KINGSPORT — Under trying circumstances, Sullivan South’s Rebels will be back on the field Friday night going against the same team that eliminated them from the 2008 TSSAA playoffs.
When star lineman Jake Logue died during the game at Knox West last week, it left a void on the team and numbed the entire South community.
The Rebels will be playing with his number, 54, on their helmets. Several other schools from the Tri-Cities area to Knoxville have indicated their teams will do the same, South athletic director Anthony Richardson said. It’s almost a certainty that Logue’s jersey will be retired.
Tending to more pressing matters at South on a busy Wednesday, coach Stacy Carter wasn’t available for comment. However, defensive coordinator and line coach Sam Haynie served as team spokesman, fielding questions from the media in his stead.
“Practice time has been as close to normal as we could make it,’’ Haynie said. “It’s been a struggle. We had a meeting last Saturday and discussed what we had to do.’’
Players gathered for their own meeting over the weekend. All will be honorary pallbearers at the 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior’s burial today.
The opening game was stopped in the second half with South leading 21-0. Meanwhile, Greeneville was defeating Jefferson County 28-3.
“Greeneville’s team is pretty solid,’’ Haynie said. “Its defense is as good as we’ve seen. Wes Quarles is the new quarterback. He runs the ball well. The running back’s position was handled by committee against Jefferson County. B.J. Spradlin and Chaz Story did most of the ball carrying against.’’
Quarles took over at QB late in the 2008 season when the regular starter was suspended.
Caine Ballard, after 11 years as a Greeneville assistant, has been elevated to head coach. He has 13 starters and 22 seniors returning from a team that went 11-3 and reached the 4A state semifinals.
The Greeneville defense is back almost intact. Nine starters in that unit return.
Story, at linebacker, is the catalyst. He had 111 tackles last season. Spradlin, the other linebacker, made 88 stops. Defensive end Kip Grooms also was a standout, with 87 tackles.
South’s high-powered offense, directed by QB Aaron St. Clair, is expected to challenge Greeneville’s vaunted defense. St. Clair will be handing the ball to speedster Bobby Taylor frequently and throwing to a host of capable wide receivers.
South, 12-1 a year ago, is anchored on defense by inside linebacker Ty Garvin and outside linebacker Clint Phillips. The Rebels’ mammoth-size line should free them up to go after Greeneville’s runners.
St. Clair ran for a touchdown and threw to wide receiver Ashton Zanoni for two others last week.
Clinton (1-0) at Dobyns-Bennett (0-1)
Graham Clark, D-B’s coach, said his team is building on positives from the opening-night 26-8 loss at Farragut.
“Our kids are working hard and have been practicing with a great attitude,” he said. “We had two long drives that were encouraging. In the first half we took the ball downfield with 19 plays; in the second half, we drove it 16 plays. That was against a Farragut team much bigger than us.’’
Chris Sensabaugh, D-B’s outstanding runner, was a target of Farragut’s aggressive defense and never got on track.
The Indians will face a formidable opponent in Clinton, the preseason favorite in District 3-AAA ahead of Oak Ridge and Knox Central. The Dragons return 16 starters from a team that went 6-5, and are led by all-stater Darian Stone, who accounted for 2,760 yards and 31 touchdowns from the shotgun QB position last fall. He passed for 1,852 yards and 21 TDs and kept the ball for 908 yards and 10 TDs.
Running back Weston Hazelhurst rushed for 192 yards last Friday in a 27-20 win over Halls.
“He is Clinton’s top linebacker and never leaves the field,’’ Clark said. “The wide receivers — Joel Chapman, Nick Frazier and Billy Tackett — run well. Clinton’s defense is similar to ours. This is the only team we play that blitzes more than we do. (The Dragons) have a number of weapons.’’
This game shapes up as an offensive show featuring Sensabaugh and Stone.
Sullivan North (1-0) at Volunteer (0-1)
Traditionally, these two teams have been separated only by a TD or two in a series that began in 1980. Look for another competitive clash.
North’s complicated double-wing offense leaves defensive players scratching their heads as they attempt to find the ball. Doing most of the running is fleet Eric Pearcy, who totaled 194 yards in a 28-7 victory over Sullivan Central. He rushed 14 times for 136 yards and completed passes covering 43 and 15 yards.
Likewise, Volunteer has a break-away threat in diminutive tailback Devin Rogers. The Falcons dropped their opening game by a lopsided score, 33-6, but went against Three Rivers Conference favorite Elizabethton.
Tennessee High (0-0) at Sullivan East (1-0)
The Patriots’ program has gradually risen under Ralph Nelson’s direction, but an on-the-field victory over nemesis Tennessee High continues to escape them. Aside from a forfeit victory over the Vikings several years ago, it’s been a shutout by the city team over their country rival. East’s offensive hopes ride on the shoulders of Caleb Looney, who’s closing in on 2,500 career yards. Tennessee High’s big gun is Keenan Shepard, who ran for 1,562 yards a year ago. East slipped past Crockett last week 14-7.
Daniel Boone (1-0) at Cherokee (0-1)
Boone has already cut a big notch in its belt. The Trailblazers gunned down perennial state power Seymour 12-3 on opening night. Boone has split-duty junior QBs Kevin Connell and Austin Reppart to show the way. Cherokee will be answering with a real-estate agent of its own, Landon House, a 158-pound speedster who makes the Chiefs’ offense go. Cherokee’s 26-6 win over Boone last year was not indicative of how close other games between the two have been. Defenses may prevail this time. Cherokee lost its opener to Johnson County 7-6.