greene’s impressive focus includes continuing to show up for 6 a.m. film sessions and working at Taco Bell on the weekends.
“He’s got a lot of responsibility for a high school student,” said Bosken, who added that Greene has received interest from such schools as Tennessee State and Tusculum.
Another senior, 6-foot-3, 295-pound Tyler Miles, is getting looks from Wofford, Furman, VMI and William & Mary.
Science Hill defensive coordinator Ralph Nelson said Miles will almost certainly be an offensive lineman in college, although he’s helped disrupt opposing offenses with some spot duty on the defensive interior. His penetration helped force an interception against Dobyns-Bennett in the jamboree.
Carter said Miles has played well, and his absence hurt the cause considerably when an ankle sidelined him against Morristown West.
Losing Hampton for the year in a win against Elizabethton has hurt the most.
“Luke was a leader of our football team,” Carter said.
Linebacker/receiver Todd Page-Gilmore has filled the void admirably. Carter, Nelson and Bosken all brought up his name while mentioning productive first-half performers.
Nelson also commended Damian Hayes, Bryson DeJesus and McKenzie.
The defense has been solid for the most part despite nagging injuries temporarily costing the services of players such as 5-foot-8, 220-pound senior defensive tackle Isaiah “Big Cat” Stephens and junior safety Bradley Fulbright. Stephens missed the first two games with an ankle sprain.
“Having Big Cat — Isaiah — back has helped us a lot,” Nelson said.
Anthony Head, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound junior, gives the Hilltoppers coaches a lot of options. An offensive lineman, among other things, Head scored on a 4-yard touchdown run against Crockett.
“He does so much for us,” Nelson said. “He’s a big guy who’s real athletic. He could play anywhere on the O-line or any position in the box on defense.”
Despite two losses, Science Hill enters the second half of the season tied for first in the Big Eight with No. 4 Dobyns-Bennett (2-0, 5-0).
Carter, Nelson and Bosken each appear excited about what the second half has in store. Science Hill fans, obviously, mainly hope it includes the first victory over No. 4 Dobyns-Bennett (2-0, 5-0) since 1994.