The Indians (4-0) have won six straight games dating back to last season and are ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Class 6A high school football poll.
Junior quarterback Zane Whitson is coming off his most impressive game to date, named the Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News Northeast Tennessee player of the week after throwing for 233 yards and a school-record five touchdowns in a 42-0 win over Hardin Valley. Through four games, Whitson has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions.
If that isn’t enough, he’s also proven to be an elusive runner when needed. In addition, he has a pair of running backs in Phillip “Thunder” Armitage and Tyler “Lightning” Tesnear, who combined for nearly 300 rushing yards in a 39-14 win at Bearden.
“Offensively, they don’t make many mistakes and take care of the ball well,” Daniel Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “They have a good pair of backs who run hard and the quarterback does a good job of making good decisions. We haven’t seen a scheme like this where 75-80 percent of their stuff is RPOs (run, pass options). They do a good job in the RPO game and that’s their bread and butter. They put you in a predicament trying to cover their playmakers.”
A pair of those playmakers were receivers Nacir Sensabaugh and Dalton Harkleroad, who scored on 69-yard pass plays in the Hardin Valley game.
On the other side, the Trailblazers (1-3), who have bitten hard by the injury bug. Playing without three of their top players in running back Charlie Cole, linebacker Devon White and lineman Chandler Masters, Boone lost 35-12 to Elizabethton two weeks ago.
Masters is out for the season after undergoing ACL surgery earlier this week. White is scheduled to be back in a limited capacity Friday night. Despite missing the last two games, Cole still ranks as the team’s leading rusher with 224 yards and two touchdowns.
With the injuries, Boone has embraced a next-man-up attitude. The ’Blazers were able to move the chains against Elizabethton, which didn’t surprise Dobyns-Bennett head coach Joey Christian.
“One thing you can count on with a Jeremy Jenkins-coached team is they are going to be physical,” Christian said. “They’re going to try to run the football as they’ve done for years. They do it out of different formations, different sets and different ways — but it’s always about who is the most physical football team, who can run the ball and who can stop the run.”
Quarterback Kaleb Worley ranks second on the team with 153 rushing yards, while Brennan Blair and Joe Jones have rushed for some tough yards.
Boone is playing two quarterbacks — Worley and Jackson Jenkins — who have combined to complete 33 of 66 passes for 273 yards. Phillip Page and Blair are leading receivers with eight catches, while Daniel Matherly has seven.
Still, Jenkins knows his team will have its hands full against the Dobyns-Bennett defense.
“When you watch them on film, they really fly to the ball,” Jenkins said. “They play extremely hard. Their front runs to the ball and their secondary is extremely active. They’re well coached and do a good job of playing their responsibility. We have to do a good job of keeping a hat on a hat and moving the ball.
“We have to do some stuff on the ground. If you have to throw all the time with their pass rush, it’s going to be a long night.”
The Indians will be without leading tackler Nate Whitley, although he is expected to be back the following week for Region 1-6A play against Jefferson County.
Whitley has a team-best 34 tackles followed by Jet Harris with 31 and Braxton Kulbacki with 28. Other leaders include: Jackson Martin with 26 tackles, Isaac Ratliff, 16; Ricky Wagner, 13; and Cam Williamson and Fonzo Booker with 12 each.
For the home team, Jenkins has made adjustments to Boone’s defense and the Elizabethton game featured sophomore Bo Newton and freshman Hagan Edwards at inside linebackers.
K.C. Vicchio leads the ’Blazers with 20 tackles, followed by Daniel Lusk with 18 and Edwards with 17. A trio of players — Preston Miller, Austin Cunningham and Cole Bishop — all have 16 stops. In addition, Will Hamlin has two tackles for a loss, a sack and fumble recovery.
“We think the world of a lot of their players,” Christian said. “Edwards, in there as a freshman at linebacker against Elizabethton, did an excellent job. Their Sam linebacker, KC Vicchio, is good and they’ve got big defensive tackles they try to stop the run with.
“Their best player to me is No. 44 Cole Bishop. They move him around. He played mostly defensive end in the Elizabethton game after he played linebacker against Tennessee High and Greeneville. They’ve got two starting corners — Daniel Lusk and Joe Jones — who are seniors. They’re corners who will come up and make a tackle as well as being good cover guys.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30.