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It's prep football time: South, Science Hill start fresh; D-B, THS rekindle rivalry

Bill Lane • Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Click here for a preview of this week's SW Va. football action.

KINGSPORT — The old and the new will be competing at the turnstile tonight as the Northeast Tennessee high school football season offically opens.

Dobyns-Bennett plays at Tennessee High in a renewal of an age-old rivalry that dates back to the Roarin’ Twenties.

“With our game and the NASCAR crowd coming in, Bristol will be the most populated city in the state,’’ D-B coach Graham Clark said.

South, the home team, and Science Hill represent the new as they begin what could develop into an interesting series between high-powered 4A and 5A programs.

Both coaches, South’s Stacy Carter and Science Hill’s Scott Smith, must feel like they’re going in blindfolded. They’ve never seen each other coach. Smith is new to the area but certainly not to winning.

“We’ve traded videotapes of scrimmages,’’ Carter said, “but we really don’t know what to expect.’’

Tennessee High and D-B supposedly are anticipating down years. However, most schools would settle for what these two traditionally accomplish.

“If we don’t protect our quarterback, we won’t win the game,’’ Carter said. “I believe Science Hill will have six defenders in the box coming at us like crazy. They play a pressure-style defense.’’

South plans to have a ring of bodyguards around blue-chip quarterback Curt Phillips. “He’s so mature,’’ Smith said. “Phillips is a handful when he runs the ball. He’s at his best when there’s a breakdown in the pocket. He’s pretty balanced.’’

Smith came upstate to Johnson City from Independence at Franklin. He guided Ezell-Harding to a state title in 2001.

He intends to flood the field with 50 players in most games.

“I have inherited a fairly young team with only three starters back on both sides of the ball,’’ Smith said, “and not all of them were full-time starters.’’

The Rebels do know who’ll have the ball for Science Hill. Tailback Soloman Duannah is a flash and his shifty backup, Isaac Kinley, runs practically in his shadow.

“Duannah is fast but would rather run over you as around you,’’ Carter said. “They like to throw short passes to get the ball in the hands of their athletes. We can’t afford to let their speedsters have the ball in wide-open spaces. Our defense must slow them down.’’

In the 100-meter dash, Duannah barely beat the 215-pound Phillips last spring.

Clark, pointing out that Tennessee High returns five defensive starters, said the kicking game and efficiency at ball handling are so important in opening contests.

“You have to make quick adjustments,’’ Clark said. “A lot depends on the instincts your guys have. Are they football-smart?’’

The only time Tennessee High has beaten a Clark-coached team was in 1997 and he wasn’t even there to see it. Clark had to have emergency surgery and Zane Vance stood in as acting coach. “I was in Wellmont relaxing with a jar of morphine,’’ Clark said.

Lane Taylor and Justin Sylvester are D-B’s primary running threats. Jeff Baker carries the mail for the Vikings.

“We’ve got zero starters back on offense,’’ THS coach Greg Stubbs said. “Our sophomores are going to have to play a role.’’

The Vikings have just 11 seniors on their 55-player roster and 23 sophomores.

D-B will be hard pressed to match the 10-1 record of 2006. But the Indians don’t have a No. 1 ranking hanging over their heads.

The Tribe returns only four offensive starters and two on defense. This is quite a contrast to most of D-B’s teams over the last 20 seasons. “We lost 31 seniors,’’ Clark said. “Normally that number is 20 to 25. Our biggest challenge is replacing three linebackers who are now playing in college.’’

D-B faces a murderous schedule the first half of the season, following up THS with William Blount, Bearden, Oak Ridge and Jefferson County.

Three other games involving NET teams are scheduled tonight, including David Crockett at North and Central at Virginia High. The others will be played Friday.

Preview Capsules


David Crockett (0-0) at Sullivan North (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Last year North won 28-7.

Who to watch: North QB Dustin Doran, LG Isaac Moore and LB Tyler Breeding; Crockett QB Eric Richardson and TB Jamey Copas.

Last word: Crockett coach Kent Green was on North’s staff until last year and took his offensive system to Jonesborough. Thus, North coach Robbie Norris is very familiar with the Crockett offense. These teams are about equal in talent but the Pioneers have a definite edge in experience with half of their starting lineup returning. North has no starters back on defense and just two on offense. “We lost a lot of good players last year,’’ Norris said, “but I’m not worried. We’re young and inexperienced but athletic.’’

Sullivan Central (0-0) at Virginia High (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: They did not meet last year.

Who to watch: Central HB Robert Herring and DT Chris St. Louis; Virginia High TB Daniel Woods and TE/H-Back Randall White (committed to North Carolina).

Last word: Central’s new coach, Scott Nelson, is aiming to end the school’s long losing streak. QB Carl Roberts, injured in the Mountain Lakes Jamboree, will miss at least half the season with a broken wrist. Duke Moretz takes over at QB, where he saw a lot of action last season. “If we can keep Virginia High’s quick guys contained,’’ Nelson said, “we’ll have a good chance to win. (The Bearcats) run mostly from a Pro-I but mix in some Wing-T. They like to throw quick hitches to their wideouts. Their offense moves the ball well and it’ll be a big challenge for our defense.’’


Cherokee (0-0) at Rutledge (0-0)

Last week: This is the mutual season opener.

Back story: Last year Cherokee won 14-8.

Who to watch: Cherokee’s Pony Express backfield, featuring Terrance Kersey, Tyler Carter, Junior Worley and Michael Godsey.

Last word: The Chiefs and Rutledge, though in different classifications, are natural geographical rivals. Cherokee gets the nod again this year with six offensive and five defensive starters from 2006 in the fold. Mike Sivert, entering his 24th season as Cherokee’s head coach, is optimistic about his team’s potential.

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