BRISTOL – Science Hill started fast and pass-happy Tennessee High delayed the inevitable for nearly three hours during the Hilltoppers’ 35-7 Big Eight Conference victory on a chilly night Friday at the Stone Castle.
Brothers Jahmar and Will Adams combined for 211 of Science Hill’s 287 yards rushing and scored a touchdown apiece as the Hilltoppers improved to 6-0 in the league and 7-2 overall during their final tuneup for a league-title showdown with Dobyns-Bennett (6-0, 9-0) on Thursday at Kermit Tipton Stadium.
D-B was a common topic around Johnson City this week, and there was some concern that Science Hill might not be sharp for the Vikings (3-3, 4-5), who must win at Volunteer next week to make the playoffs.
But Will Adams immediately revealed Science Hill’s focus. He would’ve scored from 55 yards out on the game’s first play from scrimmage if not for a block in the back near the goal line, but scored from 12 yards out on the ensuing play.
Todd Page-Gilmore returned an Austin Delph interception across the field and up the right sideline 28 yards for a TD, and Perry Murdaugh’s PAT kick gave the Hilltoppers a 14-0 lead with 3:59 left in the first quarter.
Will Adams’ first three carries went for a combined 81 yards, and he finished with nine carries for 88 yards. Jahmar Adams (14 carries, 123 yards) scored from eight yards out while going off right tackle untouched to help build the lead to 21-0 with 11:54 left in the first half.
Two plays before Jahmar’s TD, Will caught a 12-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 to give Science Hill 1st-and-goal at the Tennessee High 9-yard line.
The Adams brothers had 158 yards rushing at intermission.
Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter said it was important for the Hilltoppers to set the tone with a potential peek-ahead game looming.
“I think it was big,” Carter said. “We had some movement, had some big plays (early in the game).”
Science Hill quarterback Justin Snyder credited offensive line coach Andrew Beck, who spent the previous 10 years at Tennessee High coaching under Greg Stubbs, in helping fuel the ground game Friday. (Stubbs, a former Science Hill assistant whose Vikings won 94 games in 10 seasons, was honored at halftime, as was the 1971 state championship team.)
“We knew we had to establish the running game,” Snyder said. “Coach Beck is a phenomenal coach. He’s got our linemen playing great.”
Tennessee High’s Treyvond Delaney (19 rushes, 101 yards) scored on a 1-yard TD run to get the Vikings within 21-7 with a minute left in the first half.
Any wonder other than how many times the Vikings would pass – they threw 44; Delph was 24 of 43 for 185 yards and Johnny Deel incompleted a flanker flea-flicker – was removed when Snyder threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to O’Ryen Scott on a fourth-down bootleg. It gave the Hilltoppers a 28-7 lead with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
Science Hill got the ball right back at the Tennessee High 1-yard line when defensive tackle Isaiah “Big Cat” Stephens drifted off the line for an interception and looked nimble and strong while returning it 31 yards and just short of the end zone.
“The defense stepped up and played tremendous,” Carter said. “They gave us a short field all night, got the defensive score and … basically two scores on defense. I’m proud of how they played. They needed a big game, and that was a super defensive game all the way around.”
Anthony Head’s 1-yard run on the ensuing play and Murdaugh’s fifth PAT kick with 56 seconds left in the third quarter concluded the scoring.
The Vikings’ turnover woes aren’t anything new. Page-Gilmore’s interception return for a TD was the fifth “pick six” THS has allowed this season.
“We’re still turning the ball over … but literally just three or four plays from this thing being competitive right down to the wire,” Tennessee High first-year coach Shane Boggs said. “And they’ve got a great football team. That’s a great offensive football team. Our defense didn’t play perfect, but they played very well. They certainly, once again, gave us a chance to win.”
Snyder was 10 of 17 for 100 yards. He also rushed nine times for 44 yards. Malik McGue had four receptions for 40 yards.
The Vikings' Delaney got 36 of his 101 yards rushing on a delay handoff against a prevent defense on the final play of the first half. Adrian Levergne had seven catches for 67 yards for Tennessee High, which got a 51-yard kickoff return from Alex Pender.
Science Hill has lost 17 straight games to Dobyns-Bennett during the past 16 seasons. Carter said celebrating Friday’s victory would cease quickly.
“I think we’ve probably got about 15 minutes and then we’ve gotta get ready,” said Carter, who doesn’t mind talking about D-B’s staggering streak. “You factor it in. I mean, hey, it’s been 17 years. I mean our kids are hungry and they need to change this; we all need to change this.”