Sullivan South coach Stacy Carter insists he isn’t about to get overconfident about Friday night’s game, with Science Hill coming to town for a Big 8 Conference showdown with his fifth-ranked Rebels.
He is concerned that a sleeping giant might be awakened.
“(The Hilltoppers) haven’t been playing well, but they have a lot of athletes,’’ Carter said. “I’m glad it’s a home game. This is kind of a turning point for us.
“We have a shot at making a good run. We’d like to finish the season with three more wins.’’
South won 42-0 last week over Volunteer as quarterback Heath Haden and wide receiver Ashton Zanoni ignored the rain by collaborating on an assortment of pass-catch maneuvers. Running back Bobby Taylor opened up after halftime.
Wide receiver Seth Watterson, who sat out that game with a shoulder injury, will return against Science Hill.
Quarterback Aaron St. Clair, who’s been out since early in the season with a back injury, again will watch from the sidelines. When he becomes available, it will free up Haden for some action at wide receiver.
The Rebels (6-1, 3-1) have been impressive all season, except for their surprising 42-28 loss to Dobyns-Bennett. The lopsided win last week perhaps got them back on track.
In Science Hill (3-4, 2-2), the Rebels will be facing a team with the same type of athleticism D-B has.
Science Hill quarterback Justin Snyder has passed for 1,125 yards. His top receiver is Greyson Janeway, a great nephew of former University of Tennessee quarterback Bobby Scott. Janeway has made 38 catches for 415 yards. Receiver Jim Ashburn’s 20 receptions have netted 210 yards.
“We throw short more than we do long,’’ Hilltoppers coach Scott Smith said. “We like to get the ball in the hands of our athletes and let them run with it.’’
Fleet Ryan Mitchell, who has rushed for 356 yards, and pile-driving Armando Canepa, who has picked up 405 yards, are the Hilltoppers’ top ground gainers.
“We’ve not had a great year running the football,’’ Smith said. “We’d love to have a balanced offense but we’re not proficient at it.’’
Smith has much respect for the Rebels. “It’s a standard team for Stacy Carter and his staff — well-coached, big, physical and fast,’’ he said. “They always find a way to move the ball and their defense is solid. The type of game we have may be determined by the weather.’’
This will be the teams’ first meeting as members of the Big 8 Conference. In the early years of South, the schools met annually in the Big 10 Conference before going their separate ways — Science Hill to the Big East and South to the Mountain Lakes.
South and Daniel Boone are tied for second place in the Big 8. Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett and David Crockett are locked in a three-way tie for fourth place.
Happy Valley (4-2, 2-1) at Sullivan North (5-2, 2-1)
Robbie Norris is taking his Raiders into uncharted waters. They will host Happy Valley in a Three Rivers Conference game at 7:30 tonight and then travel to Haysi, Va., for a contest with the Black Diamond District team at 1:30 p.m., on Saturday. It was necessary for North to fill the date for a 10-game schedule, which could enhance its playoff status.
“I have no idea how our team will respond to playing twice in three days,’’ Norris said. “We haven’t even mentioned Haysi to the team. We’re thinking only about Happy Valley because that’s a more important game. We’ll have just one day to prepare for Haysi. We’ll look at game films and do a walk-through in practice on Friday.
“Against Happy Valley, we can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes. We’ll need to control the ball and play sound defense.’’
Norris is particularly impressed with Happy Valley receiver Jake Hodge, quarterback Ethan Fleenor and running backs Derrick Mann and Landon South. “(The Warriors) have a bunch of good skill people,’’ he said. “Hodge is a surehanded receiver, Fleenor is a big quarterback and Mann and South are quick and elusive runners.’’
Fleenor has connected on 33 of 89 passes for 619 yards and eight TDs. Hodge has made 16 catches for 316 yards and four TDs. Mann has carried 79 times for 501 yards and five TDs and South has had the ball 44 times for 346 yards and six TDs.
North’s Eric Pearcy has been a one-man wrecking crew. He’s rushed for 617 yards on 96 carries and ranks as the conference’s leading scorer with 11 TDs and 72 points.
David Crockett (4-3, 2-2) at Dobyns-Bennett (2-5, 2-2)
Mandated by the formation of the Big 8 Conference, this will be the first football game ever between Crockett and D-B. The Indians’ wide-open attack will be matched against Crockett’s patient, ball-control approach to offense.
“(The Pioneers) run the ball well,’’ D-B coach Graham Clark said. “They’re content to keep it on the ground and consume time. Before you know it, the game has reached halftime and you haven’t finished that first Snickers bar.’’
Crockett’s big gun is Chorpee Sumo, a 6-foot, 210-pound running back who gained 238 yards last week against Sullivan Central. “He’s carried so many people this year that they list him in the Yellow Pages under Cab,’’ Clark said. “The quarterback, Michael Gillen, also has done some good things.’’
The Pioneers have won three of their last four games.
Chris Sensabaugh, who carried only five times against Tennessee High, remains the Indians’ leading rusher with 830 yards on 121 runs. He’s scored seven touchdowns. Quarterback David Roop has kept the ball 48 times for 321 yards and hit on 55 of 120 passes for 692 yards and five TDs. The Tribe’s top receiver is Derrick Steele with 17 catches for 204 yards. Sean Seabolt has 15 receptions for 210 yards and Rusty Clark 13 for 128.
D-B’s leading defenders are linebacker Jason Michael with 71 tackles and linebacker Clark with 45 stops. Steele has intercepted four passes and broken up six others.
Volunteer (0-7, 0-4) at Daniel Boone (3-1, 6-1)
Injury-riddled Volunteer has had more than its fair share of setbacks this season. The Falcons may be pressed to make a competitive game of it against Boone.
Blake Shropshire has emerged as a strong runner, scoring four times in the last two games. Boone’s offensive line has gradually improved. Split-duty quarterbacks Kevin Connell, who has run for 192 yards and passed for 180, and Austin Reppart, with 352 yards passing, have provided the offensive impetus. The Trailblazers’ pillars of strength on defense are linebackers Matt Duncan and Shropshire, end Austin Shelton and strong safety Hayden Chandley. Duncan, who sat out the 2008 season with a broken leg, has been credited with 79 tackles this year. He had 109 as a sophomore. The ‘Blazers have 11 pass interceptions — four by Dakota Whitson and three by Chandley. In seven games, eighth-ranked Boone has blocked or deflected eight punts.
“We expect a hard-fought game,’’ Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “Coach (Scott) Rider will be bringing a capable team here. In the last four years, we’ve been 2-2 against them. R.J. Williams is as good a wide receiver as there is in the Big 8 Conference. We must know where he is at all times. Luke Cradic, Volunteer’s quarterback, can really throw the ball. He had three or four TD passes dropped against South last week. We’ve got to get some pressure on him.’’
Tennessee High (7-0, 4-0) at Sullivan Central (0-7, 0-4)
The state’s top ranking in Class 5A has given Tennessee High fans a chance to reflect on their glory years — 1971 and 1972. In contrast, the Cougars are trying to avoid a winless season. THS enters the game a heavy favorite but its secondary could get a stern test as Taylor Winchell goes airborne with the ball frequently.
Sevier County (7-0, 4-0) at Cherokee (2-5, 1-3)
Ranked seventh in the 6A state poll, Sevier County’s speed and skill are expected to push the Cherokee defense back on its heels. However, the Chiefs’ ball-control offense may keep the ball out of the visitors’ hands longer than they’ve been accustomed to. The new Inter-Mountain Conference is strong but Cherokee has never been a team under Mike Sivert to back away from a challenge.