It might seem like a week where Science Hill’s coaching staff would be worried about players’ focus, but Stacy Carter says there’s too much work to do for anyone to be looking ahead.
“I think there are things we need to accomplish,” said Carter, the Hilltoppers’ head coach. “We found out last week some areas we need to work on defensively. There are things we need to do better.”
Science Hill (4-0, 5-2) will be a heavy favorite as it plays host to Volunteer (2-2, 2-5) in a Big Eight Conference contest tonight at Tipton Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
One thing Science Hill has been able to count on this season is the play of quarterback Justin Snyder. He has been a consistent force throughout, passing for just under 1,200 yards with 11 touchdowns while also rushing for close to 400 yards.
The Hilltoppers have also known they can count on yardage from running backs Will Adams and Jahmar Adams, and plenty of big plays from Aaron Greene at receiver. Greene could return this week after letting an ankle injury heal.
But there’s more. The Hilltoppers have added an explosive weapon in Malik McGue, a freshman who had shown flashes as the backup quarterback before breaking out in the 42-26 win over Daniel Boone last week with three touchdowns and 246 all-purpose yards.
“We’ve got to get him the ball,” said Carter. “He’s that talented. He can do a lot of things.”
One thing Carter expects from Volunteer is a little bit of power football.
“Since we had trouble with Boone running right at us, I expect Volunteer to use some unbalanced sets like Boone used,” said Carter.
Volunteer is led by quarterback Houston Harris, who has passed for 788 yards on the season. Receiver Jesse Simpson has 21 catches.
In other Big Eight contests tonight, Daniel Boone travels to take on Sullivan Central, David Crockett visits Sullivan South, and Tennessee High is at Dobyns-Bennett.
In Three Rivers Conference action, Elizabethton hits the road to battle Johnson County, Happy Valley is the away team against Sullivan North, and Sullivan East plays host to Unicoi County.
In Blue Ridge Conference action, Greeneville is the home team against Chuckey-Doak, West Greene is the visitor against South Greene, and Cumberland Gap is at home to take on Claiborne.
And in the Class A Mountain East Conference, Hampton invites Unaka to its field while North Greene has a road contest against Cloudland. Cosby is at Hancock County.
Daniel Boone (1-3, 2-5) at Sullivan Central (0-4, 0-7) — The Trailblazers are in backs-to-the-wall mode as their playoff hopes hang in the balance.
They have beaten Central seven years in a row, including blowouts each of the last two years. A big win this year may be what Boone needs to build momentum for a strong finish.
The Cougars have the lowest-scoring Class AAA team in the state, with just 40 points on the season, and have averaged just 2.0 points per game over the last five weeks. Only Memphis Northside (20), Memphis Oakhaven (20) and Jellico (28) have scored fewer points than Central across the state.
David Crockett (0-4, 0-7) at Sullivan South (2-2, 4-3) — These teams have only played four times in their history, and the Rebels have won all of them.
South is coming off its best defensive showing of the season, a 20-0 blanking of Volunteer. The Rebels also boast the Big Eight’s third-best offense in yards per game with 352.
Tennessee High (3-1, 4-3) at Dobyns-Bennett (4-0, 7-0) — It’s an interesting matchup because the Vikings are maybe just three or four plays away from having a banner season.
And it’s air vs. ground. The Indians have rushed for 1,485 more yards than they’ve throw for, while Tennessee High has passed for 445 more yards than it has rushing.
Elizabethton (2-1, 5-3) at Johnson County (0-3, 0-7) — The Longhorns have been a little more effective on offense as the season has progressed, but even if they score they will likely have tons of trouble slowing down the Cyclones’ attack.
Elizabethton has a neatly balanced offense that has totaled over 1,100 yards through the air and on the ground. Terrence Turner has rushed for 1,176 yards while McKenly Berry has passed for 1,130.
Happy Valley (1-2, 4-3) at Sullivan North (3-0, 8-0) — Feast or famine accurately describes the Warriors, who have been shut out three times and averaged 28.8 points in the other four games.
The unbeaten Raiders are far from dominant on defense, giving up 17 points per game. But they will outscore opponents, totaling 35 points or more in every game except one — and they had 28 for their lowest output.
Unicoi County (1-2, 2-5) at Sullivan East (2-1, 5-2) — It’s back to the drawing board for the Blue Devils, who are coming off a 52-point loss to Elizabethton.
Unicoi and Sullivan East combined to surrender 112 points last week, so the Patriots are searching for answers, too. However, East did have back-to-back shutouts before the 60-35 pounding by Class A Hampton.
Chuckey-Doak (3-0, 6-1) at Greeneville (3-0, 6-1) — In the two meetings since joining the same conference for the first time, Greeneville defeated the Black Knights by scores of 58-13 and 57-13.
It could be a little closer this time, but Doak might have to consider it a moral victory if it can stay within three touchdowns of the defending Class 4A state champions.
West Greene (3-1, 5-3) at South Greene (1-2, 4-3) — After losing 11 times in 12 years to the Rebels, the Buffaloes have turned the tables and won back-to-back games.
With running back Dalton Boles poised to go over the 2,000-yard mark in this game — he needs just 32 yards — West Greene enters as a strong favorite.
Unaka (2-1, 2-5) at Hampton (4-0, 7-0) — The biggest upset in this one would be if the Bulldogs had to play all of their starters much more than a half. Hampton’s offense has outscored the Rangers 300-44 this season.
One silver lining for Unaka is this week’s matchup may actually be a slim step easier than last week’s 55-7 loss to No. 1-ranked Boyd Buchanan.
North Greene (2-1, 4-3) at Cloudland (0-3, 1-6) — After a 4-1 start, the Huskies have come back down to earth thanks to a tough schedule.
Meanwhile, Cloudland is coming off its first win of the season, and has been competitive in every game this season except one.
And the Highlanders have won 20 straight games against North Greene, which last beat them in 1988. They have outscored the Huskies 195-7 in their last four meetings.