If Elizabethton had any thoughts of taking Unicoi County lightly, head coach Shawn Witten said they were erased by watching film.
“We saw a lot of good things out of Unicoi on film,” said Witten. “They have things that can give you problems. They’ve gotten better at the skill positions, and they’ve scored a lot of points.”
The Cyclones will play host to the Blue Devils in a Three Rivers Conference game tonight at Rider Field. Kickoff is at 7:30.
Both teams are 1-1 in league play while the Cyclones are 4-3 overall and Unicoi is 2-4.
Blue Devils’ head coach Jerad Huskins said his team can’t get into a shootout.
“We can’t get into a home-run hitting contest,” said Huskins. “They’ve got more bullets than we do. We’ve got to move the ball, and we can’t be three and out.”
In other games involving Three Rivers teams, Sullivan East travels to play Hampton, Johnson County visits Wise Central, Va., and Sullivan North is at Union, Va. Happy Valley has the week off.
In the Blue Ridge Conference, Greeneville has a road game against Cumberland Gap, South Greene will be the away team against Grainger, and Claiborne plays host to West Greene. Chuckey-Doak has a non-conference contest at North Greene.
In Class A contests, Unaka plays host to No. 1-ranked Boyd Buchanan, and Cloudland is the home team against King’s Academy.
Even if Witten hadn’t seen good things on film, he said he would still have been concerned about the Unicoi game.
“These are the games that worry coaches the most,” said Witten. “This game is as big as any other game. We need to make sure we do what we need to do to win.”
Part of that will likely be handing the ball to Terrence Turner, who has gained 206, 156 and 243 yards in his last three games. The junior running back has carried the ball 77 total times in those contests.
“There will come a time when people will focus on Terrence,” said Witten. “So we’ve still got to be able to spread the ball around. We can’t allow one guy to make all the plays.”
Certainly Turner has Unicoi’s attention.
“Every time we look at film, Turner is ripping off 50, 60 and 70-yard runs against good teams,” said Huskins. “We’re really concerned about keeping him bottled up.”
Elizabethton has won often in this series. In 2006, Unicoi earned its first win over Elizabethton in four decades. The Blue Devils played the Cyclones close the next year (17-6), but Elizabethton followed with wins of 49-14, 62-14 and 41-6.
The Blue Devils rely on the arm of Austin Hensley, who is second to Elizabethton’s McKenly Berry in the league’s passing leaders for the season. Hensley has thrown for 898 yards and eight scores while Berry has passed for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Unicoi’s Hunter Goddard is one of Northeast Tennessee’s leading receivers with 31 catches for 250 yards.
Sullivan East (5-1) at Hampton (6-0) — Before the season started, this matchup probably didn’t look all that thrilling.
However, the Patriots have surprised everybody. They are coming off back-to-back 28-0 wins, and have allowed just six points in their last three games.
It should also be noted, however, that Hampton scored 109 total points in the last two headto-head matchups against East.
Greeneville (2-0, 5-1) at Cumberland Gap (0-3, 2-4) — Despite their record, the Panthers have been competitive at times this season. However, Greeneville is a different animal.
The Greene Devils have scored at least 42 points in each of their last four games, and outscored the Panthers 124-6 over the last two meetings — including a 70-0 drubbing last season.
South Greene (1-1, 4-2) at Grainger (1-2, 2-5) — The Rebels put up 60 points and totaled over 600 yards of offense in their last game, but haven’t played in two weeks.
With a chance to enhance its playoff status, don’t expect South Greene to take its foot off the gas.