When the Greeneville Greene Devils host the Science Hill Hilltoppers in a non-region game on Friday night, they will be playing for just the second time due to two games being canceled by COVID-19.
Science Hill, on the other hand, has been able to play all its games thus far this fall and is 2-1.
A must win for the Devils? Hardly.
A must get better game against a non-region opponent? Definitely.
“Until you get to region games and the playoffs, there aren’t any must wins for me,” said Greeneville coach Eddie Spradlen, whose Devils have won three straight against Science Hill. “We lost nine starters on defense from last year. Right now, we just need these guys to get experience. I’m as excited as I can be about this group. But we’re as young and as green as we’ve been in a long time on defense.”
Greeneville is 1-1 following a 35-34 home loss to Boone on Aug. 28 and a COVID win over Unicoi County last week. The Devils’ game against Powell on Aug. 21 was canceled due to a COVID outbreak among Greeneville students.
In the loss to Boone, Greeneville gave up 424 yards, 271 on the ground.
“We have some guys who contributed a lot on defense last year, but they were in different roles,” Spradlen said. “The linebackers we have were all backups, and we have guys on the line who are starting who didn’t start last year.
“We just got to get some more game experience under us. It doesn’t matter how hard we work them in the weight room or how hard we practice, you just can’t get that game experience unless you’re going against somebody else.”
After dropping its season opener 30-8 at Elizabethton on Aug. 21, Science Hill defeated David Crockett 35-14 at home on Aug. 28 and Hardin Valley 48-21 at home last week.
Science Hill quarterback Jaxon Diamond has completed 50 of 83 passes for 707 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions.
While Diamond has connected with multiple receivers on TDs, his top target has been Cole Torbett. Torbett has 19 catches for 288 yards and two scores.
Caleb Mazoff is Science Hill’s top rusher with 305 yards and three TDs on 37 carries.
While Greeneville’s young defense will have it hands full with that bunch, Spradlen thinks the Devils’ veteran offense can provide breathing room.
Against Boone, quarterback Drew Gregg completed nine of 12 passes for 255 yards and three TDS. Running back Mason Gudger had 102 yards and a TD rushing, and 106 yards and a TD receiving, while Jaden Stevenson had 103 receiving yards and two scores.
“We’re going to score fast in a lot of cases,” Spradlen said. “To have that experience back on offense is exciting. We saw what those guys can do against Boone. We have a lot of playmakers and we have a big offensive line that has a chance to be really good.
“Boone and Science Hill are two really good programs. It’s two big challenges, but that’s what I want early in the season. We’re going to be a better team down the road because we’ve played these two teams.”