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Indians, Crockett standing tall at season's halfway point

Douglas Fritz • Sep 24, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Making the football playoffs is the goal for most area teams. Playing at home is a bonus.

The top four teams in each region earn postseason spots, but only the top two finishers get to play Game 1 at home.

With the season reaching its halfway point this week, here’s a look at how the playoff picture appears to be shaping up:

REGION 1-6A

Predicted champion: Dobyns-Bennett

The emergence of quarterback Zane Whitson has elevated the Indians above the fray. Science Hill and Farragut will still get their shots. Farragut is the wild card.

Home game: Science Hill

Final two spots: Farragut, Bearden

REGION 1-5A

Predicted champion: David Crockett

This is not over by any stretch of the imagination. Tennessee High and Cherokee are knocking loudly at the Pioneers’ door.

Home game: Tennessee High

Final two spots: Cherokee, Daniel Boone

Cherokee should give the Vikings a strong test for the No. 2 spot. Boone could get pushed for the fourth spot by Volunteer.

REGION 1-4A

Predicted champion: Greeneville

This is the hardest pick of any from the six local regions. The Greene Devils and Cyclones figure to have a whale of a game on Oct. 18.

Home game: Elizabethton

Final two spots: Sullivan South, Union County

The Rebels are still contenders for the top two spots. The final playoff spot is up for grabs.

REGION 1-3A

Predicted champion: Unicoi County

This isn’t cut and dried, and this league probably has the deepest race to the top. The Blue Devils must navigate Chuckey-Doak and Johnson County, which already lost to the Black Knights.

Home game: Chuckey-Doak

Final two spots: Johnson County, West Greene

REGION 1-2A

Predicted champion: South Greene

The Rebels are the real deal this year, looking good on both sides of the football.

Home game: Happy Valley

Final two spots: Hampton, Sullivan North

REGION 1-1A

Predicted champion: Cloudland

The Highlanders may not be leaps and bounds better than the rest of the league but should still be top dog.

Home game: Jellico

Final two spots: Unaka, Hancock County

LARKINS WATCH

David Crockett quarterback Cade Larkins added another big game to his resume with 280 yards passing against Cocke County on Friday. That pushed his career total to 9,343.

Larkins is only 23 yards short of the all-time Region 1 record, currently held by former Greeneville standout Cade Ballard.

Larkins moved into eighth place on the state’s all-time list. He is 1,779 yards short of Kyle Akin’s record.

Larkins added three touchdown strikes against Cocke County, giving him 87 for his career. He is one touchdown pass away from moving into the top 10 all time.

College football options are still on the table for Larkins.

“I love Chattanooga, I love ETSU and I love Tennessee Tech,” Larkins said after Friday’s game. “I’m just grateful to be recruited at all.”

Larkins said he will likely make his decision near the end of the season or shortly after it is over.

HOW WE VOTED

Coverage-area teams receiving votes from the Johnson City Press/Times News in this week’s Associated Press state poll, along with the No. 1 selection (coverage area: Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Hawkins counties):

Class 6A — Oakland (No. 1), Dobyns-Bennett (No. 3)

Class 5A — Knox Central (No. 1), Crockett (No. 2), Cherokee (No. 9)

Class 4A — Greeneville (No. 1), Elizabethton (No. 2)

Class 3A — Alcoa (No. 1), none

Class 2A — Peabody (No. 1), none

Class 1A — South Pittsburg (No. 1), none

THE TOP 10

Only one change was needed after a near-perfect week for the Top 10. Sullivan North’s loss to South Greene bumped the Golden Raiders out of a tie for the No. 10 spot.

All other teams won, with the exception of idle Daniel Boone. Here are this week’s rankings:

Team W-L Prv
1. David Crockett 4-0 1
2. Elizabethton 4-0 2
3. Dobyns-Bennett 4-0 3
4. Cherokee 5-0 4
5. Tennessee High 3-1 5
6. Science Hill 2-3 6
7. Sullivan South 3-2 7
8. Daniel Boone 1-3 8
9. Unicoi County 3-2 9
10. Johnson County 2-2 10

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Science Hill at Knox Catholic — The Fighting Irish is coming off a big-time 56-19 pounding at the hands of McCallie, which is a loaded private school. That probably means Catholic will be in a snarly mood when the Hilltoppers make the journey to Knoxville.

Cherokee at Elizabethton — The Cyclones will have their hands full against Chiefs quarterback Collin Trent, who is a game-by-game threat to produce 300 total yards. But the Cyclones have playmakers of their own, and this should be an entertaining contest.

Johnson County at Hampton — One thing seems likely with the Longhorns involved: This game should be tight. Only 11 points have separated the Longhorns from their opponents through four games with two one-point wins combined with four- and five-point losses.

PICK OF THE WEEK

Elizabethton 35, Cherokee 27 — It could be an offensive showcase with the level of skill players that will be on the field. It’s hard to pick against the Chiefs in a close game, but give the Cyclones a slight edge based on their overall play to this point in the season.

Picks record: 3-2.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

5-star — Zane Whitson, Dobyns-Bennett

Zane Whitson is moving up the ranks among the area’s best players.

Dobyns-Bennett’s junior quarterback turned in a five-touchdown effort in Friday’s 42-0 blitzing of Hardin Valley. For his efforts, Whitson was honored Monday as the Times News/Johnson City Press player of the week.

4-star — Julian Reed, Sullivan South, RB

The senior rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns in just three quarters of a 47-23 win over Sullivan Central. His longest scoring runs were 62 and 36 yards.

3-star — Connor Batchelder, Science Hill, QB

The Hilltoppers rolled to a 42-8 win over Jefferson County behind the strong passing of the senior. He hit 24 of 33 passes for 298 yards and three scores.

2-star — Cade Larkins, David Crockett, QB

The Pioneers’ standout senior hit on 17 of 31 passes for 276 yards with three touchdowns in basically half a game as Crockett beat Cocke County 35-0.

1-star— Tater Haun, Cherokee, LB

The Chiefs got it done on both sides of the ball in a 49-6 win over Volunteer. The junior was a defensive beast with 22 tackles, 3 for loss, and 1/2 sack.

THE HOGS AWARD

Unicoi County Blue Devils

The Blue Hogs brought their lunch pails and feasted into the night. They cleared the way for 221 yards rushing, and the pass protection (eight completions in 11 attempts) was rock solid in a 65-13 pounding of Claiborne.

DEFENSIVE UNIT OF THE WEEK

David Crockett Pioneers

It wasn’t an easy award to grab this week after D-B, Elizabethton and Science Hill each turned in gems.

But the Pioneers allowed only 76 yards of offense in a 35-0 win over Cocke County. Crockett also totaled 3½ sacks, picked off three passes, forced four fumbles and recovered two, and had a 42-yard strip-6 when Brayden Reid stole the ball and raced into the end zone.

SOCCER UPDATE

District 1-AAA rivals Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill meet in their rematch on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tipton Stadium in Johnson City.The Lady Hilltoppers (10–3-1, 5-0) defeated the Tribe (3-4-2, 2-2) in their first meeting, a 3-1 decision. ...

On Tuesday, Elizabethton (7-2, 4-0) and Greeneville (8-5, 3-0) will decide the District 1-AA regular-season title on the Lady Greene Devils’ home field.

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