Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten had a tough task this week, trying to rebuild his team’s psyche after a pounding at the hands of Sullivan North.
Fortunately, Witten said, tonight’s opponent helped the effort
“I think any time you play a team like Sullivan South, you’ve got no choice but to respond,” said Witten. “We understand what Sullivan South has done in the past, and we haven’t had much success against them the past couple of times.”
The teams haven’t played since 2008, but the last three games were blowouts in favor of the Rebels. South won 44-14, 58-14 and 34-6. The two games before that trio were one-point victories for the Rebels, and Elizabethton last won in 2003.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 at Rider Field.
Many teams have the night off, including Science Hill and Daniel Boone. Rounding out the rest of tonight’s schedule are Johnson County playing host to Hampton, David Crockett visiting South Greene, Sullivan East having home-field advantage against Sullivan Central, and Unicoi County is at home to take on Gatlinburg-Pittman.
In a pair of games involving out-of-state teams, Happy Valley visits Abingdon, Va., and Sullivan North plays host to Wise Central, Va.
Also, Greeneville plays host to Alcoa, North Greene is at West Greene, Chuckey-Doak is the home team against Cosby, and Cloudland is at home to take on Greenback.
Sullivan South, fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind 33-30 overtime win over Tennessee High, has been forced to move things around at the quarterback position because of injuries. But when you add Alex Rogers and Charlie Moore’s numbers together, it looks like a typical Sullivan South QB monster.
The duo has combined to pass for 610 yards and rush for 464 yards in four games, an average of 269 per contest. They have accounted for 14 touchdowns, six through the air and eight rushing.
Add in Jake Weaver’s 85 yards passing and touchdown toss, and it’s even more daunting.
“They still like to run the quarterback, but they do a lot of different things,” said Witten. “And they are putting up a lot of points (31 per game). They play hard and they’ve got good players.”
Elizabethton counters with a good offensive attack of its own, led by running back Terrence Turner. The junior cut loose for 206 yards against Sullivan North in just three quarters of action.
The Cyclones will hope for a rebound effort from quarterback McKenly Berry, who had completed a very impressive 71 percent of his passes before going 0 for 11 in the first three quarters against Sullivan North. He was without his top two receivers because of suspensions, but Chad Pritchard and Zach Treadway return this week.
“(Berry) has to play well for us to do the things we want to do,” said Witten. “He has the ability to make all of the throws. I think he just got out of rhythm last week.”
The Cyclones’ offense will have to be aware of linebacker J.C. Garvin, who is the returning Big Eight Conference player of the year and leads the league in tackles with 53.
Witten said his team really wants to make amends for the poor showing against North.
“Nobody ever wants to lose two games in a row at home,” said Witten. “To perform the way we did in front of the home crowd was the most disappointing thing. We’ve got to learn to respond.”
Hampton (4-0) at Johnson County (0-4) — It has been a rough season for the Longhorns, and it doesn’t get any easier as they face off against a team that beat them 30-7 in Week 1.
The rivalrly usually closes the gap between these teams, and Johnson County should know what it needs to do to keep the game closer. However, averaging less than seven points a game, Johnson County will be hard-pressed to outscore the Bulldogs.
David Crockett (0-4) at South Greene (3-2) — Defense has been the biggest issue for the Pioneers, having surrendered 57 points per game. And since the Rebels score 32 per contest, it’s another tough sell.
However, Crockett has won three straight in this series, so South Greene has some proving to do.
Sullivan Central (0-4) at Sullivan East (3-1) — The Patriots have been one of the area’s surprise teams, bursting out of the gates and averaging 29 points per game under first-year head coach Mike Locke.
These teams played a 14-13 game in 2010, with the Cougars earning their only victory of the season and dooming the Patriots to a winless year.
Gatlinburg-Pittman (2-2) at Unicoi County (2-3) — It has been an uneven season for the Blue Devils, who are coming off a tough loss to a rival.
Pittman usually fields a tough offensive team, but has only scored 63 points in three games this season. In what figures to be a tough matchup, could that be the Blue Devils’ silver lining?
Happy Valley (3-2) at Abingdon, Va. (0-3) — The Warriors righted the ship with last week’s win over Unicoi, and really need this win to maintain momentum — especially with two very important Three Rivers Conference games directly ahead on the schedule.
Abingdon is guided by former Science Hill head coach John Bowles.
Wise Central, Va. (2-0) at Sullivan North (5-0) — North hasn’t been playing around this season, rolling along with a powerful, deceptive and speedy ground attack that requires almost no passing.
Even though Wise Central is a new school that is off to a good start, look for the Raiders to give the Indians their first tase of defeat. Central is a consolidation of J.J. Kelly and Pound.
Alcoa (3-2) at Greeneville (3-1) — Who would have imagined these defending state champions would have three losses between them by the time they matched up?
However, it would be difficult to find anybody who is counting the Tornaodes out of the Class 3A state title chase — or Greeneville out of the Class 4A championship battle.
It should be quite an entertaining contest with a few points put up on the scoreboard. Home-field advantage in front of what should be a giant crowd could help Greeneville, but Alcoa’s seven straight state titles is a tradition that will be tough to overcome.
North Greene (4-1) at West Greene (3-2) — The Huskies are another team among the area’s surprises, but they may have to bite off more than they can chew against Buffaloes’ yardage machine Dalton Boles — who enters the game with 1,327 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
Cosby (2-2) at Chuckey-Doak (3-1) — The Black Knights still have some opportunities to rack up wins before their schedule takes a tougher shift in the final three weeks.
Greenback (5-0) at Cloudland (0-4) — Football life just doesn’t get any easier for the Highanders this week. The Cherokees are averaging 37 points per game while Cloudland has scored only 22 all season.