The Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0) will be taking on D-B (1-1, 0-0) in Kingsport with hopes of halting a long losing streak.
In 14 previous meetings, Bearden has never beaten the Tribe. However, indications are that first time could be drawing near.
D-B had to hustle late in the game at Knoxville last season to emerge victorious 10-6. Coaches picked Bearden ahead of Sevier County and D-B in a preseason poll last month.
The Prep Performance Ratings give D-B a five-point edge, with home-field advantage accounting for three of those.
Bearden slipped past Knox West 17-14 last week while D-B lost to William Blount 24-14.
D-B’s ever-optimistic coach, Graham Clark, likes the timeliness and the home setting.
The Indians will be playing in the friendly confines of J. Fred Johnson Stadium for the first time this season. Also, it will be their first appearance on a Friday.
“We played our first two games on Thursday,’’ Clark said. “Our ESPN contract is up. We’re glad to have a Friday game because we were having one less day of preparation. We’re happy to be playing in our own stadium.’’
Clark knows well the task at hand. Bearden is playing 12-man football after dedicating its season to fallen coach Bill Wilson.
Wilson died of a heart attack before the season started. Much of what he instituted in the program is still intact since new coach Brad Taylor was promoted form within.
“I’m sure (his death) had some effect on the team,’’ Clark said. “They’ve dedicated the 2007 season to coach Wilson.’’
D-B’s roster was practically gutted by graduation losses. Bearden returns 11 seniors on defense and 10 on offense. Five Bulldogs play on both sides of the ball.
“Bearden is ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press 5A poll and playing really well,’’ Clark said. “Their seniors were undefeated as freshmen and have stayed together.’’
Two Bearden offensive players in particular bear watching — running back Torey Works and quarterback Dawson Halliday. Works carried 21 times for 123 yards last week. Halliday, who passed for more than 1,400 yards last year, hit on 12 of 20 throws against K-West.
Works is described by Clark as a slasher who’s hard to bring down.
“You’ve got to start hitting him about the time he gets to the city limits,’’ Works said.
The Bulldogs basically are a shotgun-formation team that spreads the field, occasionally goes without a huddle and sometimes elects to play a smash-mouth style.
Bearden is solid defensively. Top hands are 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior end Matt Williamson and 6-0, 215-pound senior linebacker Brandon Pemberton.
Clark isn’t about to concede anything to the Bulldogs.
“I like to keep a good win streak going,’’ he said. “I believe in keeping those chips on the table.’’
The Big East opener for both teams should shed light on the conference race, with Sevier County off to a slow start.
Robert Hogg is D-B’s offensive leader, having gained 181 yards on 25 carries. Quarterback Bart Ring has completed seven passes for 91 yards. The Indians’ leading scorer is Lane Dukart, who’s returned two game-opening kickoffs for touchdowns. He’s averaging 67.3 yards on three returns.
Defensively, D-B’s top guns are Jason Michael (17 tackles) , Will Bateman (14), Clayton Kilgore (14), Hogg (13) and Zack Fleming (12).
South (1-0, 0-0) at Unicoi County (2-0, 0-0)
Last week: Unicoi County defeated Happy Valley 8-6; South did not play.
Back story: Last year South won 27-0.
Players to watch: South QB Curt Phillips, WR Kaleb Kitzmiller, RBs Taylor Fletcher and Brad Shanks; Unicoi Co. tackles Chase Edwards and Jonathan Sullins, TE Drew Rice.
Last word: “Our kids are ready to play again,’’ South coach Stacy Carter said. “They’ve worked hard but having the week off might have been a good thing. We’ve had a hard time with Unicoi County the last two years. We led 7-0 at halftime a year ago and were tied 14-14 at the half the year before. Coach (Doug) Cooper has that team playing well. Edwards stands out more than anybody else for Unicoi County.’’
South’s Phillips is set to resume his offensive onslaught. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 221 yards in a 27-7 win over Science Hill on opening night. The Rebels are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press 4A state poll. South is listed as a 21-point favorite by Prep Performance Ratings.
Volunteer (0-1, 0-0) at Cocke County (0-1, 0-0)
Last week: Volunteer lost to Sullivan East 28-21; Cocke County lost to Seymour 30-6.
Back story: Last year Volunteer won 27-0.
Players to watch: Volunteer RB Shane Barlow, QB Keith Cradic, WRs Ethan Mays, Robbie Clemons, Ray Carpenter and Antonio Watterson, LB Jordan Sandidge; Cocke County QB Jake Crawford, LBs Jesse Burgess, Dexter Parton and Jordan Keller, FS Austin Graham.
Last word: Volunteer dropped a heart-breaker to East, in part because of untimely penalties. Coach Scott Rider pointed out to his Falcons that it didn’t count against them in Region 2-4A and the Cocke County game will be a fresh start. David Crawford, Cocke County’s coach, had to put Humpty-Dumpty back together after a lopsided defeat by Seymour. Volunteer is favored to win by four points.
Tenn. High (0-1, 0-0) at Sullivan East (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: Sullivan East defeated Volunteer 28-21; Tenn. High did not play.
Back story: Last year Tenn. High won 21-2.
Players to watch: East QB Tyler Gaby, WR Matthias Maines, RBs Caleb Looney and Tyler Crowder; Tenn. High RB Jeff Baker, FB Elijah Bible, NT Matt Dickerson, T Anthony Coleman, FS Thomas Turnbull, QB Mason Canty.
Last word: Ralph Nelson has elevated the once-listless East program one step at a time. A couple of years ago, the Patriots won 10 games. Nelson said last week’s win over Volunteer was one of the most exciting ones he’s ever been associated with and that was coming from a former all-state player. Nothing but a state championship would top an East victory over Tennessee High. The Patriots, who received a forfeit win over the Vikings several years ago because of an ineligible player, have never beaten them on the field. THS is favored to win by 22 points, but that may a stretch if last week’s performance by East was any indication.
Greeneville (1-1, 0-0) at Daniel Boone (1-0, 0-0)
Last week: Boone defeated South Greene 28-7; Greeneville lost to Mercer County, Ky. 14-9.
Back story: Last year Boone won 18-0.
Players to watch: RBs Mitchell Masters and Blake Shropshire, QB Spenser White, C Ethan Stokes, T Eric Moody, WRs Ben Underwood, Adam Venters and Cody Powell; Greeneville QB Jordan Greenway, LB Ryan Duncan, G Nathan Whitehead, LB/S Lance Bailey, DE Joel Brimer, T Charlie Arrington.
Last word: Greeneville spared no expense bringing in Steve McCurry, a coach city fathers believe can return the program to its former glory. The Greene Devils were impressive last week in the loss to Mercer County, one of Kentucky’s defending state champions. So far, so good for Greeneville. Boone beat the Devils rather handily a year ago but its outlook for 2007 has been clouded by an injury to star running back Cameron Jarrett. Boone is favored to win by four points.
Morristown West (0-2, 0-0) at Cherokee (1-1, 0-0)
Last week: Morristown West lost to Jefferson County 35-12; Cherokee lost to Christian Academy of Knoxville 42-21.
Back story: Last year M-West won 36-14.
Players to watch: Cherokee FB Tyler Carter, RBs Junior Worley, Michael Godsey, Gabe Brooks and Brian Hake; QBs David Cantrell and Adam Andrews, DBs Terrance Kersey and Grant Gillis, TE Jordan Shively; M-West QB Logan Wild, FS Jamere Hogue.
Last word: Even though Cherokee was blown out by No. 5-ranked CAK last week, the Chiefs are given a decent chance of competing with the Trojans, who have been staggered by key injuries. Carter sat out last week, leaving Cherokee without a true fullback. His return should give the Chiefs’ offense a boost. It’s been quite a while since M-West, a traditional state power, was 0-2 at this juncture. M-West is favored to win by four points.
Southwest Va. previews
In this year’s printed game programs distributed at Five-Star Stadium in Ben Hur, more than one Lee High football player cited losing to J.J. Kelly as his “most embarrassing football memory.”
J.J. Kelly coach B.I. Salyers laughed when he heard about it.
“People better get used to the idea,” quipped Salyers, whose philosophies are finally gaining some traction at Wise, where he is currently in his fourth season as head man.
Not many people would choose the Indians (2-0, 1-0) as the favorite against J.I. Burton (2-0, 1-0) in Friday’s Lonesome Pine District showdown at Norton’s Lawson-Fitchko Stadium. Last year, the Raiders thumped Kelly 40-8.
Be that as it may, Burton skipper Jimbo Adams isn’t approaching this opponent as if it were a cupcake.
“They’re 2-0. They’re unbeaten. They’re telling everyone they’re going to whip us, I reckon,” quipped Adams, whose squad beat Appalachia 51-8 last week.
After successful head coaching assignments at St. Paul and Castlewood, Salyers took over at his alma mater in the wake of coach Kevin Saunders’ controversial ouster. Picking up the pieces hasn’t been easy. But he stuck with the Indians and the Indians stuck with him. This year he can finally say the team is entirely his.
“Kids like Zac Clifton who started for me as freshmen are now seniors,” said Salyers, whose team beat Pound 46-14 last week. “These kids have worked hard in the weight room for three years now. They’ve gotten bigger and stronger and their dedication has paid off.”
Clifton’s punting leg certainly got a workout over the last three seasons. Now two games into the 2007 campaign, he’s only kicked it three times.
The Indians are moving the football. Running back Devan Sproles was expected to carry most of the load for J.J. Kelly’s ground attack. He’s still the stud, but the Indians are also getting significant rushing contributions from Jeremy Gilliam, Chris Dotson and Pound transfer Chris Strouth.
“They’ve got about four different kids carrying the football now. It’s that old Wing T. They’re running the trap, the buck sweep, the waggle and the belly down,” Adams observed.
Led by quarterback Ethan Stewart, Burton’s double slot offense is probably Southwest Virginia’s most explosive. Slotbacks Jaycob Coleman and Jaymil Sensabaugh can burn you on the jet sweep. Power back Josh Miles can blast it up the middle. The passing attack is economical, but effective.
The Wise offensive strategy (literally and figuratively) will be to engineer sustained, clock-eating possessions Friday night.
“The longer we’ve got the football, the less chances they have to put it in the end zone,” Salyers said.
“If we can consistently move the ball on offense, I think we’ve got a shot.”
Considering the collective athleticism manning Burton’s veteran defense, that could prove an even more daunting challenge than containing the Raider offense.
“People brag about their offense,” Salyers said, “but they’re one of the best defensive teams around.”
Clintwood (2-0, 0-0) at Appalachia (1-1, 0-1)
Last week: Clintwood beat Haysi 30-7. J.I. Burton beat Appalachia 51-8.
Back story:Last year, Appalachia beat Clintwood 46-14. This year’s game could have playoff implications if the Green Wave is successful in its bid to drop down to Divison 1.
Players to watch: Clintwood RB Chris Robinson, who has rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns over the last two outings; QB Heath Counts, who has passed for 286 yards and three scoring strikes. Appalachia RB Morgan Ireson, who until proven otherwise is the fastest RB in the Lonesome Pine District, has rushed for 240 yards and two TDs.
Last word: In last year’s Region D championship doubleheader, Appalachia’s Division 1 showdown with J.I. Burton followed Powell Valley’s Division 2 win over Clintwood. That’s one measure of how much better the Green Wave got after getting whipped by the Bulldogs in 2006 regular season action.
Middlesboro, Ky. (2-0) at Lee High (1-1)
Last week: Middlesboro beat Knox Central 14-0. Lee High beat Harlan 34-6.
Back story: Middlesboro beat Lee High 41-7 last season.
Players to watch: Middlesboro RB Hunter Adams, who rushed for 153 yards last week against Knox Central, also figuring big on defense. Lee RB Jordan Haynes, who rushed for 128 yards and a score last week; and QB Tyler Mullins, who threw for 139 yards and two TDs.
Last word: An upset of the Yellow Jackets at Five-Star Stadium would be a huge coup for the Generals. But any improvement over last year’s outcome will be a measurable plus for the program.
Holston (2-0) at John Battle (0-2)
Last week: Holston beat Twin Springs 40-14. Virginia High beat John Battle 37-7.
Back story: Last year, when this was a Hogoheegee matchup, Holston beat John Battle 41-7.
Players to watch: Holston RB Aaron Reynolds rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns against Twin Springs. John Battle QB Cody Calloway, who usually has a good night no matter how badly things are going for his team.
Last word: Don’t look for the Cavaliers to take it any easier on the Trojans just because this is a non-district game.
Richlands (2-0) at Powell Valley (2-0)
Last week: Richlands beat Honaker 39-0. Powell Valley beat Lebanon 14-9.
Back story: The Blues have been an on-again, off-again non-district rival for Powell Valley throughout Viking coach Phil Robbins’ career. Some are claiming this year’s Richlands squad is still Southwest Virginia’s top team.
Players to watch: Richlands RB/WR/QB Austin Fuller. Powell Valley RB Myron Pinkston, who rushed for 165 yards last week.
Last word: Richlands coach Greg Mance says he expects to use both Fuller and Joel Elswick at QB, even though the Blues offense obviously excels with Fuller at WR. Powell Valley’s defense is liable to prove more disruptive than Honaker’s.
Pound (0-2) at Coeburn (1-1)
Last week: J.J. Kelly beat Pound 46-14. Coeburn beat Ervinton 35-29.
Back story: Coeburn left the LPD for the Cumberland District. Wildcat coach Chris Crabtree left the Cumberland District (Ervinton) to end up coaching in the LPD.
Players to watch: Coeburn FB Shane Bright, who rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns against Ervinton. Pound RBs Chris Hughes and Aaron Balthis.
Last word: Crabtree isn’t crying about the talent he ought to have. He certainly knows what Ervinton has. If the Rebels rushed for 222 yards and 29 points against the Blue Knights last week, the Wildcat skipper will surely look to exploit some of those seams.
Sullivan North (1-1) at Rye Cove (0-1)
Last week: Sullivan North beat Sullivan Central 26-13. Rye Cove was open.
Back story: This interstate series is a brand-new development.
Players to watch:North QB Dustin Doran, who rushed for 107 yards and three TDs last week; RB Eric Pearcy, who rushed for 103 yards and a score. MLB Tyler Breeding paces the Golden Raider defense. Rye Cove QB Jarrid Hensley and RB Teddy Parker pace the Eagle offense. LB T.J. Barnette rallies the Warbird defense.
Last word: Several of Sullivan North’s most natural non-conference rivals have been located in Virginia. At this stage of North’s program, Rye Cove fits the bill.
Ervinton (0-2, 0-1) at St. Paul (1-1, 0-0)
Last week: Coeburn beat Ervinton 35-29. St. Paul beat Twin Valley 35-14.
Back story: Last year, the Deacons bet Ervinton 42-30, spoiling the Rebels’ chances for sole possession of the Cumberland District championship.
Players to watch: Ervinton RB James Kiser, who scored three touchdowns last week — including a kickoff return for a score. St. Paul RB/WR Josh Brooks, who had two scoring runs and a TD reception last week.
Last word: The Rebels were leading Coeburn at halftime last week. That speaks highly of new Ervinton coach Ethan Owens and the spark left in his tiny squad. If the Deacons don’t take these Rebles seriously, they could end up with purple nurples.
Hancock County (0-2) at Thomas Walker (0-2)
Last week: Greenbank beat Hancock County 63-0. Castlewood beat Thomas Walker 42-0.
Back story: Hancock County coach Clark Powers coached boys basketball at Thomas Walker when current Pioneer head coach Chris Sutphin was a player at Ewing.
Players to watch: The entire Thomas Walker offense, which accumulated 6 yards total offense against Castlewood.
Last word: The Pioneers are seething with winning football tradition compared to the Indians, who are playing only their second season of football.
Twin Springs (0-2) at Chilhowie (2-0)
Last week: Holston beat Twin Springs 40-14. Chilhowie beat Ft. Chiswell 34-13.
Back story: Last year, Chilhowie beat Twin Springs 52-0.
Players to watch: Twin Springs RB Daniel Smith, who rushed for 101 yards last week; Titan RB David Akers, who rushed for 82 yards. Chilhowie RB Tyler Grinstead, who rushed for two TDs and returned a fumble for another last week.
Last word: The Titans had decent offensive production last week, but got big-played to death. This week’s matchup looks to be even tougher.
Lebanon (1-1) at Tazewell (0-2)
Last week: Powell Valley beat Lebanon 14-9. Gate City beat Tazewell 41-21.
Back story: Tazewell beat Lebanon 29-27 in non-district action last year.
Players to watch: Lebanon RB Skyler Musick, who gained 80 yards against the Vikings last week. Tazewell QB Cody Lockhart, who passed for 273 yards at Gate City.
Last word: Do you think Tazewell might throw the football?