Patriots return to the road to face William Blount
DANDRIDGE — Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Kenny Cobble’s Jefferson County football team has been tough to beat on the road.
The Patriots have won six of their last eight road contests, including their first two this season, and they take another road trip this week away from Dumplin Valley to take on the Governors of William Blount.
Jefferson County (2-2) owns road wins over Knox Central (32-20) and Seymour (45-28) this season, and they now face William Blount (2-2) in just their second home game of the campaign.
The Govs lost their previous home game 35-34 against Morristown East on a missed extra point late in the game, and now take on a Patriots squad they have scored just 13 points against the last two seasons.
Jefferson County also has their offense on track after rushing for 519 yards in the win at Seymour. Dearies Jones led the way with 303 yards and five touchdowns, while Malik Styles returned from injury to rush for 90 yards and a score in the win.
“What we did last week on offense was what we were hopeful for all year long,” Cobble said. “We finally got everybody going in the right direction and executing like we are capable of executing. It definitely looked a whole lot better than it had looked.”
Cobble said the return of Styles last week at quarterback was a big shot in the arm for his club, and it helped Jones have a breakout performance.
“We seem to be more laid back with Malik, and we missed his leadership skills,” Cobble said. “Having him back was huge for us, and I think he helped Dearies.
“Dearies played more inspired and with a chip on his shoulder, and he knew he hadn’t performed his best the last couple weeks. He was excited and focused to get going in the right direction.”
Cobble said the Governors field a tough, physical team that is led on offense by quarterback Reed Daniels and running back Peyton Otis, a Sevier County transfer.
“William Blount is a tough football team, and they are going to be well coached,” Cobble said. “They have a lot of athletes, and of course with Peyton Otis running the ball, it’s huge. But it’s not just him. They have a couple of guys that run it well for them, and their receivers are very athletic and quick.
“It seems like it’s a dogfight with them every year, and I expect nothing different this week.”
Daniels had a big night against Morristown East earlier in the season, as did Otis in the backfield.
Daniels tossed for 171 yards and three TDs, with his favorite target being Joel Graham (10 catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs). Otis ran for 158 yards and two scores.
“Their quarterback does a great job running the offense, and they do some things scheme-wise that helps get him going,” Cobble said. “They throw screens and quick passes to get him in a rhythm, and he’s able to strike on the deep ball too.
“Having Otis and the rest of their running backs is huge too. It’s definitely not a one-man show back there, but he is capable of making plays when he needs to make them.”
The Governors defense is coming off a shutout against Heritage last week, but they have been vulnerable against the run against East and Hardin Valley. They will run multiple formations and disguise blitzes to keep the offense guessing.
“They are multiple a little bit on defense, but they will base out of a 4-3,” Cobble said. “They mix up man and zone coverage, and they are physical and big. They are big up front on both sides of the ball, so it will be a challenge for us to match up with their size.”
Cobble said he hopes to see another inspired effort like last week’s showing at Seymour, and putting two good games back-to-back is important in the growth of his team.
“I’m hopeful for another focused effort and complete game,” Cobble said. “We haven’t had back-to-back games where we have played well this year, so that’s our challenge – handle a win and come out the next week and execute well for two weeks in a row.
“I think last week was good for us. To see the kids smiling and the coaches smiling, it was just good for everybody.”
Jefferson County has won three of the last five meetings against William Blount, including two straight. The Patriots won last year’s contest 14-6 in Dandridge. Kickoff in Maryville Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Pigeon Forge at Grainger
Pigeon Forge (2-2) has owned the series with Grainger (3-1) of late, winning four straight games against the Grizzlies.
This week, the streak may come to an end with Grainger off to their best start since Skylar McBee was playing quarterback for the Rutledge Pioneers.
The Grizzlies and first-year coach Chad Tate have been in four close contests, with their three wins coming by a combined 23 points and their lone loss being a 28-14 decision against Gibbs in a game that tightened in the second half.
Pigeon Forge comes into this week’s game having routed Union County last week 55-14 on the road. By comparison, the Grizzlies defeated Union County 21-12 in Maynardville in their season opener.
The Tigers will be a formidable opponent, with their losses coming by a combined five points against Carter in overtime and one the road at Cocke County. In the loss to the Big Red, Pigeon Forge trailed 29-0 before scoring 27 straight points and coming up empty on an onside kick in the final minutes.
The magic number for Grainger to reach on the scoreboard should be 25, as the Tigers have scored at least 24 points in all four games this season.
Pigeon Forge has won seven of the last 12 meetings in the series, including a 30-18 win last year in Pigeon Forge. Kickoff Friday in Rutledge is set for 7:30 p.m.
Unaka at Hancock County
Hancock County (0-5, 0-2 Region 1-1A) has yet to find the win column under new coach Phil Blevins, but this week and next should provide them good opportunities to do so.
Unaka (0-4, 0-2 Region 1-1A) comes to town to take on the Indians in another battle of winless teams, but this week Hancock County has the upper hand.
The Indians have consistently scored more points in each of their five games, including a season-high 22 points last week against Cosby.
On the other side of the field, the Rangers limp into the game having scored just 27 points in their four games combined, with 21 of that coming in a 45-21 loss to No. 8 Cloudland last week.
Prior to the game against Cloudland, Unaka was shut out by Oliver Springs (40-0) and Sullivan East (31-0) at home before falling 48-6 at region rival Hampton.
The Indians would love nothing more than to get their first ever win against the Rangers and build some momentum heading into next week’s home tilt with Tri-Cities Christian.
Unaka has won all four previous meetings with Hancock County, including last year’s 27-0 shutout win in Elizabethton. Kickoff Friday in Sneedville is slated for 7:30 p.m.
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor