It is finally time for the game South Greene has had circled on its calendar for a year now.
Hampton is making the trip to Rebel Hill for a Top-10 matchup in which the Rebels will be looking for redemption after a disappointing loss last season.
A perfect season, a region championship and the playoff seeding that comes with it are all on the line when the Rebels and Bulldogs square off on Friday night.
“This is a big game for us. After the beat down they gave us last year, this is maybe the biggest game we have had at South Greene in a while,” South Greene coach Shawn Jones said. “I hope Hampton doesn’t think we are much different than last year because we are a different team.
“These kids are real excited for this one. They want to prove that last year was a fluke. This game is our measuring stick to see how we have grown.”
South Greene enters the game 8-0 and ranked No. 6 in the latest Class 2A AP poll. Hampton is 6-0 and ranked No. 7 in Class 2A.
A year ago, South Greene entered this game 8-0 but struggled on the road in Carter County and fell 30-0. Now the Rebels are looking to prove that is not who they are and that they belong on the top of the Region 1-2A standings.
Both teams are 2-0 in region play. The Rebels have beaten Cosby and Sullivan North and have a game with Happy Valley remaining. Hampton has beaten Happy Valley and Sullivan North, and has Cosby remaining.
Last week, South Greene beat North Greene 53-12 on a night where everyone on the roster got involved. Speedy running back Corey Houser took the first play of the night 86 yards for a touchdown. Chandler Fillers got behind the defense twice for a pair of long gains while quarterback Luke Myers threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
Jones believes his team has the ability to bust big plays against the Bulldogs and will need to continue to spread the ball around on Friday to keep one of the state’s stingiest defenses guessing.
Coming into Friday, the Bulldogs have three shutouts and are giving up just 5.5 points per game. South Greene’s offense is averaging 39 points per game.
“We have a lot of playmakers on this team, not just Luke,” Jones said. “We think they are going to load the box to stop the run and if they do we have to throw it. We have some guys that can make plays and we have to get them the ball, whether that is at the line of scrimmage or downfield, we need to spread it around.”
Hampton is coming off a 44-14 win over Cloudland. The Bulldogs will be led by quarterback Conor Jones, who can be dangerous with both his arm and legs. Against the Highlanders, he scored five touchdowns while running for 117 yards and throwing for 195.
Coach Jones expects Hampton to use its power game more against the Rebels.
“This will be a battle of quarterbacks,” Jones said. “The Jones kid for them makes them go, and Luke is the same for us. I think they will go to their power set this week and try to run over us because that is what worked for them last year. They can throw the football, too, but we feel that based on the past they want to run it on us.”
The winner on Friday will likely get to play at home in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while the loser would only be guaranteed one home game as the two seed out Region 1-2A.
CLAIBORNE AT CHUCKEY-DOAK
Chuckey-Doak has been more negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than maybe any other team in East Tennessee. But after a two-week layoff, the Black Knights are back in action in a key Region 1-3A tilt with Claiborne.
“This is going to be a tough game for us,” Chuckey-Doak coach Ben Murphy said. “We haven’t played in two weeks and getting used to competition is going to be an adjustment. I think our guys have handled the layoff a lot better than I have.
“I didn’t get to practice last week, we had some coaches out, but for the most part the kids were there and I was told it was a good week of practice. I’ve been there this week and the kids have been very focused. We have talked about how you just don’t know what will happen with this season, and you just have to make the most of every opportunity.”
The Black Knights have a 2-2 record on the field this season, but are 2-0 in region play and a win on Friday would put them in the driver’s seat for a region championship.
Chuckey-Doak also missed games earlier in the season with Sullivan North and Unaka due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Claiborne is 6-1 on the season and ranked No. 9 in the state in the latest Class 3A AP poll, but lost to Johnson County 40-27 and is 2-1 in region play.
“We have to be physical as we can be this week,” Murphy said. “We have to play with a lot of intensity. We have to play assignment football. Then offensively we have to be crisp and not turn the ball over. We have to pay attention to detail.”
Claiborne is coming off a 48-0 win over Cosby a week ago. They will be led by senior quarterback Eli Stone, who the Bulldogs will use to run like a running back, but he can catch defenses off guard with his deep ball. He will be joined in the backfield by the capable duo of Storm Livesay and Jimmy Del Ervin.
The Bulldogs will look to run downhill with an option attack, but Chuckey-Doak hopes that plays into its hands with a big defensive front and talented linebackers to stop it.
“They run the football really well,” Murphy said. “They have three seniors in the backfield and are a physical football team. Their quarterback is a four-year starter who is very good at running the offense. We think that sets up well for our defense, but with as little as we have played this year we sure don’t know if that is the case. We’ll find out.”
The Black Knights have used their time off to add some wrinkles to their offense that Murphy hopes will pay off big time. They plan to use running back Evan Murvin in some different ways on Friday, and have adjusted their passing game to help senior quarterback Matthew Palazzo.
“I think if we can get some kids in space we can create some advantages,” Murphy said. “We have Evan Murvin doing some different things this week. We put in some different route packages and if we can connect on those we could see some great results.”
UNICOI COUNTY AT WEST GREENE
West Greene and Unicoi County will meet on the Range on Friday night, and both team’s playoff hopes might be on the line.
Unicoi County enters the game with a 3-3 record and is 1-1 in Region 1-3A. West Greene is 2-5 and 1-2 in region play. Both teams’ region wins are over last place North Greene. Chuckey-Doak, Claiborne and Johnson County all have two league wins going into Friday.
West Greene fell to Knoxville Catholic last week 44-21. After falling behind big early, Dacota Wood picked up the offense in the second half and has quickly become the Buffaloes’ most consistent offensive weapon.
West Greene’s offense will run through quarterback Allen Vaughn, who can cause defenses trouble with his arm and legs. When the Buffaloes have had success, Vaughn has been most efficient through the air.
Unicoi will be getting back senior quarterback Brock Thompson, a four-year starter who missed the last two weeks with an injury. Thompson’s favorite target will be electric athlete Evan Huff.
Unicoi sat idle last week after its game with Chuckey-Doak was postponed to Oct. 23. The last time the Blue Devils took the field, they beat Sullivan East 29-12.