Dobyns-Bennett struggled to move the football on the ground at Ooltewah last week.
Daniel Boone has no desire to see that struggle abate any time soon.
The Trailblazers (3-2, 2-0) will look to their most consistent phase of the game to set the tone in tonight’s Big 7 showdown with the Indians (3-3, 2-0) in Gray.
“Offensively, we’ve kind of spun our wheels. Defensively, we’ve been decent. We’ve played more consistently,” said Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins, whose squad comes off a 42-14 non-conference loss to Sullivan South.
The ’Blazers defense thirsts for redemption.
“We had a real good week of practice. Looking at last week’s tape, we’ve challenged our kids to be more physical. I thought South was the more physical team, especially up front,” Jenkins said.
“Last week, we gave up too many big plays. We need to keep the ball in front of us and tackle well in space.”
Last week, the Tribe was contained to 69 rushing yards in a 10-3 loss to the Owls.
“I knew they had Rock City in Chattanooga. I didn’t know they had a stone wall in Ooltewah,” quipped D-B coach Graham Clark.
The Indians had opportunities to breach the wall.
“We had the ball in the red zone twice. Broke the huddle with 12, got knocked back five yards and ended up settling for a field goal,” Clark said. “We had it at the end, fourth and goal at the 2. Their defensive end got some penetration and got in the backfield and we weren’t able to knock it in.
“We had the 2-point conversion ready,” he added.
The Tribe faced Ooltewah without fullback Zach Casey, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. His playing status for tonight’s game remains uncertain.
“We miss him like an old dog misses its bone. We certainly would like to have him back. He does a lot of good things for us,” Clark said.
“It’s still day-to-day. Minute-to-minute, really. He’s made some progress in being able to run. He’s itching to get back. But we’ll have to see. It will be one of those monumental game-time decisions.”
There is little doubt that D-B’s bruising senior ball carrier would lend significant punch to the ground game.
“D-B is a well-coached team that does a good job getting the ball to who needs it. Skylar East is a good football player. Josh Holt is a good football player,” Jenkins said.
“They’ve been without Casey for the last 2 weeks. But he plays a big part on both sides of the football. So you have to prepare like you’re going to see him,” he said.
The ’Blazers are adaptable. They started the season with Dustin Chandler taking the snaps on offense. They’ve since moved Gabe Sanders in at quarterback. In addition to giving Boone a new look on offense, it frees Chandler to step up his defensive contributions at inside linebacker.
Both programs have had their respective ups and downs this season. Both still covet the Big 7 Conference crown.
“It’s a big game for them and a big game for us,” Jenkins said.
Dobyns-Bennett has had too many setbacks of its own to arrive at any foregone conclusions. It’s been a busy week at the Taj Mahal.
“They are quite difficult to prepare for. They have numerous formations, numerous defenses. You’ve got to run every defensive and offensive play since Alonzo Stagg,” Clark said.
“They play extremely hard. Doing as much as they do, you hope they make a mistake or two along the way.”
Elsewhere in the region, Science Hill (3-2, 1-0) travels to the Stone Castle to face Tennessee High (3-2, 1-0) in yet another meaningful Big 7 brouhaha.
Gritty Sullivan North (4-2, 2-0) goes to Johnson County (2-3, 0-1) for a Three Rivers Conference clash; David Crockett (3-3) visits Sullivan Central (3-2) with glory at stake and Cherokee (2-3, 1-1) takes aim at Sevier County (4-1, 2-0) in a Five Rivers Conference game.
Over in Church Hill, everybody will be rooting for the Falcons when Abingdon (1-3) crossed the state line to take on Volunteer (0-5).