Two-time defending state champion Greeneville’s reputation is chiseled.
“They are good at every position and have created a culture that expects to win,” said Hilton, whose team will battle the Greene Devils in a battle for first place in Region 1-4A. “We have to focus on being the best version of us, not trying to create something to beat Greeneville.”
Being the best version of themselves won’t be easy for the Rebels, who are 3-0 in league play and 4-2 overall. That’s because leading rusher Julian Reed (1,093 yards, 14 touchdowns) likely will not play because of an ankle injury suffered last week against Union County.
But Hilton said his team has a reason to believe in its chances.
“We have played them three times in two years with last year’s playoff game,” said Hilton. “I think confidence comes from knowing the work our players put in during the offseason. Big games are won in the weight room and the offseason. Greeneville is a testament to that. This is a great opportunity.”
Greeneville is 2-0 in the region and 5-1 overall with five straight victories after its 30-game winning streak was snapped in the season opener.
Quarterback Blayne Ferguson (588 yards passing, five touchdowns) is a key figure while Ty Youngblood (425 yards rushing, nine scores) and Mason Gudger (413, four touchdowns) split up the key part of the rushing attack.
South counters with quarterback Ethan Bergeron, who has totaled close to 500 yards on the season.
Among the other contests on the slate, Elizabethton visits Union County while Sullivan Central travels to Sullivan East. Also in non-region small school games, Johnson County is at Happy Valley and Hampton visits Cloudland.
Elizabethton (6-0, 2-0) at Union County (3-4, 1-2)
It’s a situation the Cyclones have faced before: the calm before the storm.
Elizabethton will try to keep its attention on the Patriots, but the biggest game of the year awaits next Friday at home against Greeneville.
The Cyclones would like nothing better than to put Union away early. Union is coming off a 37-0 loss to Sullivan South.
Sullivan Central (1-5, 0-2) at Sullivan East (0-6, 0-3)
If the Patriots are going to prevent a winless season, it likely needs to happen here.
Last year’s game was a wild 51-42 shootout with Central winning. The Cougars were outmatched the last two weeks, but were averaging 28 points per game prior to losses to David Crockett and Greeneville. East is coming off a 38-7 loss to Grainger.
Johnson County (3-3) at Happy Valley (5-1)
The Longhorns got their offense in gear last week, putting up their highest output of the season with 33 points.
Likewise, the Warriors have totaled 81 points over their last two games for their best offense stretch of the season.
Happy Valley hasn’t beaten Johnson County since 2013.
Hampton (4-2) at Cloudland (2-4)
The Bulldogs have been on a roll, racking up over 40 points for three straight weeks.
The Highlanders might have trouble slowing them down, but this rivalry has a tendency to produce close ballgames.