Here’s a look at the five most unexpected things for the 2018 season in Northeast Tennessee:
There was preseason talk of David Crockett being in the title mix in Region 1-5A. But 9-0 and ranked No. 4 in the state? The Pioneers’ impressive run easily takes the top spot as this season’s biggest surprise.
Who would have thought Science Hill would go 0-3 against local rivals Elizabethton, Dobyns-Bennett and Daniel Boone — and go into Week 11 with a playoff berth wrapped up and still holding the possibility of a first-round home game?
The fact that Unicoi County and Johnson County are playing for the Region 1-3A title isn’t a surprise at all. But who could have envisioned a combined record of 16-2 with their only losses being rivalry games they were expected to win?
It would have been hard to find someone who would have predicted neither Hampton, Happy Valley nor Sullivan North would win Region 1-2A. But with one game left, South Greene at 3-0 is the league’s only unbeaten team.
When Dobyns-Bennett defeated Science Hill 24-21 in Week 3, and then had a 97-point differential the following week from the Hilltoppers — the Indians beat Sevier County 55-0 while Science Hill lost 42-0 to Greeneville — it would have been hard to envision D-B missing the playoffs and finishing behind the Hilltoppers in the region.
With losses to rivals Hampton, Cloudland and Johnson County, Happy Valley could have mailed it in for 2018.
However, the Warriors have used the steady quarterback play of Dakota Cochran to turn things around. They’ve won two games in a row, scoring 84 points, and are still in the Region 1-2A title hunt.
In Friday’s 40-7 win over West Greene, Cochran racked up 191 yards of total offense with three touchdowns. On defense he had seven tackles and returned a fumble 63 yards for a fourth touchdown.
Greeneville’s Cade Ballard has 18 incomplete passes and 29 touchdowns this season after Friday’s 11-of-12, four-score performance in a 63-0 win over Grainger.
Football games of the week
Hardin Valley at Farragut
Johnson County at Unicoi County
South Greene at Happy Valley
Hawks vs. Admirals — This game will determine not only the Region 1-6A title but also Science Hill’s playoff location, with the two most likely scenarios being at Maryville or home for Bradley Central.
Longhorns vs. Blue Devils — Over the last five weeks, Unicoi County has scored 42, 42, 49, 42 and 41 points. A total like that against Johnson County would likely produce a win. However, the Longhorns have allowed 7, 6, 7, 0, and 8 points over their last five games. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle for both of these teams.
Rebels vs. Warriors — The Rebels have been on a roll with six straight wins, but the Warriors have their own share of momentum.
Pick of the Week
Johnson County 27, Unicoi County 26
The Blue Devils are at home, and have arguably the area’s most explosive player in running back Kody Lewis. Johnson County counters with one of the area’s best big-play guys in running back/defensive back Nathan Lane.
It should be a great matchup, decided in the final seconds.
Picks record: 5-4.
Player of the Week
Donta Hackler, David Crockett
David Crockett needed every ounce of its impressive offensive output against Daniel Boone on Friday night, and Hackler supplied the biggest play.
With the Pioneers trailing 27-26 and less than three minutes left in the game, Hackler scored on a 41-yard pass reception. He finished with 12 catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns, and Crockett remained undefeated with the 34-27 win.
The Hogs Award
Picking up a region win against Morristown West, the Tribe Hogs were all about their business Friday night. They pounded pads, allowing Ian Hicks to rush for 284 yards, while the pass protection was solid enough for a completion rate of 60 percent.
Defensive unit of the Week
Johnson County Longhorns
The ’Horns hooked Cloudland’s offense time and time again in a 14-8 victory. The defense produced important bend-but-don’t-break stops in the first half, and later delivered the game winner on a 55-yard pick-6 from Lane with 40.9 seconds left in the contest.
It’s state tournament time and there is no local flavor. The event begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.
Bearden and Maryville represent East Tennessee, and both could be one and done against Brentwood and Houston, respectively.
In Class AA, Greeneville and Seymour are the closest entrants. And in Class A, Alcoa is the nearest team in the field.
No changes from last week’s Northeast Tennessee High School Top 10 (only teams in the Johnson City Press/Times News coverage area are ranked).
Team (W-L) ― Last Week
1. Elizabethton (8-1) ― 1
2. David Crockett (9-0) ― 2
3. Daniel Boone (7-2) ― 3
4. Tennessee High (7-3) ― 4
5. Science Hill (5-5) ― 5
6. Johnson County (8-1) ― 6
7. Sullivan South (6-3) ― 7
8. Dobyns-Bennett (3-6) ― 8
9. Unicoi County (8-1) ― 9
10. Cloudland (7-2) ― 10