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Science Hill upsets No. 4-ranked Dobyns-Bennett

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Oct 26, 2019 at 5:48 PM

KINGSPORT—Behind the arm of Connor Batchelder and the leg of Kade Hensley, Science Hill spoiled Dobyns-Bennett’s undefeated season and put itself in position to win a share of the Region 1-6A title and earn the No. 1 seed in the upcoming TSSAA football playoffs.

Batchelder completed 20 of 32 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, while Hensley booted three field goals — including those of 48 and a school-record 50 yards in the Hilltoppers’ 23-17 upset of the No. 4-ranked Indians on Friday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

Science Hill (4-5, 4-1) will win a share of the Region 1-6A title with the Indians and earn the No. 1 seed with a win at Bearden next Friday night.

“It has been a tough season and we’ve not had a lot of breaks,” Science Hill coach Stacy Cater said. “Our kids came to play tonight against a great Dobyns-Bennett football team. It was tough sledding the whole time, but our kids hung in there and made the big plays when they needed to. The defense stepped up when they had to. I can’t say enough about the kids’ resilient effort.”

The Indians (8-1, 5-1), who were looking for first undefeated Region 1 season since 2012, will try to rebound against Class 3A power Alcoa. They drove to the Science Hill 29-yard line with less than two minutes to go before two motion penalties backed them up 10 yards.

They weren’t able to convert and the Hilltoppers ran out the clock. Dobyns-Bennett lost despite outgaining Science Hill 320-215 in total offense. Quarterback Zane Whitson hit 14 of 27 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 58 yards and a TD. Hayden Sherer totaled a team-best six catches for 83 yards.

“Our kids fought to the end. We had some penalties through the year and were able to overcome them, but tonight we had so many,” D-B coach Joey Christian said. “We weren’t able to overcome it and make plays when we needed to. You have to catch balls, make plays, hit receivers, we have to coach better. We just have to do a better job top to bottom.”

’TOPPERS RALLY PAST INDIANS

Dobyns-Bennett drove to Science Hill’s 39-yard line before being stopped on a 4th-and-2 run. The Hilltoppers took advantage, going down field with Kade Hensley converting on a 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The Indians answered on the next drive, an 80-yard drive capped off by Whitson’s 9-yard run. Whitson’s arm finished off the next drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jet Harris for a 14-3 lead.

Science Hill closed the margin to 14-10 with a seven-play, 59-yard drive. Batchelder found Solomon Dunn in the right corner of the end zone. Batchelder completed his last eight passes of the half, including a 13-yard throw to Cole Torbett to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Thomas for a 17-14 halftime lead.

Often facing a Dobyns-Bennett rush, Batchelder was sacked only once.

“I just trusted our coaches and the play calls,” Batchelder said. “The line gave me just enough protection and I was able to get the ball to our great receivers. I just had to get my check-down when they came to blitz. My guys got open, especially Chris Thomas.”

Thomas caught five passes out of the backfield after being held to 16 rushing yards. Other leading receivers included Torbett, who hauled in four catches for 67 yards, and Marquis Griffin with four for 47.

HENSLEY BOOTS ’TOPPERS AHEAD

Science Hill capitalized on a short field as Hensley hit a 48-yard field goal to give the Hilltoppers a 20-14 lead with 9:25 left in the third quarter.

Hensley kicked a school-record, 50-yard field goal on the Hilltoppers’ next possession, giving them a 23-14 lead.

“Kicking in the rain, at the end of practice every day, we kick with a wet ball where the coaches spray it with water,” Hensley said. “The conditions worked to our favor and our line held up really well. It’s huge for us to win this game. Farragut lost Hardin Valley so we’re in position to play at home in the first round of the playoffs.”

Dobyns-Bennett drove down the field on its next possession, but a false start on 4th and 1 at the 1-yard line forced the Indians to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Jaden Alderson. They forced Science Hill to punt with a chance to win, but couldn’t come through in the end.

Malik Bowman led Science Hill with 13 tackles and Nicholas Copenhaver had nine.

The Indians’ defense held Science Hill to just 11 rushing yards on 23 carries in the loss. Senior linebacker Braxton Kulbacki promised the Indians will come back focused next Friday night at Alcoa.

“The season isn’t over. We’re coming ready to play,” Kulbacki said. “We stopped the run, but Batchelder got the ball out well. We could have gotten more pressure on him and helped our secondary out. We’re going to figure things out. I can promise that.”

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