BY DARREN REESE
& WAYNE PHILLIPS
It's a conference week for the local teams as Friday night's football pairings will go a long way toward determining league championships and eventually seedings for the playoffs which begin in November.
Three games will be played on Greene County soil, and all three are Blue Ridge Conference tussles which are crucial.
Rebel Hill will be a frenzy as Greeneville High pays a visit to South Greene, while Chuckey-Doak is at home to Grainger and West Greene gets the Panthers of Cumberland Gap at Jim Sauceman Field.
North Greene also has a crucial game but must go on the road as the Huskies head down to Cocke County to tangle with the Cosby Eagles.
All games Friday have kickoff set at 7:30.
DEVILS AT REBELS
It's always huge when Greeneville High (1-2, 0-0) makes a visit to one of the Greene County schools, and it will be no different Friday on Rebel Hill.
On paper, it looks like a terrific mismatch with the potent Greeneville offensive attack going against a South Greene lineup that is composed primarily of underclassmen. Only four seniors were on the Reb roster at the first of the season.
"They're (Greeneville) just a great ball club," South Greene Coach Shawn Jones said. "You don't have to look very far from Greene County if you want to see a program to pattern yourself after. They are a terrific football team."
The Rebels, Jones said, have had a great attitude at practice this week, coming off an 8-7 win over county rival North Greene last week.
"Winning does that for you," he laughed. "It was obviously a big win for our youngsters. We enjoyed it over the weekend, then reality set in knowing that Greeneville is coming in here this week. But we're OK with that. We'll line up and play just as hard as we can play."
Jones said his young team is still trying to get things going on offense.
"It's hard because we're just so darn young up front," he said. "But I was proud of the way they competed last week. We just want to keep getting better each week and I think we are."
Greeneville Coach Caine Ballard, whose Devils also won their first game last Friday, said practice has been "hard" this week.
"We've made it pretty tough on them this week," the coach said. "We've handled the conference teams pretty well in the past, and we're trying to get the attention of our players that when you play a league game, it's important, regardless of who it is."
With Alcoa on the horizon next Friday night, it's another concern to the coaching staff to keep the focus where it needs to be, and that's against South Greene.
"We know they are extremely young and they've struggled some this year, but we also know they'll play hard against us," Ballard added.
He said his team came out of the Franklin County game injury-free and the team should be at full strength Friday.
There's a strong possibility that redistricting after this season might mean this is the last football game between the Rebels and Greene Devils. Coach Jones said it appears South Greene's enrollment numbers are such that they very well might be dropped down a class next year, although that won't be known for sure until the TSSAA gets all the numbers in from the schools.
"We're down to 488 students," Jones noted. "The growth is just not in this side of the county. But our football team is fine. We've got 42 players and that's good because we're sure not losing many of them after this season."
GRIZZLIES AT KNIGHTS
The 2012 football season is only four weeks old, but when Grainger County travels to Chuckey-Doak Friday night, the result could begin the shakeout of the District 2-AA standings.
Both teams are 1-0 in league play, and hope to be contenders for postseason berths come November.
Chuckey-Doak head coach Aaron Christian says his team is ready for the showdown. Coming off a bye week, the Black Knights are the healthiest they have been all season, according to Christian.
"The bye week came at a perfect time for us," Christian said. "We had enough (healthy kids) this week to have a black and gold scrimmage. I've been looking around in the huddle (at practice) and all of a sudden I have everybody there. I don't know what to do."
The Black Knights (1-0 district, 2-1 overall) will get a boost from the return of starting running backs Bryce Malone, Nick Sandstorm and Tyler Coe.
Malone was hampered by a knee strain coming out of two-a-days in fall camp and then had to sit out Chuckey-Doak's 14-6 win over Claiborne on August 30 due to a concussion. But despite seeing limited playing time this season, he has managed 257 yards and two touchdowns on just 24 carries.
"He is back 100 percent, we feel like," Christian said. "We are confident enough in him that he is going to play on both sides of the ball this week."
Grainger County (1-0 district, 2-2 overall) is coming off a 31-12 non-district defeat to Gibbs last Friday night.
After being forced to play a large number of underclassmen the past couple of years, Grainger head coach Mark Briscoe is finally enjoying the fruits of the growing pains. The Grizzlies returned their entire offensive backfield from a year ago, as well as four of the five starting linemen.
"When we look at their roster, a lot of those numbers we have been seeing for the past two or three years," Christian said. "The young kids that they have been playing in the past are finally seniors."
PANTHERS AT BUFFS
There was one point during last week's game against Unaka when West Greene head coach Joe Case looked at the scoreboard and his team was facing a first down-and-36.
That pretty much tells the story of the Buffaloes' 2012 season, thus far.
The West Greene squad, heavy on underclassmen this year, was able to overcome youthful mistakes in rolling to a 28-0 win over Unaka for its first win of the season.
But Case wants to see his players take another step forward this week against a talented Cumberland Gap (1-0 district, 3-1 overall) team.
"We just aren't capitalizing as much as we would like," Case said. "We had a lot of yards last week, but penalties and everything kept us from scoring as much as we could have."
"We have been beat up on, but we have some good, young players and I think we have gotten better in a lot of areas."
West Greene (0-1, 1-3) has been led offensively by the running back tandem of junior Nathan Morgan and sophomore Jonathan Padgett, who have rushed for 287 and 267 yards, respectively.
Case has stressed physicality to his team all season, and he believes they are finally starting to get the message.
"We practiced last Monday on Labor Day from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.," Case said. "Then we came back and practiced hard Tuesday. We beat them up pretty good."
"But I think we are finally starting to play a lot more tougher. We are getting there."
HUSKIES AT COSBY
The motto for North Greene this week in practice has been to "get up out of the corner and answer the bell," according to head coach Josh Edens.
The Huskies (1-0 Region 1-A, 3-1 overall) are coming off a heartbreaking loss to rival South Greene, despite allowing just 39 yards of total offense to the Rebels.
Edens admits that the loss will be one that the North Greene faithful won't soon forget, but that it's time to move on. The Huskies return to Region 1-A play tomorrow night with a trip to Cosby.
"The reality is, we expected to win the game and should have won the game," Edens said. "We have to give it 110 percent until the final whistle. South Greene was more physical than us up front."
"We didn't take care of business, and that is not an easy thing to swallow. But our kids came back to practice Monday with the mentality that we hoped they would. They were ready to get back to work."
After watching last week's game film, Edens believes one of the biggest factors in the loss was the fact that his squad didn't do a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage.
The coaching staff made some schematical adjustments on the offensive line this week, with the hopes of making things easier on the guys up front.
"We wanted to make blocking a little bit easier," Edens said. "Sometimes the concept may be easy in our minds, but it's not always easy for every kid."
Cosby (1-0, 2-1) is coming off a 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee Christian. The Eagles are led by senior quarterback Drew Schroeder, but Eden says this week's opponent has several outstanding athletes at the skill positions.
"They are probably the best offensive team we've faced this year," Edens said. "We just have to be smart on defense and stay with our assignments."
"Offensively, I still have a lot of confidence in our kids. We are very capable on that side of the ball. We didn't get the job done last week, but I think we have made the proper adjustments."