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Volunteer, Sullivan Central in action as prep football season gets underway

George Thwaites • Aug 21, 2014 at 2:12 PM

CHURCH HILL — Whether it's on a Friday night or a Thursday night, the opening kickoff of a new football season is a big deal for any high school football player.

It won't be any different for Volunteer when it loads up the bus to open the 2014 season with a non-conference game tonight at Happy Valley.

"The first game of the year is a special challenge. It doesn't matter how much you do in the preseason as far as conditioning. The first game of the year is always tough," said Falcons coach Scott Rider, whose team dropped last year's season opener to the Warriors, 20-12.

"It's hard to go out and practice and go at the same pace and get the same adrenaline rush that you get when that first game starts," he said.

"But everything we've done so far this month has been about getting to that first ballgame. We're really looking forward to getting the season started."

One issue Rider managed to settle during the preseason is his starting quarterback. Luke Dorton and Josh Sawyer have both benefited from intrasquad competition. Dorton will get the nod for tonight.

"He has a little more game experience, even though he's a little younger than Josh," Rider said. "He played the last five games last year ... and has a little bit of an edge because he has that Friday night experience."

The Falcons expect to throw the football some — a given, considering the speed that Maliek Carpenter brings to the wideout position. But Rider expects the run to remain Volunteer's primary offensive point of emphasis.

Running backs Jovell Tramblay and Logan Johnson and fullback Dillon Frazier are likely the first wave of a platoon of Falcons running backs that includes Brady Cunningham, Tyler Carter and Tyler Rogers.

"Between those six guys, we feel like we can keep some fresh legs on the field," Rider said.

Happy Valley might not be planning to platoon six-deep in the backfield, but the Warriors have already revealed an ability to move the chains using their No. 3 and No. 4 running backs.

In last week's Three Rivers Conference jamboree, Dustin Sams and Jose Burgos carried most of the mail when Happy Valley pounded a prolonged scoring drive down the field against Sullivan North.

Returning starters Phillip Garland and Austin Hicks stayed off the field in the jamboree. Rider expects to see plenty of both of them tonight.

"They've probably got one of the best running back tandems in the whole area," Rider said. "Garland rushed for over 1,500 yards in his junior year. The Hicks kid is a good blocker but he's also very effective carrying the football."

Volunteer won't be the only local "sooner" kicking off tonight. South Greene plays at Sullivan Central. Last year, the Cougars opened with a 28-18 win at the Greene County school.

Trey Pope, who garnered All-Big 7 honors last season, returns to take the snaps for Central at quarterback. Junior running back Ethan Krtausch averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a sophomore last season despite battling injuries.

A big key for the Cougars will be how quickly new additions to the offensive front follow the lead of veteran tackle Zach Wise.

Also jump-starting the new season tonight are David Crockett at Sullivan East and Tennessee High at Johnson County.

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