With its chances of making the playoffs all but gone, East will be trying to break into the win column Friday when the Hurricanes play host to long-time foe Sevier County. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
The ‘Canes have lost all six of their games and are 0-3 in Region 1-5A play. At the present time, East is still alive in the playoff chase, but that will pretty much end if Daniel Boone beats Volunteer on Friday.
First-year East coach Caleb Slover saw his team battle back from a three-touchdown halftime deficit against Boone last week only to fall 28-21 despite a huge night by junior quarterback Cole Henson.
Henson racked up 346 yards passing the ball and became only the second player in East history to throw for 300 yards in a game. He also racked up three touchdown tosses giving him 29 in his career, just three shy of the school record held by Randy Sanders. Sanders passed for 392 in a 1983 game.
After falling to the Trailblazers, the most wins the Hurricanes could possibly get in the region would be three victories and that would mean beating highly-ranked David Crockett on the road. Four teams will reach the playoffs and Crockett, Cherokee and Tennessee High all have three wins already.
Since two of those teams have already beaten East, they get the tie-break advantage over the Hurricanes. If Boone picks up their third region win, the ‘Canes will be eliminated.
Slover said, “What we have to do is go out there and play our best football. We can’t control what other teams do against each other so we have to take care of our own business and see what happens.”
Friday’s battle is the final non-league game for the Hurricanes and Sevier County comes into the game at 2-4.
The good thing is the Bears have given up 49.7 points per game, which should signal East’s offense has a chance to be very productive.
Now the bad news, Sevier County is scoring 35 points per game and will be a very tough test for the Hurricane defense.
Topping the list for the Bears is the passing combination of sophomore quarterback Collin Shannon (6-0, 176) to wide receiver Brayden Hurst (6-0, 151).
In the last three weeks, those two have teamed up 27 times for 465 yards and six touchdowns.
“Hurst will be the fastest player on the field Friday night, just like he usually is,” said Slover. “Shannon does a great job of getting the football to him and he can catch it.”
Shannon has thrown for 318, 423 and 303 in the last three games alone.
“There’s no doubt that our defense will be put to the test,” said Slover. “And to top it off, they have a really good running back that has been doing a great job.”
The coach said, “They get in the spread a lot and really sling it around.”
Caleb McKenzie (5-6, 145) is another very capable wide out while big tight end Tyler Wilson (6-2, 218) has also caught several passes.
The running back is Sebastian Nelson (5-7, 157). He’s rushed 27 times for 272 yards in the last two games.
Slover said, “They’re also very solid up front on both sides of the ball. There’s not a real standout like they usually have but they do a great job. It’s the same thing with their linebackers. They don’t have that one stud linebacker but they’re just very solid.”
Hurst also starts in the secondary where he has been their most dependable defender.
The Bears opened with a 53-16 setback to Jefferson County and then came back to blast Heritage, 61-24. However, they have given up over 50 points in their last four games even though one of those was a victory.
Knox Central won 55-13 and South-Doyle hung a 60-20 loss on the Bears. Next up for Coach Tony Lingenfelter’s squad was a thrilling 52-51 overtime victory over William Blount.
Last week, Gibbs outlasted Sevier County, 55-48. The two have two common opponents as Jefferson County defeated East by 27-21 and Gibbs took down the ‘Canes, 31-7.
“We definitely have to find a way to slow them down on offense,” Slover said. “They’ve scored a bunch of points. We have to slow them down and keep them out of the endzone.
“Defensively, they’ve given up quite a few points,” he said. “They will blitz us a bunch and give us a bunch of different looks so we will have to go out there and execute.”
He continued, “We’ve got to be smart with the football and take what they give us. We’ve got to score some points but we played well on offense last week in the second half.
“We were down 28-7 at the half and played really badly in the first half,” he said. “We came back out and played lights out on defense and kept them off the scoreboard in the second half.
“Then we got going on offense and scored a couple of touchdowns and the kids came away feeling good about what we accomplished...at least as good as you can feel when you lose.”
Slover stressed again how badly East needs to score when it gets in scoring position. “We have to do that much better, especially with this group we’re playing Friday because they can put them up in a hurry.”