BY DARREN REESE
Some of Chuckey-Doak's winning scores this season have read more like high school basketball finals rather than football totals: 69-35...55-25...55-31.
The Black Knights could be in for another wild one Friday night as they travel to Gatlinburg-Pittman for the opening round of the TSSAA Class 3A playoffs.
The Highlanders scored 34 points or more in six of their ten regular season contests this year. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Benny Hammonds Field.
"I'd like to think that's not what it's going to turn into," Chuckey-Doak head coach Aaron Christian grinned. "I call all the offensive plays, and my goal is to give defensive coordinator Johnnie Yoakam 28-35 points per game to work with."
"Hopefully, that will be enough this week. We think we match up well with (G-P) and that we'll be able to get a few stops defensively. That will be key for us - getting those stops and not shooting ourselves in the foot on offense."
Chuckey-Doak won't be coming into this potential shootout without a full arsenal of weapons. In fact, the Black Knights boast one of the state's most explosive players in senior running back Bryce Malone.
Malone, who has rushed for 1883 yards and totaled 24 touchdowns this season, is just 72 yards shy of the school's single-season rushing record set last year by Julius Montgomery.
Malone had a game to remember last week as he totaled 326 yards and seven touchdowns to help Chuckey-Doak to their first win at South Greene since 1992.
"Bryce is just very comfortable in our offense," Christian said. "He has been a starter since his freshman year."
"He is elusive, quick in space. He doesn't have that track speed where he can pull away all the time, but if he gets you one-on-one in space, he is going to juke you out."
Chuckey-Doak certainly isn't one dimensional on offense, though. Teams have tried all year to stack the box in hopes of slowing down Malone, and yet the Black Knights have managed to average 34 points per game.
Christian credits part of that to the game preparation the coaches and players put in.
The Black Knights base their offense out of the Wing T, but they change the intricacies of it each week in an attempt to keep opponents off balance.
"Teams may scout a certain play with Bryce, and we'll switch up a motion with it or the formation week to week where it's the same to us but will look totally different to the other team," Christian explained.
"We also don't run a traditional Wing T. We have tried to finesse it a little bit. Teams aren't necessarily able to stack eight or nine in the box, because we can hurt them if we do."
Christian is able to tweak the offense week to week thanks to the fact that he has designed it to where his offensive line runs the same blocking schemes no matter what the formation is.
"Sometimes we run a single back, sometimes we have to wide receivers and two tight ends, sometimes we have four wide receivers," Christian noted. "But no matter what we do, I don't have to go teach the offensive line something new every week."
"They can block it the same as when we line up in the regular Wing T."
The Chuckey-Doak coaching staff also takes pride in its ability to make adjustments at halftime.
"We get to gather at halftime, and my spotters draw up what they are seeing and we compare it to what I'm seeing," Christian explained. "We have done a really good job with our halftime adjustments this year, and I think that's made us a good third-quarter and fourth-quarter team."
Christian points out that the Highlanders have a tremendous amount of size, and that winning the battle up front will be key for his squad. The coach will also need his first-year quarterback, Kris Hinkle, to play his best game of the season.
"We are going to put a lot on him," Christian said. "We run the ball so much, Kris doesn't see a lot of live snaps where he has to sit in the pocket, so when he does, he gets nervous and scrambles."
"We are going to need him to be looking down field and trying to find some guys on some of those short routs. We think we can hit them."
Gatlinburg-Pittman operates out of a Power I formation on offense. The Highlanders use a five-man front on defense.
G-P is led by sophomore running back Michael Muszik, who has rushed for 1190 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Tanner Cox is 84-of-150 for 1210 yards and 15 scores, while throwing just six interceptions.
Christian says that on film, G-P looks well-coached and technically sound. That is understandable considering the program has had the same head coach - Benny Hammonds - for 41 seasons.
Hammonds won his 300th career game a couple of years ago. Last season, the Highlanders missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995. They are back in the postseason this year after going 6-4 during the regular season.
Chuckey-Doak, meanwhile, is making its third straight playoff appearance after an eight-year drought. The Black Knights defeated Pigeon Forge in the opening round in 2011 before suffering a heartbreaking 48-41 loss to Sullivan North the next week.
"We are happy to finish with a winning record and make the playoffs again," Christian said. "That's three years in a row. I tell the kids, when you start to do it year in and year out, then it becomes a tradition."
Chuckey-Doak is led on defense by linebacker Nic Alexander, who has over a 100 tackles this season, and lineman Greg Bowman. For G-P, senior lineman Casey Greene leads the team in tackles with 83, while junior Spencer Brien and senior Justin Horner each have eight sacks on the year.
The last time Chuckey-Doak and G-P met on the gridiron was in 1998, a 44-6 Gatlinburg-Pittman victory.