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Prep preview: South won't overlook Boone; Gate City seeks revenge at Va. High

Bill Lane and George Thwaites • Sep 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — It’s a non-conference game but Sullivan South football coach Stacy Carter looks at Daniel Boone as a formidable opponent worthy of the same attention his team would give any school in the Mountain Lakes Conference race.

“All games are important to us,’’ Carter said. “Boone is a backyard rival, and we’ll use the game to get better. It’s still hard for us because (former South coach) Jeremy Jenkins knows what we do. On the other hand, we’re familiar with them as well.’’

South (4-0), ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Class 4A state poll, blasted Johnson County last week 63-21. Carter wishes he could have saved some of those points for the Boone game.

“We got a lot of breaks,’’ he said. “You only get involved in one like that every three or four years.’’

South’s offense has been centered around four players — running back Taylor Fletcher, quarterback Bradley Davenport, wide receiver Kaleb Kitzmiller and guard Hunter Beedle.

Fletcher has rushed 66 times for 504 yards and eight touchdowns.

Davenport has kept the ball 43 times for 312 yards and five TDs. He’s also hit on 41 of 70 passes for 622 yards and seven TDs. He is following in the footsteps of former South star Curt Phillips, a redshirt freshman QB at the University of Wisconsin.

Kitzmiller has caught 19 passes for 354 yards and four scores.

Linebackers Ty Garvin and Clint Phillips have been the leaders of South’s opportunistic defense.

Beedle, a major college prospect, has graded out efficiently as a blocker in every game.

“Fletcher is one of the best runners in Northeast Tennessee, Davenport is getting better with every game and Kitzmiller is as good a receiver as there is in the whole area,’’ Jenkins said. “Time of possession will be huge. We need to move the ball and keep our defense off the field.’’

Boone (3-1) is ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process.

“We’re playing pretty good defense — tackling better,’’ Jenkins said. “Linebacker Blake Shiropshire and lineman Matt Montgomery are our leaders on that side of the ball.’’

Sophomore QB Kevin Connell has settled into the varsity position. He’s completed 52 percent of his passes for 404 yards and six TDs. His favorite receivers are Nick Jones and Jesse Collins.

Jeremy Hood is the Trailblazers’ top runner with 320 yards. He’s gone over 100 yards in the last two games, scoring five TDs in the process.

Boone competes in the rugged Five Rivers Conference and must contend with the likes of Morristown East, Morristown West and Greeneville to qualify for the playoffs.

For the first time in history, Kingsport has three teams ranked in the state polls. South is third in 4A, D-B remains No. 3 in 5A and Sullivan North has moved up to ninth in 4A.

All of them hope to reach the BlueCross Bowl and play for a state championship in Murfreesboro. The 4A and 5A title games will be played back to back at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Middle Tennessee State University.

To go all the way, a team must finish 5-0 in the playoffs.

Preview capsules

Dobyns-Bennett (5-0) at Elizabethton (3-1)

Two key defensive players were injured in D-B’s win over Jefferson County last week. Nose guard Desmond Conley has a broken leg and will miss five or six games. Conley will be replaced by Sammy Collins. Linebacker Zack Fleming suffered a deep bone bruise but hopefully will be back at his regular position in two weeks. Fleming will do long snapping on punts only against Elizabethton.

D-B coach Graham Clark has a healthy respect for the Cyclones. “Elizabethton is very athletic, as evidenced by its achievements on special teams. They returned a kickoff and blocked a punt against Central,’’ he said. “Cody Forbes and Derek Carr are two outstanding running backs and quarterback Ryan Thomas appears to be a guy who can make things happen. Defensively, Cody Anderson is solid at linebacker and the two ends, Vic Deloach and Jake Davis, stand out. (Coach) Shawn Witten has them playing hard.’’

Carr has rushed 47 times for 270 yards and two TDs. Forbes has gained 230 yards on 27 carries. Thomas has completed 25 of 48 passes for 438 yards and five TDs. The primary receiver is Taylor Hodge, who has 11 catches for 230 yards and three TDs. Hodge, with 33 points, is the Cyclones’ top scorer. Forbes has 32 points.

Clark believes containment will be the main issue. “We’ve got to keep Elizabethton from getting big plays,’’ he said. “Wild things can happen in Carter County after dark.’’

D-B quarterback Jamie Crawford has accounted for 12 TDS, throwing for seven and running in five. He has kept the ball 52 times for 321 yards and completed 35 of 54 passes for 534 yards. His chief receivers have been Ashlon Adams — 17 receptions covering 259 yards and resulting in four TDs — and Derrick Steele, with seven catches for 128 yards and three scores.

Tailback Chris Sensabaugh has rushed 35 times for 327 yards and four TDS. Alternating tailback Justin Sylvester has run the ball 46 times for 298 yards and five TDS.

Fleming is the Indians’ No. 1 tackler with 34 stops and Jason Michael has 30. Sylvester has three interceptions.

Sullivan Central (0-4) at Cherokee (1-3)

This could be a break-through game for the winner. Central, after a slow start, is beginning to make things interesting. “It’s going to be a battle of two hungry teams,’’ Cougars coach Scott Nelson said. “Cherokee is big and physical. It’s one of the biggest Cherokee teams I’ve seen on film. (The Chiefs) have a pretty good passing game and a good running attack to balance it out. It’s a big challenge for us physically but we’re excited. We feel like we have a pretty good game plan. We’ve worked on our special teams, hopefully ironing out some things. If we eliminate mistakes and keep the score close, we’ll have a good shot at winning. We don’t want Cherokee to get on a roll.’’

Central quarterback Carl Roberts has carried 58 times for 208 yards and scored three TDs. He also has completed 30 passes for 391 yards and a TD. Drew McLaughlin is the Cougars’ leading ground gainer with 395 yards on 64 carries and he’s scored three TDs. Austin Box is their most productive receiver with 11 catches for 179 yards.

Despite its four losses, Central has outgained opponents 1,115-910 yards.

Cherokee, the victim of a rigid early-season schedule, has strength in its running backs — Landon Houise and Coleman Elliott — and aggresive players in tackle Daniel Littleton and linebackers Brian Hake and Chance Burke. The Chiefs beat Grainger County on opening night but have lost to CAK, Morristown West and Morristown East in succession.

Bell County, Ky. (4-0) at Volunteer (1-3)

The Falcons were blown out early last year at Middlesboro by Bell County and lost 49-21. Bell County, unbeaten in four games, is again a state power. The Bobcats beat previously unbeaten Rockcastle County last week 38-0.

Spencer Greer is Bell County’s big gun. He was held to 28 yards on 12 carries but other Bell County backs made up for it. Six different backs gained at least 20 yards. Fullback Justin Goodin scored two TDs and Matt Simpson reeled off a 42-yard run. The Bobcasts have a strong kicker in Monte Merrick, who sent all eight kickoffs into the end zone and hit a 37-yard field goal last week. Bell County seldom passes but sometimes takes advantage of a keying defense. QB Shawnta Zachery threw just five times last week, completing three for 69 yards. Bell County’s best receivers are Matt Raines, who caught a 42-yarder last week, and Chase Ely. Defensively, the Bobcats are stingy when it comes to giving up passes. They limited Rockcastle County to just one completion.

Volunteer’s top skill performers are quarterback Luke Cradic, wide receiver Aaron Bennett and three-year starters Wes Carpenter, a linebacker/tight end, and Robbie Clemons, a linebacker/wide receiver. Cradic has been effective passing and Bennett is a deep threat as well as an elusive runner on reverses. The Falcons have aggressive linemen in Justin Ward and Patrick Cox.

Southwest Virginia

BRISTOL, Va. — Virginia High’s football program can’t lay claim to the kind of home field advantage enjoyed by Gate City. But Bearcat coach Terry Smith certainly would like to see it some day.

“They’ve lost what? Only 31 games at home in the history of the school? Now, that is tradition,” said Smith, whose squad lost 35-0 at Legion Field last season.

Virginia High (2-2, 1-0) looks to defend its own turf in Friday’s key Clinch Mountain District clash with the Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0) at Gene Malcolm Stadium.

Gate City holds a 31-9 advantage in the overall series between the two schools. Two years ago, Smith’s squad beat the trend by ambushing the Blue Devils 17-14 in Bristol. While not exactly a watershed moment for the Bearcat gridiron program, it was certainly a confidence-builder over the long run.

In the short run, Virginia High could use another shot of confidence. After opening with wins over Sullivan Central and John Battle, the ’Cats have dropped two straight — to Tennessee High and unbeaten Chilhowie.

Last week’s 35-13 non-district loss to the Warriors was particularly painful for Smith. A victory this Friday would be the ultimate anaesthetic.

“Gate City and us are sitting on top of the district right now. Probably the winner is going to take it all,” Smith observed.

Blue Devil coach Nick Colobro noted that his seniors and juniors have sobering memories of their last trip to Bristol.

“We’ve played them enough lately to renew the interest in the rivalry. Of course, the last time we were there, they took it to us,” said Colobro.

“They’re very capable of doing the same thing on Friday night.”

Gate City’s lone loss this season was to Group AA Tazewell.

With a combination of good size up front and excellent speed in the backfield, Virginia High’s Wing-T offense stands to challenge Blue Devils defenders with misdirection, pulling linemen and unfamiliar blocking angles.

Running back Damon Dock has rushed for over 500 yards and four scores while Anthony Jones — a special teams threat who has a scoring kickoff return to his credit — has rushed for 230 yards and two scores.

Quarterback Andy Bowers has brought a much-needed passing dimension to the Bearcats. He’s collected more than 400 yards and three touchdowns — much of it off play-action stuff. He can also throw out of the spread.

“Our passing game was anorexic last year,” Smith said. “It’s not that we didn’t have good people at quarterback. We had a good triple-option quarterback and a good power quarterback. They just couldn’t throw the football.”

Running back Joseph Vaughn, who has rushed for 354 yards and scored three TDs, attests to Gate City’s continued ability to play smash mouth football. But the Blue Devils are showing more spread than they have in the past.

Quarterback Tihlee Anderson has rushed for 234 yards and four scores, while passing for 310 yards and one scoring strike. Eric Hutchins and Dustin Jones lead the receivers with four catches apiece.

“I hope we can be competitive with them. They’ve got good size, both offensively and defensively,” Colobro said.

“Our kids have been there and experienced that field and those surroundings. Two years ago we weren’t in the same district. Now we are. We’re going to go over and experience it in a different light.”

Preview capsules

Lee High (1-3) at Sullivan North (4-0)

Sullivan North’s No. 9 ranking in the Associated Press 4A state poll is the Golden Raiders’ highest football ranking in school history. North QB Eric Pearcy has rushed for 230 yards and scored six TDs, while passing for 91 yards out of the double wing set. Wingback Matt Washington has rushed for 195 yards and five scores and is a big play threat in the kicking game. Fullback Hunter McReynolds has rushed for 219 yards, while Sterling Throp leads the receiving corps with 89 yards on seven catches. The Golden Raiders lost this game 24-6 at Ben Hur last year. The Generals could recoup some prestige — and momentum — with a win in Kingsport this week. It obviously won’t be easy. Lee High QB Tyler Mullins has rushed for 229 yards and three TDs while passing for 318 yards and two TDs. RB Tyler Graham (66-352, 1 TD) leads the rushing attack with Michael Rutledge (26-163, 2 TDs) averaging 6.3 yards per carry. WR Scotty Woliver far and away leads the receiving corps with 18 catches for 226 yards and one TD.

Clintwood (5-0, 1-0) at Powell Valley (2-2, 0-1)

Last year the Greenwave managed to beat the Vikings 8-7 at home. Close games between these two teams have been the norm in recent years. This time, however, Clintwood is the overwhelming favorite. RB Chris Robinson leads the Wave rushing attack with 669 yards and 13 touchdowns, while RBs Alec Osborne (19-172, 3 TDs) and Devin Elswick (14-115, 2 TDs) contributing meaningful carries. QB Heath Counts has passed for 445 yards and six TDs with only two interceptions at the midpoint of the regular season. Trey Meade, Nick Robinson and Ryan Lyle share the catches. For Powell Valley, RBs Myron Pinkston (66-314, 3 TDs) and Jordan Martin (63-301, 4 TDs) pace the ground game. QB Gil Lusk has passed for 147 and two TDs with Lucas Fannon and Martin leading the receivers.

Ervinton (0-4, 0-3) at Twin Springs (2-3, 1-0)

Is Scott County the power center of the roller-coaster Cumberland District? After a tough early start, the Titans are building a case for themselves. Making the most of a strong offensive front, QB Michael Salyer has passed for 318 yards and seven scores while rushing for two TDs. Otherwise, RBs Daniel Smith (54-387, 4 TDs) and Adam Gillenwater and WR Kris Jordan (10-263, 5 TDs) keep the chains moving in Nickelsville. Ervinton is seriously out-numbered here, but deserve kudos for keeping a team on the field.

J.I. Burton (4-0) at Coeburn (2-3)

Approaching the midpoint of the regular season, J.I. Burton has two slotbacks on pace for 1,000-yards before playoffs begin: Martinez Miles (27-588, 10 TDs) and Jaycob Coleman (30-524, 7 TDs). To boot, RB Malcolm Pinkston’s debut in black and orange unveiled a dangerous inside running threat. QB Devin Talley’s double-digit passing yardage isn’t anything to fret about just yet. Blue Knight RB Shane Bright has rushed for almost 600 yards and seven scores and QB Jon Dean has passed for 348 yards and three TDs while Hunter Bond has been a conspicuous playmaker on both sides of the football.

Rye Cove (2-2) at J.J. Kelly (4-1)

Burton coach Jimbo Adams correctly predicted that Kelly would give a lot of opponents a hard time. Hard-nosed, physical play up front has yielded good things for the Indians. RBs Jordan Bates (67-466, 6 TDs) and Devan Sproles (48-384, 4 TDs) and Lucas Kerns (51-269, 5 TDs) fuel Kelly’s powerful ground game. QB Matt Dotson has passed for 382 yards and two TDs with WR Garth Nicely leading the receivers (8-179, 1 TD). Rye Cove kept its hand in the Cumberland District race with last week’s 32-18 win over Castlewood. RB Steven Vikara leads the War Eagles in rushing (50-334, 1 TD) and receiving (6-113, 1 TD) while Teddy Parker (39-223) and Tim Barnette (33-150) also lend horsepower to the offense.

Pound (0-4, 0-1) at Appalachia (0-5, 0-2)

Rocky Baker coached at Pound the last time the Wildcats were this highly-favored over Appalachia. RB Aaron Balthis has rushed for 440 yards and three scores for Pound while QB Justin Mullins has passed for 240 yards and two scores. Nathaniel Mullins leads the receivers. For the Bulldogs, RB Tyler Barker has rushed for 256 yards and a TD while Cody Carter has 137 yards and two scores. QB Tyler Hall has passed for 330 yards and two TDs. If both teams go to the air a lot, it could get crazy. Pound has given up five interceptions; Appalachia has thrown for 11.

Castlewood (3-1, 1-1) at St. Paul (2-2, 1-1)

Now that the shock of having lost to Rye Cove has worn off, look for the Blue Devils to be pumped up for their longstanding county line rival. RB Ryan Phillips has rushed for 660 yards and seven TDs for Castlewood while QB Corey Davis has passed for 377 yards with Devin Puckett, Casey Phllips, Eric Maxfield and Ryan Phillips sharing the catches. St. Paul QB Tyler Phillips is a fine football player but his production has so far been limited by the inexperience surrounding him. Even so, look for the Deacons to turn things up a notch for this one.

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