As the football season races toward the final three weeks — didn’t it just start? — some teams have their eyes locked on earning a postseason berth.
However, most coaches will say their teams aren’t talking about the playoffs, which probably isn’t true. But they certainly don’t want their players getting the postseason cart out front before the regular season horse has reached its destination.
Still it’s easy to imagine a little tension is starting to mount in the camps of two of the area’s top programs in 2011. Dobyns-Bennett is in a familiar spot at 7-0, as evidenced by its 11 double-digit-win seasons in the last 15 years.
And with head coach Stacy Carter riding first saddle, Science Hill (5-2) is trying its level best to close the gap on the Indians. This year’s group of Hilltoppers is probably the second-best team — to this point — this side of Greeneville.
However, it’s interesting to note both Science Hill and D-B are suffering similar mental woes. The Hilltoppers can’t get over the Indians’ hump, and the Indians can’t get past the early rounds of the playoffs.
The Hilltoppers haven’t beaten D-B since 1994, and the Indians have lost in the first round of the playoffs four times in the last six years — and were defeated in the second round the other two seasons. Three times it was D-B’s first loss of the season.
But those facts have to take a back seat for a short time to this: There’s a lot of football left to play, and neither team can afford to lose “season momentum” in the next two weeks.
Losing momentum in the course of a game is one thing, and it can be regained. Losing season momentum rarely can be overcome — although Greeneville did it two years ago after a 1-3 start, reaching the Class 4A title game.
D-B and Science Hill swap opponents the next two weeks before playing each other in Week 10. The Indians play host to Tennessee High on Friday while Science Hill is home against Volunteer.
The Hilltoppers and Indians travel to play Tennessee High and Volunteer, respectively, in Week 9.
n Playoff update: Here’s a look at some changes from last week in the playoff picture.
Class 6A — Science Hill moved ahead of Karns into the No. 4 spot while Maryville, D-B and Sevier County still occupy the top three spots.
However, although the TSSAA currently lists Maryville in Quadrant 1 and Farragut in Quadrant 2, those schools are almost exactly the same distance from Science Hill and D-B. Depending on how the final bracket fills out, there’s a chance Farragut could be placed in Q1 and Maryville shifted to Q2.
TSSAA assistant executive director Richard McWhirter said the organization will carefully determine distances from all schools in the bracket before making final quadrant decisions.
Class 5A — Despite its loss to Sevier County, Morristown West is still a solid No. 1 in Quadrant 1.
Only a couple of the two-win teams across the state earned a third win Friday, so Daniel Boone is still within shouting distance of a playoff berth. However, the Trailblazers may need to win out.
Class 3A — Elizabethton moved up a spot into the No. 3 position in Quadrant 1.
With four three-win teams earning their fourth win across the state Friday, things have gotten a little crowded for Happy Valley, which will surely need a fifth win to have a shot at reaching the postseason.
Class 2A — Three teams across the state bumped up to three wins, putting Unaka on a little bit of thin ice. However, the Rangers’ tough schedule will be a big benefit in any potential tiebreakers.
n Stat chat: Dalton Boles continued his assault on the state’s record books in Friday’s 40-22 win over Claiborne. The West Greene running back totaled 281 yards on 23 carries, giving him 1,981 on the season.
Boles needs 620 yards to move into the top 10 on the all-time list. He is averaging 248 yards per game, so he could reach the mark with two regular season games and the strong likelihood of at least one playoff game.
The all-time record of 3,008 seems out of reach unless the Buffaloes make a deep run into the playoffs. …
Showing remarkable consistency, Boles has a long run of at least 56 yards in every game this season. Here is his list of longest runs in each game: 86, 56, 65, 63, 87, 65, 70 and 81. ...
Hampton’s Phillip Waters has an impressive pace of his own. Waters gained 137 yards in Friday’s 60-35 win over Sullivan East, putting him at 1,468 yards. Waters, who has three regular-season games remaining, is averaging 210 yards per contest.
n Football games of the week — Tennessee High at Dobyns-Bennett, Happy Valley at Sullivan North, Unaka at Hampton, Chuckey-Doak at Greeneville, West Greene at South Greene.
Vikings vs. Indians — Some folks may look at this as a comfortable win for D-B, but statistics paint a closer picture. The Vikings are just one game back in the league’s title chase, and have doubled their opponents in scoring 255-127 on the season.
Warriors vs. Raiders — When the season began, this figured to be a big battle for second place in the Three Rivers Conference. Now it’s a matter of North having a chance to clinch the league title while the Warriors are clinging to playoff hopes.
Rangers vs. Bulldogs — Even though Hampton is probably a four-touchdown favorite, Unaka is still just one game back in the conference title race.
Black Knights vs. Greeneville — Chuckey-Doak is 6-1 and undefeated in league play. However, the Black Knights are a huge underdog against the defending Class 4A state champions.
Buffaloes vs. Rebels — South Greene’s slip last week against Grainger puts its postseason hopes in a little bit of jeopardy. But a win here would change things.
n Pick of the week — Sullivan North 36, Happy Valley 14.
There is just way too much offense in the Raiders’ backfield for Happy Valley to handle for four quarters.
Picks record: 7-1.
n Note: Weekly honors are reserved for teams whose games are covered by our staff, and games reported to us. To report details of a game on Friday nights, coaches or the team’s designated statisticians may call 929-3111 or e-mail the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday games reported on Saturday are also eligible for weekly honor consideration.
To be considered for individual player of the week honors, the Johnson City Press must have an individual head-and-shoulder picture available.
n Player of the week — Malik McGue of Science Hill.
Changing the talk into evidence, the Freshman made Daniel Boone look a step slow in Friday’s 42-26 victory. The WR/RB/KR/QB caught four passes for 126 yards and scored on plays of 59 and 41 yards. He also returned a kickoff 93 yards for a third score. McGue finished with 246 all-purpose yards.
n The Hogs Award — Hampton Bulldogs.
Hampton’s offensive line was in hog heaven in a 60-35 win over Sullivan East.
The “Bull Hogs” cracked pads to pave the way for 383 yards rushing on 51 attempts, an average of 7.5 yards per carry. Also, Hampton’s pass protection allowed for 50 percent completions on pass attempts (3 of 6).
n Defensive unit of the week — Elizabethton Cyclones.
In a 52-0 blowout of Unicoi County, Elizabethton’s defense had its way. The Cyclones allowed just 74 total yards, limiting the Blue Devils to an average of just one yard per carry in 24 attempts.
Elizabethton picked off two passes, totaled four quarterback sacks, and forced seven punts.
n This Week in Prep History — October 4, 1996.
In a 43-35 shootout win over Sullivan East, Clayton Story had a memorable effort for David Crockett. He carried 24 times for 220 yards and scored five touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 61, 25, 14, 54 and 16 yards.
Pioneers’ junior linebacker Bert Britton totaled 17 tackles in the game.
n Sullivan South and Tennessee High edge up a spot apiece in this week’s Prep Top 10.
Team W-L Prv
1. Dobyns-Bennett 7-0 1
2. Greeneville 6-1 2
3. Science Hill 5-2 3
4. Sullivan North 8-0 4
5. Hampton 7-0 5
6. Elizabethton 5-3 6
7. Sullivan South 4-3 8
8. Tennessee High 4-3 9
9. Sullivan East 5-2 7
10. Chuckey-Doak 6-1 10