The Indians (4-0) have won six straight games dating to last season and are ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Class 6A football poll.
Junior quarterback Zane Whitson is coming off his most impressive game to date, named the Times News/Johnson City Press Northeast Tennessee player of the week after throwing for 233 yards and a school-record five touchdowns in a 42-0 win over Hardin Valley. Through four games, Whitson has eight TD passes and no interceptions.
If that isn’t enough, he’s also an elusive runner when need be.
The Indians also boast a pair of running backs, Phillip “Thunder” Armitage and Tyler “Lightning” Tesnear, who combined for nearly 300 rushing yards in a 39-14 win at Bearden.
“Offensively, they don’t make many mistakes and take care of the ball well,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “They have a good pair of backs who run hard and the quarterback does a good job of making good decisions. We haven’t seen a scheme like this where 75-80 percent of their stuff is RPOs (run, pass options). They do a good job in the RPO game and that’s their bread and butter. They put you in a predicament trying to cover their playmakers.”
Two of those playmakers are receivers Nacir Sensabaugh and Dalton Harkleroad, who scored on 69-yard pass plays against Hardin Valley.
On the other side are the Trailblazers (1-3), who have been bitten hard by the injury bug. Playing without three of its top players — running back Charlie Cole, linebacker Devon White and lineman Chandler Masters — Boone lost 35-12 to Elizabethton two weeks ago.
Masters is out for the season after undergoing ACL surgery earlier this week. White is scheduled to be back in a limited capacity Friday night. Cole, despite missing the past two games, still ranks as the team’s leading rusher with 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Still, Boone has embraced a next-man-up attitude. The ’Blazers moved the chains against Elizabethton, which didn’t surprise Dobyns-Bennett coach Joey Christian.
“One thing you can count on with a Jeremy Jenkins-coached team is they are going to be physical,” Christian said. “They’re going to try to run the football as they’ve done for years. They do it out of different formations, different sets and different ways — but it’s always about who is the most physical football team, who can run the ball and who can stop the run.”
Quarterback Kaleb Worley ranks second on the team with 153 rushing yards. Brennan Blair and Joe Jones have rushed for some tough yards.
Boone is playing two quarterbacks — Worley and Jackson Jenkins — and they’ve combined to complete 33 of 66 passes for 273 yards. Phillip Page and Blair are the leading receivers with eight catches apiece, and Daniel Matherly has seven.
Still, Jenkins knows his team will have its hands full against the D-B defense.
“When you watch them on film, they really fly to the ball,” Jenkins said. “They play extremely hard. Their front runs to the ball and their secondary is extremely active. They’re well coached and do a good job of playing their responsibility. We have to do a good job of keeping a hat on a hat and moving the ball.
“We have to do some stuff on the ground. If you have to throw all the time with their pass rush, it’s going to be a long night.”
The Indians will be without leading tackler Nate Whitley, although he is expected to be back the following week when they play Region 1-6A foe Jefferson County.
Whitley has a team-best 34 tackles, Jet Harris follows with 31 and Braxton Kulbacki has 28. Jackson Martin (26 tackles), Isaac Ratliff (16), Ricky Wagner (13), Cam Williamson (12) and Fonzo Booker (12) also contribute heavily.
K.C. Vicchio leads the ’Blazers with 20 tackles, followed by Daniel Lusk with 18 and Edwards with 17. Three players — Preston Miller, Austin Cunningham and Cole Bishop — have 16 stops each. In addition, Will Hamlin has two tackles for a loss, a sack and fumble recovery.
“We think the world of a lot of their players,” Christian said. “(Hagan) Edwards, in there as a freshman at linebacker against Elizabethton, did an excellent job. Their Sam linebacker, K.C. Vicchio, is good, and they’ve got big defensive tackles they try to stop the run with.
“Their best player to me is No. 44 Cole Bishop. They move him around. He played mostly defensive end in the Elizabethton game after he played linebacker against Tennessee High and Greeneville. They’ve got two starting corners — Daniel Lusk and Joe Jones — who are seniors. They’re corners who will come up and make a tackle as well as being good cover guys.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.