D-B (7-3) would become the first high school in Tennessee to earn 700 football victories if the Indians defeat Oak Ridge (9-1) in the Class 5A playoffs.
The Indians attained their 2,000th basketball win last winter — the first high school in the nation to do so.
Oak Ridge beat the Tribe 14-7 early in the season. A fumble in the shadows of the goalpost set up the winning touchdown.
Since that game, D-B has added torque to its offense with the promotion of freshman sensation Chris Sensabaugh. He already is being mentioned in the same breath with past D-B greats Mike Faulkerson Dulaney and Adonis Johnson.
Farragut stunned Oak Ridge last week 42-7, and the Wildcats placed ninth in the final Associated Press state poll.
“That may have told you something about Farragut,’’ said D-B coach Graham Clark, whose team could be facing the Admirals next week if both win first-round games.
About Oak Ridge’s resiliency to bounce back from the humiliating loss, Clark noted: “You never know how a team will respond. I know one thing about our team — these young men are going to play hard. They have the entire season.’’
All three of D-B’s losses have been to top-10 teams — Oak Ridge, William Blount and Bearden.
The Indians have had several rematches with Oak Ridge in recent years. After meeting during the season, they’ve had to tangle again to advance in the playoffs.
“It seems like a million times that we’ve played them twice in the same season,’’ Clark said. “We’ve met Oak Ridge in so many games like this, I’ve heard that Jimmy Dean killed a hog each time. That’s how he got in the sausage business.’’
Typically, D-B enters early playoff games as the favorite. That isn’t true this year. But the unranked Indians have six straight wins and should be considered dangerous.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a time that we weren’t the hunted,’’ Clark said.
Oak Ridge’s primary weapon is 5-foot-9, 160-pound tailback Jared Stephens.
“(The Wildcats) throw 30 to 35 percent of the time,’’ Clark said. “When they do pass, they like to go downfield a ways.’’
Defensively, the Wildcats’ linebackers are the focal point. Seniors Kevin Summers (6-foot, 230) and Andrew Kirkpatrick (5-10, 198) have combined for more than 200 tackles this season.
“Their size up front and speed at the other positions are impressive,’’ Clark said.
Two of Oak Ridge’s key offensive interior linemen, Tony Carson and Alex Stuart, were forced to watch the first game from the sidelines while dressed out.
D-B started the season sluggishly but is running the ball much better.
“We got 122 yards rushing from our three tailbacks against Science Hill last week,’’ Clark said. “Our two fullbacks gained 84 yards.’’
Despite his late start, Sensabaugh is D-B’s rushing leader with 647 yards in 72 carries. Justin Sylvester ranks second with 342 in 62 rushes. Lane Taylor has 312 yards on 68 runs. Sensabaugh provides the quickness and Taylor the power.
Quarterback Bart Ring has hit on 50 of 116 passes for 788 yards. Jamie Crawford has been on the receiving end 21 times for 310 yards. Lane Dukart has caught 17 for 290.
Sensabaugh also is the leading scorer, with 72 points. Placekicker Craig Mitcham has 46 points and is averaging 52.5 yards on kickoffs.
The Indians’ blocking has been proficient. Alan Hinson and Ryan Church have each been credited with 18 pancake blocks. Daniel Preston has thrown 13 blocks leading to touchdowns.
The tackle leader is Robert Hogg with 86, followed by Taylor (68), Jason Michael (60), Clayton Kilgore (59), Zach Fleming (57) and Will Bateman (53).
TSSAA Class 4A Playoffs
(All games Friday, 7 p.m.)
Morristown East (5-5) at Sullivan South (9-1)
Last Week: East defeated Daniel Boone 21-14; South defeated Tennessee High 28-21.
Back Story: South, playing at home and having standout quarterback Curt Phillips taking the snaps, gets the nod. But East is capable of ending the No. 4-ranked 4A team’s season. The Hurricanes defeated the Rebels 35-21 in the second round of the 2006 playoffs. “Three teams from the Five Rivers Conference — East, West and Greeneville — are about equal,’’ South coach Stacy Carter said. “East was the No. 1 team in the preseason but had a couple of injuries. We expect (the Hurricanes) to try to keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. They ran it 54 times last week. They are good. They should have beaten Greeneville. East’s linebackers are outstanding.’’
Players to Watch: East, LB John Thompson, T Jacob Mills, QB Tee Howell, WR Jeremy Jones, FB Johnny Hodge, HB Tavin Blanton, QB James Barnett, LB Ken Hernandez; South, QB Curt Phillips, RB Taylor Fletcher, WR Kaleb Kitzmiller, WR Seth Johnson, WR Houston Martin, PK Jordan Willingham, CB Charlie Columbo, CB Spencer Sandidge, LB Ty Garvin, LB Clint Phillips, G Hunter Beedle, G George Harless, C T.J. Blanken, E Chris Collins.
Last Word: Phillips is the most productive QB in Northeast Tennessee history. He has 1,222 yards rushing and 1,643 passing this season alone. He’s scored 26 touchdowns and thrown 14 TD passes. Phillips is the Mountain Lakes Conference scoring champion, with 162 points. South averages 43 points while giving up 13 per game. The Rebels have scored 369 of their 425 points in the first three quarters.
Volunteer (5-5) at Tennessee High (8-2)
Last Week: Volunteer defeated Cherokee 19-15; Tennessee High lost to South 28-21.
Back Story: Volunteer has repeated its previous season by going 5-5 and placing third in the Five Rivers Conference. However, coach Scott Rider doesn’t want a duplication of last year’s 35-15 playoff loss to these same Vikings. “It’s critical for us to play well early in the game,’’ he said. “Tennessee High scored on the opening drive and took a 28-0 halftime lead last year. We’re back in the playoffs but we’ve got our hands full. In a lot of ways, Tennessee High is better than it was last year. Coach (Greg) Stubbs has (the Vikings) playing well and this is the right time to be doing that. We have a lot of guys back with playoff experience and they’ve got an idea what it’s like.’’
Players to Watch: Volunteer, TB Shane Barlow, QB Keith Cradic, LB Jordan Sandidge, LB Travis Russell, E A.J. Lyons, WR Antonio Watterson, WR Ethan Mays; THS, RB Jeff Baker, QB Mason Canty, RB Keenan Shepard, RB Matt Pendleton, WR Thomas Turnbull, NG Matt Dickerson.
Last Word: Volunteer’s back-to-back, third-place finishes in the rugged Five Rivers is a testimonial to the program’s progress. Cradic has passed for 1,000-plus yards and Barlow has rushed for 1,000-plus yards this year.
Sullivan East (7-3) at Greeneville (8-2)
Last Week: East defeated Sullivan Central 23-7; Greeneville defeated David Crockett 35-6.
Back Story: Coach Ralph Nelson’s first playoff team at East in 2004 defeated Greeneville. Whether the Patriots can do it again remains to be seen. “Greeneville’s team is big and fast. Its players fly to the football. This will be a huge challenge for us,’’ Nelson said. “We must keep the ball away from their offense. They ran a power-I offense against South and have done some things with a spread formation. We’ll probably get a dose of both. Their tailback and running back are second to none. It’s going to be a task, but we’ve been underdogs a lot. We beat the No. 3 Five Rivers team (Volunteer) this year. If we play well, we’ve got a chance to win.’’
Players to Watch: East, QB Tyler Gaby, RB Tyler Crowder, RB Caleb Looney, MLB Corbett Bawgus, WR Matthias Maines; Greeneville, LB/RB Ryan Duncan, TB Jeremy Barner, G Nathan Whitehead, LB/S Lance Bailey, DE Joel Brimer, DL Charlie Arrington, QB Jordan Greenway.
Last Word: Greeneville, by beating both Morristown teams, served notice of a new era dawning in the Five Rivers with innovative coach Steve McCurry on the scene. Tailback Jeremy Barner is the Greene Devils’ big gun. He rushed 13 times for 145 yards against Crockett.
Johnson County (7-3) at Morristown West (5-5)
Last Week: Johnson County defeated Sullivan North 40-20; West defeated Cocke County 44-0.
Back Story: Tyler Leonard and Christian Prudhomme have had an outstanding season for the Longhorns. Johnson County, the smallest 3A school in the state, has been playing up in 4A for several years. The Longhorns have had four straight winning seasons and have won at least seven games in each of the past two years. West supposedly is down somewhat compared to years past, but the fast feet of pony backs Terrell Fredricks and J.J. Goforth may be too much for Johnson County to deal with.
Players to watch: Johnson County, RB Leonard, QB Austin Phipps, WR/PK Prudhomme, WR Luke Arnold; West, QB Logan Wild, FS Jamere Hogue, TB J.J. Goforth, TB Terrell Fredricks, WR Tyrell McKinney, WR Patrick Hodge, LB Kevin McDonald, LB Erik Hazelwood.
Last Word: Johnson County isn’t a team that flinches when facing tough competition. The Longhorns lost only 17-14 to Morristown East in the 2006 playoffs.
SW Virginia: Playoff berths on the line
There aren’t many football games being played in Region D this week. But half of them have enormous implications.
The final configuration of the Division 1 bracket is riding on two of four games being played Friday night: Clintwood (5-4, 3-1) at Appalachia (6-3, 2-2) and Lee High (6-3) at Haysi (7-2).
Castlewood (6-3) travels to Hurley (3-6) but will miss the playoffs despite its likely victory. Lebanon (7-2) is in the Division 2 mix irrespective of its non-district tilt with Northwood (1-8).
Thanks to Gate City’s upset of points-laden J.I. Burton last week — coupled with lesser- rated Honaker’s Black Diamond District title — there’s no room left for Lee High in the Division 2 bracket. In next week’s first round, Honaker will probably travel to Powell Valley; Lebanon, to Gate City.
Top-seeded J.I. Burton and Cumberland District champ St. Paul have clinched Division 1 berths. Two spots remain up for grabs.
This is Lee High’s best football season since 1998. While the Generals may be all revved up with no place to go, they still have something to play for.
“We want to finish on a strong note. This senior class could be the first senior class at Lee High to win its last football game. In 19 years, we haven’t done that,” said coach Bobby Sanders, chief architect of Ben Hur’s gridiron reconstruction.
The Lee offense is led by running back Jordan Haynes (165 carries, 1,080 yards, 8 TDs), quarterback Tyler Mullins (101-419, 4 TDs rushing; 44-90-3-706, 8 TDs passing) and receiver Gary Stafford (27 catches, 430 yards, 4 TDs).
The Tigers could lose to the Generals and still slip into the Division 1 bracket — but only if Clintwood beats Appalachia.
“We’d rather depend on our own help. That way we know,” said Haysi coach James Colley, who’ll challenge Lee High’s defense with an impressive array of formations.
Fullback Caleb Powers (99-957, 11 TDs) and quarterback Chris Fleming (105-172-6-1,584, 23 TDs) provide the Tigers’ share of offensive contributions. Cody Yates fulfills diverse H-back duties, having rushed 48 times for 325 yards and six touchdowns while pulling in 24 catches for 252 yards and 10 scores.
Expect Appalachia to root for Lee High here, and not just because Sanders and Generals staffer Travis Turner are Bulldog coaching alums. If Lee wins, Appalachia stands to make the playoffs regardless of the outcome of its meeting with the Green Wave.
Be that as it may, Appalachia coach Roger Austin thinks exactly like his Haysi counterpart.
“It’s in our hands. We control our own destiny. That’s the way we have to look at it. If we don’t win, we need help. So we’ve got to win to get in,” Austin said. “It’s going to take everything we’ve got on both sides of the ball.”
There is no hypothetical mulligan for Clintwood. If the Green Wave lose, the season is over.
“It’s basically win or else for us,” said Clintwood coach Rick Mullins.
The Bulldogs and Green Wave were supposed to meet the second week of the regular season. An occurrence of staph at Appalachia — harbinger of what turned out to be a statewide scourge this season — forced the postponement to this week.
Since then, Clintwood has diversified its offensive attack to help offset midseason injuries to star running back Chris Robinson (128-644, 9 TDs). Quarterback Heath Counts has passed for 875 yards and four scores with Ryan Lyle (22-326, TD) and Nick Robinson (15-221, 2 TDs) leading the receivers.
Fullback Derek Robbins (47-369, 4 TDs) and running back Alec Osborne (27-225, 6 TDs) have stepped up their contributions. Robbins is also the placekicker and has hit five field goals for the Green Wave this season.
Appalachia QB Cody Richardson has passed for 499 yards and five scores. But the offensive weapons that concern Mullins the most are running backs Brett Leedy (156-1,041, 15 TDs) and Morgan Ireson (136-918, 10 TDs). They haven’t forgotten the old ways at Riggs Stadium.
“They have two of the top running backs in the area ... actually the top two in the Lonesome Pine District,” Mullins said. “Leedy is a force at fullback and Ireson has great speed and great vision. We have to play good, solid defense.”