Scott at Grainger — Friday, 7:30 p.m. — The Den

RUTLEDGE – When Grainger head coach Chad Tate looks at the Scott Highlanders, he is seeing a team that mirrors his own in multiple ways.

“They remind me a lot of us as we look at them on film,” Tate said. “It’s two similar teams in the style of play and the type of athletes we have so it should be a great, competitive football game. Scott is always well coached and well prepared. It’s been a good game ever since we started this series.”

The series is renewed this week as Scott comes to Rutledge Friday night to face the Grizzlies. Scott holds a 3-1 advantage in the series which includes last year’s 13-6 defensive nail-bitter in Huntsville. The Highlanders opened the season with an impressive 42-6 victory over Cumberland County but have dropped their last two games, losing to Whitley County (Ky.) 33-14 and to top-ranked Alcoa 42-0 last week. The Tornadoes jumped on top early as they scored on five of their six first-half possessions in the win.

The Highlanders kept things on the ground as they ran on 27 of their first 29 plays in the game against Alcoa but Tate said he expects Scott to go to the air more this week with their talented quarterback, Noah Buttram. “Their quarterback is a young guy but is a great athlete and on offense, it starts with him. He carries the ball and can throw it so he is a run threat and a pass threat. Scott will throw the football because they like to throw it as well as run it. They have some really good receivers that can catch the football and have good concepts in their passing game so they will put stress on our secondary.”

Buttram’s ability to go deep will present a challenge to the young Grizzlies’ secondary but Tate said he likes the progress he has witnessed through the first three games. “Our secondary is continuing to get better. Coming into this season, that was one of the areas where we were a little green so our guys continue to improve there and as the season goes on, we will see even more improvement with that group. But they will be pressured again this week.”

The Grizzlies are coming off their first loss of the season, a 24-6 setback in the regional opener last week against Sullivan South. The Rebels’ size gave Grainger fits all night as they were limited to one passing yard in the game.

The Grizzlies did find some success in the run game, however, as Ty Overbay ran for 100 yards on six carries and Dawson Holt picked up 94 yards on the ground on 17 carries.

Despite the loss, Tate said he saw a number of positives against the talented Rebels. “We lost the football game and I know people don’t like to hear this but after looking at the film, in some ways, we may have played our best game mentally and in assignment football. I’m not taking anything away from anyone else but Sullivan South was a step up in competition. When that happens, you just don’t have much margin for error.”

Grainger moved the ball on the ground against South but mistakes cost the Grizzlies opportunities to score. “The big thing for us was to finish drives. We took a sack on one drive and then we had another drive where we were moving the ball and we got a holding penalty. We were able to overcome some of those things early in the season but against a team like South, it gets harder to overcome those. We have to clean up some things. Sacks are going to happen and penalties are part of the game but we have to be able to finish drives,” Tate said.

Tate said tackling has been the major point of emphasis for his team in preparation for Friday’s game against Scott. “Defensively, we have to tackle better and I have been talking about that since the first game. We miss too many tackles and fundamentally, we have to be able to tackle better. It’s difficult with the way people play football now as teams get out in space and that creates some different situations but we have to be able to tackle better.”

Kickoff between the Highlanders and Grizzlies at The Den is set for 7:30 p.m.