Spencer Riley wants to see his team get back to playing Jefferson County football.
The Patriots, who have struggled to start the year, are still searching for their first win of the season. And Friday night brings another challenge.
Jeff County will take on Science Hill, a team that is 3-1 and defeated Greeneville last week, 45-25.
For Riley, he’s focused on his team right now and how they can fix the slow start to the season.
“We’re holding up well,” Riley said. “We’ve had good practices, and we’re just putting our nose to the grindstone and going back to work and play some Jefferson County football. Be the best that we can be.”
Science Hill cracked into the top 10 in the AP rankings for Division I-Class 6A this week after snapping their three-game losing streak against the Greene Devils.
The Hilltoppers are led by quarterback Jaxon Diamond, who threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns against Greeneville.
While the Hilltoppers will be tough, the Patriots expect that, having faced tough teams every single week so far.
“They are a very good football team,” Riley said. “They like to throw it around the barnyard. They are a very good football team across the board. They are going to try and get by you and throw some deep balls. It’s going to be a challenge for us this week, just like any week in our conference.”
For Jeff County to have a chance on Friday night, they will have to limit the big plays, something they were unable to do last week against Knox West.
The Rebels scored on touchdowns from 36, 64, 50 and 80 yards. The 80-yard touchdown run came on the first play of the second half.
“There were just some breakdowns,” Riley said. “We didn’t fit on some plays and that’s what happens. You can’t do that, especially with the team speed they had. They’re going to be the fastest ball club we’ll play all year.”
The Patriots could be without their starting quarterback on Friday night. Jeff’s Connor Cawood went down in the second quarter of last week’s game with an ankle injury.
Riley said that he will be a game time decision.
If Cawood is not able to go, the Patriots will go with quarterback Stephen McReynolds. McReynolds came into the game last week and was 3-15 for 15 yards and an interception.
“We had to throw him right into the fire,” Riley said. “He managed the game well, he missed some balls of course, but the interception wasn’t his fault. We had busted protection and he got hit as he was throwing.”
For the first time all season, the Patriots Ayden Houston was held in check against Knox West. Houston ran 23 times for 81 yards and did not record a touchdown. If the Patriots want to have a chance Friday against Science Hill, the blocking will have to be better for Houston.
“I think a lot of things we did (last Friday) were self-inflicted,” Riley said. “We had just had too many mistakes and how mistakes on the offensive line. It was definitely a challenging situation when you go out there and you have nine of 11 players doing their job but the two guys happen to be in the offensive line.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is set for 7:30. It will be Jeff’s second region game of the season, having lost to Morristown West in their first region game.