After engineering two consecutive game-winning drives, Dobyns-Bennett’s offense has proven that it is clutch under pressure.
Now D-B coach Graham Clark needs his offense to become more consistent.
The Tribe pulled it together with the game on the line last Friday night against Tennessee High, taking the ball 73 yards in under two minutes to score the game winning touchdown. Quarterback Josh Holt was 6-for-6 through the air, hitting Caleb Cook with what turned out to be the game-winning TD pass with 20.5 remaining in the game.
“Josh made some plays that were pretty unbelievable,” Clark said. “Of course, Caleb’s catch at the end, but a lot of catches to set all that up, too. It’s one of those drives that you’ve got to be able to make to hopefully win a championship, and kids came through for us.”
But as the Tribe (5-3, 4-0) prepares to face Sullivan Central (3-4, 0-4) on the road tonight in Big 7 Conference play, Clark is more concerned with cleaning up some of the miscues that put D-B in such a tight spot against the Vikings in the first place.
“You go back and look at some of the holding penalties and false starts we had, and you realize in some places, we’re still kind of young,” Clark said. “We had 527 yards of offense and had to rally to get 28 points.”
Another issue this week is the absence of star offensive back Zach Casey, who rushed for 159 yards and two TDs on 16 carries last week before leaving with an ankle injury. Casey will be out tonight, leaving Clark to shuffle his backfield.
Trey Trammell, Blake Rodgers and Alijah Dunn are the three backs who will likely see more carries tonight. Of the three, Trammell has made the biggest impact, but his importance on defense has limited his involvement on offense.
Clark said that will likely change with Casey out again.
“He’ll get some more (carries). He has to,” Clark said. “He’s made two or three amazing runs for us where the pile just seems to keep moving.”
The Cougars are hoping to build off their fast start against Science Hill last week. Jordan Edwards booted a 44-yard field goal and Trey Pope hit Matt Kinkead with a 34-yard TD pass to put Central up 10-7 in the second quarter.
Tonight’s game will be another tall task for Central, but the Cougars aren’t afraid to roll the dice as evidenced by an onside kick to start the game in Johnson City last week.
In other action, the two teams that have fallen victim to Holt’s heroics in the last two weeks will square off in what is essentially a playoff game.
Daniel Boone will travel to Tennessee High tonight, and both teams know their playoff hopes likely depend on the outcome of this pivotal Big 7 contest.
“We talked about it the first of the week. Our playoffs kind of start tomorrow night,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said as he walked off the practice field on Thursday.
“I think we’re in the same boat, but kind of up and down at times. We know it’s a tough ball game going up there to the Stone Castle and playing against the No. 1 offense in our conference.”
Indeed, the Vikings (3-4, 1-2) are averaging 435.7 yards of offense per game, the highest in the league. But the Trailblazers (3-4, 2-1) have the stingiest defense in the conference, allowing just 246 yards per game.
Boone’s challenge tonight will be slowing down Tennessee high quarterback Peyton Henley, who has thrown for 1,660 yards and rushed for 193. Henley has thrown 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season and rushed for another six TDs.
The Trailblazers will look to Josh Bacon, Dustin Chandler and Grant Seeger to move the ball on the ground and strand Tennessee High’s offense on the sidelines. Jenkins said avoiding turnovers will be a huge key to victory.
Another marquee contest will take place at Sullivan North as the Golden Raiders (5-3, 3-1) and Sullivan South (7-0, 3-0) tangle in a game that has Three Rivers Conference title implications.
Like Boone, North will look to use a punishing ground game to win the time of possession battle and keep South’s offense off the field.
South quarterback Dylan Wieger has been a force in Three Rivers play this season, completing nearly 66 percent of his passes and tossing 13 touchdowns. Evan Headrick is Wieger’s favorite target, and his 31 receptions are tops in the league.
North’s ground game is paced by Jacob Jasper, who has run for 897 yards so far this season and is averaging 9 yards per carry.
In other key contests around Northeast Tennessee tonight, Elizabethton (6-1, 3-0) travels to Johnson County (3-4, 1-2) in Three Rivers play and Science Hill (5-2, 3-0) heads to Volunteer (0-7, 0-3) for a Big 7 clash.
Jefferson County (4-3, 2-2) will pay a visit to Cherokee (2-5, 1-3) for a Five Rivers Conference tilt and Unicoi County (2-5, 1-3) will host Happy Valley (3-4, 1-2) in Three Rivers action.