The Rebels battled Greeneville on Oct. 11 when the Greene Devils stood at No. 1. On Friday, they will travel to take on the new No. 1 Class 4A team in the state, Elizabethton. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“It is a challenge,” said South head coach Justin Hilton. “Our conference has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest, in any classification in this area for the past few years. It’s fun to play the best, prepare for the best and see where you stand. We have gotten to do that more than anyone the past couple of years.”
South didn’t measure up against Greeneville in a 49-0 loss, but the Rebels didn’t have their best offensive weapon. Against the Cyclones the Rebels get a chance to see if running back Julian Reed can make a difference against the team that just defeated two-time defending state champion Greeneville.
Reed rushed for 1,093 yards and scored 14 touchdowns before getting injured against Union County. He missed the Greeneville game and also sat out South’s 42-7 win over Sullivan East last week.
What helped make Reed effective was a big offensive line, which has been South’s calling card this season.
“They are really big up front,” said Elizabethton head coach Shawn Witten. “And they’ve had multiple offenses throughout the season. We’ve got to be able to adjust to their different sets.”
The Cyclones are undefeated, 4-0 in league play and 8-0 overall. They are trying for only the second perfect regular season in school history. They went 10-0 in 1951. They also had an unbeaten season in 1938.
“We have to finish the season,” said Witten. “Our offense must finish drives like the last two versus Greeneville.”
South is 3-1 in the region and 5-3 overall.
Hilton said his team needs to establish the line of scrimmage not only on offense, but on defense, too. He said his team faces a mighty challenge against Elizabethton’s offense.
“They have great speed in the backfield and a phenomenal big wide receiver (Parker Hughes) with great hands on the outside,” said Hilton. “And their offensive line is strong and athletic.”
Elizabethton’s main offensive threats are Hughes, quarterback Bryson Rollins and running back Cade Maupin.
Cherokee (3-1, 6-2) at Tennessee High (5-0, 7-1)
The Chiefs struggled against the two best teams they played to this point, and the Vikings are another tough foe.
But Cherokee still has a shot at a share of the Region 1-5A title, and they’ve had an extra week to prepare and get healthier.
Meanwhile, Tennessee High is on a big-time roll, winning seven in a row with the latest being a thrilling win over previously unbeaten David Crockett.
Volunteer (2-6) at Unicoi County (5-3)
Trying to fight their way out of a four-game losing streak, the Falcons nearly got it done last week before falling short in the final seconds against Morristown East.
And although the Class 3A Blue Devils are two levels below Class 5A Volunteer, they have won five of their last six — averaging 47 points per game in that stretch.
Sullivan Central (1-3, 2-6) at Union County (1-3, 3-5)
A second league win is within reach for the Cougars, but the Patriots are motivated by still being in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Sullivan North (5-3) at Sullivan East (0-8)
The Raiders have a legitimate shot at a seven-win season and the path starts with the Patriots, who have struggled all season to find a win despite coming close four times.
Cloudland (3-5) at Johnson County (4-4)
This is a nice rivalry between a pair of mountain-based schools. Both are playoff bound, so this is a momentum-grab opportunity.
Unaka (1-7) at Hampton (6-2)
One of the hottest teams in the area, the Bulldogs are at home against a county rival that has struggled to stop opponents from scoring this season. However, the Rangers have consistently put points on the board.
Trinity Academy (4-4) at Happy Valley (6-2)
It’s hard to get a feel for what the Warriors will face. Trinity’s four losses came against teams with a combined record of 28-4. The Knights’ four victories came against teams with a combined record of 9-21.