There is nothing wrong with the respect factor for either Happy Valley or Sullivan East as they prepare for a key Three Rivers Conference contest.
“(Sullivan East) Coach (Mike) Locke does a good job,” said Happy Valley head coach Larry Shively. “They are just like night and day compared to last year.”
And Locke said, “This is a benchmark test to see if we’ve improved and progressed enough to challenge and play well against a good team.”
Kickoff is set for tonight at 7:30 on Warrior Hill.
In the other Three Rivers’ contest, Johnson County plays host to Sullivan North. In a nonconference game, Elizabethton hits the road to play Boone (N.C.) Watauga. Unicoi County has the week off.
In the Mountain East Conference, Hampton vists North Greene, Unaka travels to play Hancock County, and Cloudland hits the road to play Cosby.
In the Blue Ridge Conference, Greeneville is at West Greene, Chuckey-Doak is at home to face Cumberland Gap, and Grainger travels to take on Claiborne.
Sullivan East (1-1, 4-1) and Happy Valley (1-1, 4-2) are in a four-way logjam tie for second place in the league. So tonight’s winner will obviously be in much better shape.
“One game doesn’t define us,” said Shively. “But this game is important in the Three Rivers Conference. It is a crossroads game for us.”
Shively’s first concern will be slowing down East running back Austin Glover, who cut loose for 200 yards rushing in a 28-0 win over Sullivan Central last week. Glover also set the Patriots’ school record for career rushing yards, moving to 2,493.
“I think he’s as good as anybody in East Tennessee,” said Shively. “It seems like he’s been there 10 years. And you’ve also got to deal with (quarterback Daniel) Truett running the ball. Those two kids pile up a lot of yardage.”
Glover and Truett have combined for almost 1,100 yards rushing on the season to go along with 15 touchdowns.
When Happy Valley has the ball, the Warriors will rely on the one-two punch of Jaylen Simmons and Zack Ball. They have combined for exactly 1,000 yards rushing on the season and have totaled 11 touchdowns.
Both Simmons and Ball went over 100 yards in last week’s 13-10 win over Abingdon, Va.
And Shively said the Warriors will have an idea how to attack East’s defense.
“They run our defense,” said Shively. “They are like us, blitzing everywhere and lining up in crazy places. They are real aggressive.
“It all comes down to blocking and making the right reads for us.”
Sullivan North (2-0, 6-0) at Johnson County (0-2, 0-5) — The Longhorns will be hard-pressed to slow down the Raiders’ offensive attack.
North’s top three rushers — Cory Rowe, Kiree Thompson and Jacob Jasper — have combined to rush for over 1,600 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season.
Elizabethton (3-2) at Watauga (4-2) — It’s another find-out-when-you-getthere battle for the Cyclones as it’s hard to compare North Carolina football with Tennessee.
But the Pioneers do boast a good running back in Kyle Chambers (556 yard rushing with nine touchdowns) and a capable quarterback in Ethan Greene (649 yards passing with four TDs).
Elizabethton counters with running back Terrence Turner, who leads the Three Rivers Conference in rushing with 782 yards.
Hampton (2-0, 5-0) at North Greene (2-0, 4-2) — The Huskies have been stubborn on defense this season, but they haven’t seen the likes of Phillip Waters, the Bulldogs’ 1,000-yard rusher.
Unaka (1-1, 1-4) at Hancock County (1-1, 2-2) — Can the Rangers make it two wins in a row after last week’s stunner over Cloudland?
Cloudland (0-2, 0-5) at Cosby (0-2, 2-3) — Could this be the Highlanders’ last shot at a league win?
Greeneville (1-0, 4-1) at West Greene (2-0, 4-2) — Coming off the Alcoa win, will the Greene Devils have the focus to run away early from the Buffaloes?
West Greene boasts 1,500-yard runner Dalton Boles.
Cumberland Gap (0-2, 2-3) at Chuckey-Doak (2-0, 4-1) — The Black Knights look to continue their impressive start to the 2011 season.