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Hilltoppers wounded, but looking forward

Douglas Fritz • Updated Sep 1, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Science Hill’s football team doesn’t stand in a good place.

But head coach Stacy Carter said the Hilltoppers won’t accept their circumstances.

“It has been a rough three weeks and this is adversity we’re going through,” Carter said. “But we’re not staying here. We have great kids, and I love being around this bunch. We will figure it out.”

After playing three games decided by a combined total of six points, Science Hill doesn’t have to dig deep to find reasons for being 1-2 instead of 3-0. Friday night’s 24-21 loss to Dobyns-Bennett was the second rival setback in three games for the Hilltoppers, who were bumped by Elizabethton 36-34 in the season opener.

Looking forward is the right thing to do, but the problem is defending Class 4A state champion Greeneville — a team that crushed D-B, 43-3 — is next on the schedule. And a road trip to face unbeaten Knox Bearden follows the Greeneville game.

But while the road ahead is treacherous, Carter said the Hilltoppers do not need a major overhaul.

“There’s not anything glaring, but we have to get better,” said Carter. “We’ve got to play team football to win. We don’t have a whole lot of superstars, and we have to play good hard-nosed football.”

A loss to D-B is never easy for Science Hill to take, but the close ones probably hurt a little more. Carter said three things the Indians did well were clock management, blocking, and the running of Ian Hicks.

“I thought their game plan was great,” said Carter. “They waited until the 40-second clock ran down, limiting our opportunities, and they did that from the first quarter on. They ran isolation and blocked us. And Ian ran fantastic, on a mission. He ran through tackles and did great things.

“But we still got the turnovers we needed. We made a couple of plays near the end zone.”

The difference in the game, Carter said, was his team’s inability to do what it does best.

“We didn’t run the ball effectively,” he said. “We have to run to be successful. They were in a 3-4, and did a good job with their technique and making plays. We didn’t run the ball consistently like we did against Elizabethton and Ooltewah.”

One positive note for Science Hill was its fourth-quarter drive to take a 21-17 lead after D-B had kicked a go-ahead field goal.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Carter. “They came back and won it at the end. It wasn’t like it was given to them.”

The game changed right before halftime. Science Hill took over deep in its own territory with a 14-7 lead, and the Indians had just one timeout remaining. A second-down incompletion, a failed third-down run, and a short punt, eventually allowed D-B to take over with 40 seconds left. The Indians tied the game on a screen pass to Ian Hicks from 32 yards out with a few ticks remaining on the clock.

“In hindsight we could have run (the clock) out,” said Carter. “But we only had so many opportunities. And they were getting the ball back to start the second half. That’s one we would have liked to have back.”

Carter said he and his coaching staff will work on fixing the fixable this week.

“We will make the adjustments we can make,” said Carter. “There are times in life where you have stuff like this. You just reach deep inside and fight through it. Who knows whether there will be something good down the road.”

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