For Dobyns-Bennett’s football team, tonight’s game against David Crockett will mark a milestone as the Indians take the field to play the 1,000th game in program history.
For several other teams across the area, Friday night will serve as a measuring stick as conference play begins in earnest.
Sullivan South (4-0, 1-0) will head to Erwin to take on Unicoi County (1-3, 0-1) and Sullivan North (2-2, 1-0) will lock horns with Sullivan East (1-3, 0-1) in Three Rivers Conference play.
Sullivan Central (2-1, 0-1) will host Tennessee High (2-1, 0-0) in Big 7 Conference action and Cherokee (2-2, 1-0) will try its luck on the road against Morristown East (3-1, 0-1) in a key Five Rivers Conference tilt.
Another key contest will take place in the Big 7 as Volunteer (0-4, 0-1) visits a young Daniel Boone squad.
The Trailblazers (2-1, 1-0) opened the season with an embarrassing 35-0 loss at Elizabethton before bouncing back to beat Cherokee and Sullivan Central. Volunteer is winless, but has played well in stretches, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’ve got to do a little bit more to help our defense out,” said Volunteer coach Scott Rider. “Our defense has played a lot of snaps, and they’ve played a lot of snaps on our end of the field. So we’ve got to control the ball a little bit more and get some first downs.”
Statistically, tonight’s game in Gray will be a battle between the bottom two offenses in the Big 7. The Trailblazers are averaging just 242 yards per game with Volunteer mustering just 176 yards per contest.
Rider said the key to kick-starting Volunteer’s offense is to force opposing defenses to play honest.
After the Falcons showed the ability to run the ball early in the season, opponents started stuffing defenders in the box and Volunteer has yet to find a way to spread them back out.
With a couple of speedsters at his disposal, Rider is hoping this is the week the offense opens up.
“We’ve got to open up a little bit and get the ball to Maliek Carpenter a little bit more,” Rider said. “He’s got good speed and we’ve got to find a way to get him going. Jovell Tramblay, we need to try to get the ball in his hands and try to open things up a little bit. If we can do that, it will open up some other things for (running back) Casey Price and our quarterback Matt Reed.”
As for Boone, many of the names and faces in the starting lineup may have changed, but the Trailblazers’ tactics have remained the same. Josh Bacon and Grant Seeger have pounded out yardage on the ground while the Trailblazers defense is as rugged as it’s ever been, ranking just behind D-B as the stingiest in the conference.
“We know that anytime you play Daniel Boone, they’re going to come right at you running the football and they’re going to play hard-nosed defense,” Rider said. “We’re very familiar with them as they are with us.”
Unlike Volunteer, South hasn’t had much trouble moving the ball so far, ranking second in the Three Rivers conference in total offense behind Elizabethton.
But the Rebels are still looking to diversify their offense to take some of the heat off quarterback Dylan Wieger. Wieger accounted for 302 of South’s 373 yards of offense last week in a win over Gate City.
“We’re trying to be more consistent all the way around,” South coach Sam Haynie said. “Statistically speaking, we’ve rushed for more yards than we’ve thrown for, but we’re looking to develop a little more consistency.”
Defensively, Haynie couldn’t be more pleased with his team’s effort.
South is allowing just 211 yards per game with Kyle Bond (56) and Jacob Strickler (41) leading the Three Rivers in tackles.
This week South’s defense will face a difficult task on the road in Erwin. Unicoi County, led by quarterback Lucas Hensley, has an offense capable of keeping South on its toes.
“The quarterback can throw the football,” Haynie said of Hensley, who has thrown for 365 yards this season. “They run multiple sets, so we’ll have to get aligned right and tackle those guys.”
The Blue Devils may be without one of their key cogs, however, Running back Luke Fronckoski may have to sit out after sustaining a concussion.
Fronckoski is the second leading rusher in the league, averaging 7.7 yards per carry with seven touchdowns to his credit.