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RUTLEDGE – Grainger head football coach Michael Manis shouldn’t have any problems putting together a scouting report for the Grizzlies’ game against Seymour this week.

Manis is very familiar with the Eagles as he served on the coaching staff there for several years before taking over the Grainger program this season. His former players still keep in touch with him and several came to see the Grizzlies play last week during the Seymour bye week as Grainger picked up a victory over the Eagles’ fellow Sevier County team Northview Academy. “They have sent me some messages throughout the week. I tell them I hope they play a great game but still lose by one,” Manis joked.

The Eagles are one of the feel-good stories of East Tennessee football this season as they enter this week’s game with a 5-2 overall record and 1-2 mark in conference play. They started the season with an exciting overtime win against intra-county rival Gatlinburg-Pittman and that victory has fueled the resurgent Eagles. Their five wins is a far cry from the 2020 season when Seymour went winless in 11 games. The move from 5-A to 4-A has served Seymour well and even though Manis’ focus is on beating his former team, he also gains satisfaction in their vast improvement from a year ago. “It will be exciting. A lot of those guys were at our game (at Northview Academy) this past Friday and I had been with those guys for the past three years so that senior class, I had since they were freshman. I know the highs and the lows we had there the past few years.”

The Grizzly boss says that while he is glad to see the Eagles enjoy success, he knows there is a possible playoff berth on the line and his new team must be focused on the task at hand. “I really hope they all play great but at the end of the day, I am a Grainger Grizzly now and I am here to give our guys the best shot we can to get a win this week.”

Seymour is led by a powerful running back who can pick up big chunks of yardage at any time, Manis said. “They have a really stout run game led by Brendon Harris. He is 6’0, 230-pound tailback who runs under a five flat so he is a really special kid. He is also a heck of a linebacker too. For us to be successful, we will have to limit their run game and try to make them throw the football and that is the goal this week.”

Grainger enters the game with a 4-4 overall record and looked sharp in the passing game in last week’s road win at Northview Academy. Manis liked what he saw in his team in Kodak last Friday and wants that to continue. “From our team’s perspective, we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I would like for us to be better running the football this week. I think we have the opportunity to do that. We need to keep our passing game as efficient as it has been and take care of the football. We have won the turnover battle in most of our victories this year so if we can do that and keep our penalties down, I think we can give ourselves a really good shot.”

The Eagles are a senior-laden team and Manis knows that experience will be a plus for Seymour this week but he also likes the matchup his team has with them. “They hired a new defensive coordinator and I got to meet him a little bit before I came here to Grainger. Defensively, they are different than what they have been in the past and what I am familiar with. They are very senior heavy on the defensive and offensive line, at running back and at linebacker so they have a lot of experience in those areas that will present us some challenges. But for once in a long while, we match up with a team on the offensive and defensive line this week. Seymour is not as big as some of the other teams we have played so that is kind of an equalizer for us as well. I think this has the chance to be a really good football game because we are evenly matched is some spots. We are a little better in some places and I think they are a little better in some places but it’s something I am really looking forward to this Friday.”

Seymour leads the series 2-1 as the two squads were in the same district several years ago. Grainger won the last meeting in 2016 by a score of 38-17. That avenged a 26-0 shutout the year before. Seymour won the first game between the two teams 44-6 in 2008.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 at The Den on Friday night.