Which team faces the toughest schedule to start season?

Douglas Fritz • Aug 5, 2019 at 7:59 PM

The First Four.

It’s the first month of the high school football season — five weeks for teams with an early bye — and it holds nearly half of a team’s regular season allotment of games.

Getting off to a good start in some sports isn’t that big of a deal. But with only 10 games to prove your postseason worth in football, a slow start can be extremely difficult to overcome.

With that in mind, which area teams face the toughest scheduling tasks right out of the gates?

Here’s the top 10 — counting down from more favorable to the toughest First Four schedule for area teams:

No. 10


Starting with a home rivalry game against Daniel Boone is difficult, but the Rebels should be favored in their next three: Cherokee at home before traveling to meet Grainger and Gate City, Virginia.

No. 9


By the time the Highlanders get to a favorite role against Hancock County, they will have traveled to meet rivals Happy Valley and Hampton with South Greene at home in between.

No. 8


On the road to face private school Christian Academy of Knoxville makes a tough opener. The Falcons follow that up with Sullivan Central, David Crockett and Sullivan East at home.

No. 7


The Cyclones will meet two of the top running backs in Northeast Tennessee in weeks 1 and 3 (Science Hill’s Chris Thomas and Daniel Boone’s Charlie Cole). Games at Sullivan East and home for Grainger round out the early slate.

No. 6


A three-game road stretch is tough enough, but since the opponents are Gatlinburg-Pittman, Unicoi County and league-rival Happy Valley, it’s a daunting task. And the next game is another rival: Cloudland.

No. 5


After opening at home against a pair of solid Class 6A schools in Ooltewah and Science Hill, the Pioneers travel to Volunteer before a road trip to battle private school Knox Webb.

No. 4


Three big road challenges hit the Vikings right off the bat: Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone and intra-city rival Virginia High. With that trio to start, the Week 4 home game against Morristown East looks inviting.

No. 3


The good news is the Indians have three at home. But after playing host to Tennessee High and Oak Ridge, the Indians hit the road for a tough region battle against Knox Bearden. Up next is another league challenge against Hardin Valley.

No. 2


It starts with a rivalry game on the road (Sullivan South), followed by the two-time defending Class 4A state champs (Greeneville) at home. Then the Trailblazers face arguably their second-biggest league game (Tennessee High) before hitting the road again for Class 4A power Elizabethton.

No. 1


With opponents coming off a combined season of 43-8, this was an easy pick for the top spot.

The Hilltoppers open with Elizabethton before traveling to David Crockett and Hardin Valley. The stretch ends at home against Greeneville.

For a team with a lot of young starters, Science Hill will have to grow up fast.

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