The Morristown West Trojans will see an old rival in Cocke County for their Week 6 non-region matchup on the road.
The last time West and Cocke County played was 2016 before the Trojans made the transition from Class 5A to Class 6A (now back in 5A). The Trojans won that game 52-19 for their 16th straight victory over the Fighting Cocks. After a four-year break, the rivalry is back.
West (3-2, 1-1 Region 1-5A) is coming off an action-packed homecoming win over Daniel Boone where it received its first region win of the season, along with the confidence boost that goes with it.
Cocke County (1-5, 1-1 Region 2-5A) is looking for a bounce-back win after dropping two straight games where it was outscored 112-13 against Knox Halls and Seymour.
The Fighting Cocks lone win of the season was a 29-27 battle over Heritage. Although, the record of this young football team can be deceiving due to the competition it has faced.
“I look at Cocke County and see they are fighters,” West coach Alvin Sanders said. “They have a very young football team and sometimes that inexperience can take over a game. Looking at their schedule, it hasn’t been the easiest so we know they will be ready to battle.”
The Trojans seemed to be back in form offensively last week as they racked up 320 yards along with four rushing touchdowns.
Sanders mentioned the importance of this week is to keep the offense consistent and build off of last week’s showcase.
“We want to continue improving this offense,” Sanders said. “We looked great last week but we look at the film and see things we could’ve done better. I thought we had the perfect balance of running and passing last week and it’s going to be important for us to do the same thing this week.”
The offense starts up front, and now that West has all five starters back on its offensive line, running backs Hunter Delaney and Aquilio Romero are given the opportunities to create big runs.
Quarterback Noah Tripucka is also looking to build off of his performance of 123 yards on 11-of-14 passing and 31 rushing yards. It was a long two weeks before the senior QB and his team saw production like that on the offensive end.
With everyone healthy and players like Delaney and Tripucka having the game they just had against Boone, Sanders feels like there is an advantage against the Cocke County defense.
“We know Cocke County’s inexperience has kicked in at times on the line so we have to do a great job inside, first,” Sanders said. “We have a guy in Delaney that can take over a game. When our ground game gets going, it’s a tough night for defense.
“Tripucka’s confidence is there. He’s been doing a great job passing and running the ball. Once he gets in a rhythm, it allows him to settle in and get going.”
Cocke County is based out of a 4-3 defense, and at times lining up in different sets. The defense has shown life at times but has struggled to keep opponents off the board.
On the offensive side for the Fighting Cocks, they are led by the dual-threat junior QB Baylor Baxter who comes in averaging 99 passing yards and 25 rushing yards a game.
Baxter is a player that can take over a game and Sanders knows that.
“Baylor presents a problem for us that we have always had with athletic dual-threat quarterbacks,” Sanders said. “In this case, our sole focus has to be him. He’s that kind of playmaker. We know if we can take him out of the game, we better our chances of winning.”
Behind Baxter is senior running back Roman Stewart who can be a threat out of the backfield. He and Junior wideout Brazen Stewart have been Baxter’s go-to guys this season with nine receptions for 217 yards and four scores between the two.
Sanders is relying on his defense to continue their hot streak and apply pressure up front to minimize the chances of big plays.
“We have to keep Baxter in the pocket,” Sanders said. “I like our size against them in the trenches on both sides of the ball. We are very strong on the defensive line. That’s one of our strengths going into this game.”
Limiting Baxter will be the best chance West has to grab its 30th win over Cocke County as West leads the all-time series, 29-14.
The Trojans kick off against Cocke County at 7 p.m. Friday at Larry Williams Stadium in Newport.