Backs against the wall: 'Toppers face unbeaten Bearden

Douglas Fritz • Sep 13, 2018 at 3:51 PM

No sugar coating needed here, and Stacy Carter didn’t mince words.

“Our backs are against the wall,” the Science Hill head football coach said. “We all know that, from the coaching staff to the players. We’ve been practicing with a sense of urgency. We have to fight out of this. We have to get it going, and get it going fast.”

Trying to avoid an 0-2 hole to start the Region 1-6A schedule, the Hilltoppers travel to take on undefeated Knox Bearden on Friday night with kickoff set for 7:30.

The Hilltoppers (1-3) opened their league slate with a tough 24-21 loss to rival Dobyns-Bennett. A second region loss would limit their chances of a earning a home playoff game, and would start them on an unwanted path toward missing the postseason altogether.

Meanwhile, it has been clear sailing for the Bulldogs. They defeated Knox West, Cleveland, Jefferson County and South Doyle, including two shutouts and one seven-point allowance.


Carter said the Bulldogs like to attack with their defense.

“They are very aggressive,” he said. “They blitz a lot and get to the ball well. They aren’t real big, but they fly around to the football. It’s an all-or-nothing defense. It’s an unorthodox scheme, but it has been effective.”

To highlight the blitzing mentality, Bearden has 41 tackles for loss in four games. Condredge Holloway leads the way eight while Caleb Wilkins has six.

To counter Bearden’s assault, Carter said the Hilltoppers have to do what they do best.

“We have to run the ball,” he said. “That’s where you can be successful against them, with big gashing runs.”

Science Hill was unable to run the ball effectively against Greeneville in last week’s blowout loss, but the ’Toppers were without leading rusher Chris Thomas. He returns this week along with wideout Joshua Santiago, who also missed the contest.


The Bulldogs rely on junior quarterback Collin Ironside, who has completed 54 of 91 passes for 492 yards and a touchdown this season. He is also the team’s No. 2 rusher with 115 yards on 35 carries.

Wilkins, at running back, has gained 329 yards and totaled five scores.

Hayden Candela and Addison Ironside, Collin’s brother, have racked up the bulk of the team’s receptions with 22 and 19, respectively. Both are averaging under 10 yards per catch.

“It’s a different look from recent years,” Carter said. “It’s more spread and the quarterback runs more.”


Carter said his team has to fight from the opening kickoff to the final horn.

“We just have to play four quarters,” he said. “Good start, bad start, we just have to play the whole time.”


Science Hill won the last two games in this series, but lost at Bearden in 2015 in its last trip to face the Knoxville school. It was a 22-21 decision where the Bulldogs went for a 2-point conversion after scoring on their overtime possession.

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