There have been several bear sightings around the Kingsport area in recent months.
Sevier County’s Smoky Bears will be in Kingsport Friday night — hungry for a football victory over Dobyns-Bennett, one of their top rivals.
For many years, the two schools met in Big East Conference play. They no longer are in the same league but the game remains just as important, nonetheless.
“It’s big for both teams,’’ D-B coach Graham Clark said Wednesday. “Under the new TSSAA alignment, non-conference games can determine if your team goes to the playoffs.
“We’re about to face a typical Sevier County team — well coached and very competitive. (The Bears) play hard and will be hard to shut down.’’
Sevier County was picked as the team to beat for the Inter-Mountain Conference title.
Steve Brewer’s Bears return 11 starters from a 5-5 team but had to rebuild the line.
Their big gun is quarterback Zack Flynn, a 160-pound senior who flings the ball all over the field. He passed for more than 1,800 yards last season.
“Sevier County lines up in a shotgun formation and Flynn throws it around,’’ Clark said. “The team’s top ball carrier is 185-pound junior Dakota Cogdill. He runs from a one-back set.’’
Flynn’s most frequent passing targets are 150-pound senior Bryce Whaley and Bryant Gibson, a 165-pound junior.
“Sevier County’s team isn’t quite as big as those in years past,’’ Clark said, “but this is one of the fastest.’’
Sevier County is strong at the linebacker positions, with Isaac McMahan (205, Sr.), Kel McCarter (185, Sr.) and Danny Chastain (160, Jr.) and at safety, where Austin Nave (185, Sr.) and Matt Spangler (180, Sr.) roam.
Most of D-B’s games with Sevier County have gone down to the wire. Still, the Indians hold a decisive 18-4 edge in the series.
D-B, caught in a rebuilding process, lost its first two games to two of the state’s top-ranked teams, Farragut and Clinton. The Indians finally broke into the win column last week with a lopsided decision over Sullivan Central.
“It was nice to get a win but we’re a little banged up,’’ Clark said. “We think we are improving. We’ve got to continue making our execution better.’’
Linebacker Jason Michael is D-B’s leader in tackles with 31. Running back Chris Sensabaugh has rushed for 386 yards on 55 carries — 7.1 yards per run.
Rusty Clark’s eight catches pace the Tribe’s receivers. Sean Seabolt has seven and Derrick Steele six. Quarterback David Roop has completed 25 of 54 passes for 295 yards. Center Patrick Hansen has been impressive snapping and blocking.
Rye Cove (0-1) at Sullivan North (3-0)
Raiders coach Robbie Norris approaches the game with guarded optimism. “Rye Cove lost to J.I. Burton 45-14 but there’s no shame in that,’’ he said. “You can tell (the Eagles) have been hitting the weights. Up front, they’re a lot stronger this season.’’
Rye Cove has a productive runner in 175-pound senior Steven Vikara, who rushed for 800-plus yards a year ago. “He’s fast, strong and very athletic,’’ Norris said. “He’s tough on both sides of the ball — as a running back and an outside linebacker.’’
The Eagles have shifted last season’s quarterback, Chris Lane, to halfback and inserted 210-pound sophomore Chase Rollins as the signal-caller.
North has been getting a lot of mileage out of wingback/quarterback Eric Pearcy, the team’s leading rusher and top scorer. Tight end Steven Hartsoe, defensive end Doug Cook, fullback Alex Fields and center MacKenzie Baker have been showing well at their respective positions.
“Our philosophy has always been to have fun,’’ Norris said. “We’ve got room to improve. The main thing is to stay healthy.’’
Volunteer (0-3) at Cherokee (0-3)
The Church Hill-Rogersville community football rivalry began in the early 1950s. Nearly six decades later, the spirit is alive at two consolidations — Volunteer and Cherokee — which opened in 1980. Neither team is off to a typical start but this does little to lessen the importance of Friday’s Hawkins County showdown. It could be a make-or-break game for both. “It’s our last non-conference game and an opportunity to get the team on track,’’ Volunteer coach Scott Rider said. “Both teams have been struggling for that first win. What a better time to get it than in a rival game. The last couple of games with Cherokee have been a little more important because there were playoff ramifications.’’
R.J. Williams is the Falcons’ big-play guy. They throw to him, occasionally hand off to him in the backfield and generally try to put the ball in his hands. Halfback Devin Rogers was banged up against Science Hill and his playing status is questionable. Josh Arnold may be called on if Rogers isn’t ready.
Landon House and Matt Hale are Cherokee’s outstanding offensive players. “House is a quality tailback. (The Chiefs) will throw to him out of the backfield and split him out some,’’ Rider said. “Hale is a good-looking athlete at wide receiver. He stands about 6-foot-3 and when they go to the air the pass usually is thrown in his direction. These players are Cherokee’s 1-2 punch. We’ve got to know where they are at all times and keep them in check.’’
Volunteer has been outscored 103-39. Likewise, Cherokee has been outpointed 84-27. One of them should enjoy having the shoe on the other foot this time.
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