But that’s exactly where the Chiefs and Cyclones stand. Class 5A Cherokee (5-0) travels to take on Class 4A Elizabethton (4-0) on Friday night at Citizens Bank Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“Cherokee is playing confident football,” said Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten. “It’s a big game for both teams at the halfway point of the season.”
The Chiefs started the season with three close wins but followed with blowouts of Morristown West and Volunteer.
Elizabethton opened with a close game against Science Hill, but its other wins had three-touchdown margins or greater.
Cherokee boasts quarterback Collin Trent, who has accounted for 1,296 yards of total offense (864 passing) and 19 touchdowns (11 rushing).
“Our defense has to prevent the big play,” Witten said. “Collin Trent is playing inspired football. We have to keep them in long-yardage situations. We need to make them one-dimensional.”
Other threats for the Chiefs include Trent Price (278 yards rushing), Jonas Leeper (231 receiving yards) and Connor Smith (218 yards receiving).
Elizabethton counters with quarterback Bryson Rollins, who has 802 total yards and 10 touchdown passes. Running back Cade Maupin (439 yards rushing, five TDs) and receiver Parker Hughes (242 yards, six TDs) are also threats.
“They have some really talented skill guys who play behind a very physical offensive line,” said Chiefs coach Cody Baugh. “We have to get some takeaways and do whatever we need to do to get their offense off of the field. It will be a challenge for us.”
Baugh said his team must take care of the ball.
“They have forced several turnovers this season,” he said of the Cyclones. “Their defensive line plays physical. They are always well coached. We have to sustain drives to be successful.”
Witten said his team’s offense must be a dominant factor.
“Our offense has to control the game,” he said.
Here’s a look at other games on the schedule:
DAVID CROCKETT (4-0) at SULLIVAN CENTRAL (1-3)
Pioneers coach Hayden Chandley said the Cougars have some offensive bite.
“They definitely bring a variety of formations and schemes to the table offensively,” Chandley said. “They force you to adjust to numerous things, and that’s what we have been harping on this week.
“Their quarterback (Will Nottingham) throws a good ball, and their receivers can really stretch you vertically.”
Crockett counters with an offense that has been dialed in all season. The Pioneers are averaging 43 points per game behind the passing of Cade Larkins and the running of Ronquille Joyner.
Chandley said he expects to see an aggressive Central defense.
“They play extremely hard and will blitz from all different angles,” he said.
SCIENCE HILL (2-3) at CATHOLIC (2-2)
The private school in Knoxville is loaded with Division I football talent and yet has struggled some its first four games.
The Fighting Irish send three of state’s top 10 college recruits — according to 247Sports Composite — to the field: No. 4 Tyler Baron (6-foot-5, 252-pound defensive end; committed to Tennessee), No. 7 Bryn Tucker (6-5, 305-pound guard; leaning toward Clemson) and No. 9 Cooper Mays (6-3, 275-pound center; committed to UT).
The Hilltoppers may not be at full strength. Leading rusher and scorer Chris Thomas missed last week with a shoulder injury and probably won’t play, coach Stacy Carter said.
ABINGDON (2-2) at TENNESSEE HIGH (3-1)
The Vikings couldn’t match up with Dobyns-Bennett in the opener, but it has been smooth sailing since that game.
Tennessee High has averaged 41 points over its last three games and faces a Falcons team that surrendered a total of 80 points in back-to-back losses.
This is these teams’ first meeting in 65 years. They first played in 1922 but haven’t met since 1954. The Vikings hold a 10-3 lead in the renewed series.
UNICOI COUNTY (3-2) at SULLIVAN EAST (0-4)
Another team on an offensive roll is the Blue Devils, who have put up 65, 35 and 65 points during a three-game winning streak.
The Patriots figure to be more of a defensive challenge, but they haven’t figured out how to close the deal. East has lost games this year by one, three and seven points.
SULLIVAN NORTH (3-2) at PIGEON FORGE (0-4)
The Golden Raiders have endured a long two weeks after scoring only seven total points in losses to Chuckey-Doak and South Greene.
The Tigers, however, have struggled all season to stop other teams. They have allowed an average of 39 points per game with each opponent scoring at least four touchdowns.
JOHNSON COUNTY (2-2) at HAMPTON (2-2)
This time the Longhorns have to travel down the mountain for one of the area’s better rivalries.
Hampton has enjoyed a week off to prepare for what should a tough and close ballgame. Last year’s battle was a one-point decision in Mountain City, one of only two losses all year for Johnson County.
HAPPY VALLEY (4-1) at UNAKA (1-4)
Bouncing back from a Week 4 loss to Unicoi County, the Warriors whipped Cosby and enter this county battle as a big favorite.
In these teams’ two most recent meetings, the Warriors outscored Unaka 118-8.
AVERY COUNTY, N.C. (3-2) at CLOUDLAND (1-3)
This should be quite a challenge for the Highlanders in the longtime rivalry.
Cloudland won 68-30 last season, but Vikings junior quarterback Troy Hoilman is off to a terrific start this year. He has thrown for 1,581 yards and 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Avery boasts four receivers with over 200 yards, and junior Ty Smith has 25 catches for 426 yards and 10 touchdowns.