The league season openers are Friday night, highlighted by Sullivan East’s visit to Elizabethton. Kickoff is set for Citizens Bank Stadium at 7:30.
Elizabethton is 2-0 on the season while the Patriots have suffered a pair of close setbacks.
Also on the league schedule is Sullivan South playing host to Grainger.
In Region 1-3A, Unicoi County opens region play at home against North Greene.
In 1-2A, Happy Valley visits Hampton while Sullivan North is at home to take on Cosby.
And in Class 1A, Unaka hits the road to meet Hancock County.
The Cyclones were still brimming over the edge from the Science Hill win when they worked their way past South Greene last week. Head coach Shawn Witten said his team has plenty of work to do.
“There is just so much for us to improve, especially offensively,” said Witten. “We need to get in a better rhythm, and we’re trying to establish a running game.”
Witten said East will present some challenges.
“They are little bit wing-T with misdirection plays, and they are big up front,” said Witten. “Defensively, I want to see our guys get off the field. We need more three and outs, more stops.”
A couple of strengths for Elizabethton this season have been discipline and tackling, Witten said.
“I think we’ve played the most disciplined football we’ve played in the last 12 years,” he said. “And I think our tackling is the best it has been.”
The Patriots last won in this matchup back in 2007. The most recent five meetings haven’t been close with Elizabethton winning by 43 points last year and 36, 49, 49 and 42 in the previous games.
It is an interesting matchup with the Grizzlies. The Rebels scored 59 points last week while Grainger surrendered only three in its season-opening win over Pigeon Forge.
The eight points Grainger scored against the Tigers probably won’t be enough this week as Luke Pollack has settled in nicely as the Rebels’ starting quarterback.
Through two games, the Blue Devils have found the right mix of passing, rushing and defense. Now they get a chance in a big favorite role to let it rip on both sides of the ball.
Running back Kody Lewis has rushed for 281 yards in two games and is averaging eight per carry.
The Warriors have had Hampton’s number the last couple of years. A 17-16 win in 2016 was followed by a 41-0 drubbing last year.
Happy Valley started this year with a 33-7 loss to Volunteer on Aug. 17, and has enjoyed two weeks to prepare for the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Hampton got off to a tough start with a surprise loss to Trinity Academy before an equally surprising 20-19 win over Johnson County last week.
This could be shaping up for a special season for the Raiders. They are heavily favored this week against Cosby, which has been outscored by a combined margin of 89-7 in two games against traditionally struggling programs.
The Raiders are looking for a 3-0 start under first-year head coach Preston Patrick. North’s most recent 3-0 start was in 2015.
The Rangers have had two weeks to enjoy their season-opening victory over North Greene, and they split two games with Hancock County last year.
Unaka hasn’t started 2-0 since 2007.