Riding the momentum of three straight wins and playing at home, the Hilltoppers begin the TSSAA Class 6A playoffs against Bradley Central. Kickoff is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Tipton Stadium.
Science Hill was 2-4 and trailing 20-0 to Knox Farragut just before halftime in Week 7. The Hilltoppers rallied to take the lead against the Admirals, who have just one loss this season, before falling 23-21.
They’ve never looked back.
“We’ve played better since the Farragut game,” said Science Hill head coach Stacy Carter. “We’ve got to keep the momentum. Bradley has a tough team, but I think if we play well we will win.”
Bradley is 7-3 on the season, finishing third in Region 2.
DON’T FEED THE BEARS
Quarterback Dylan Standifer is the main man for the Bears, throwing for 1,946 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
“Their quarterback is pretty good,” said Carter. “He’s also the punter, and they run fakes with him.”
Standifer also has 337 yards rushing and six scores.
His favorite target is Saylor Clark, who has 61 catches for 886 yards and 11 scores. Tray Curry has totaled 534 yards on 47 grabs with four touchdowns.
“(Curry) is a big, tall receiver who is hard to stop,” said Carter. “He can really go get it.”
Ricky McCleary leads the running attack with 952 yards and 10 scores
Defensively, linebacker Hayden Owenby (10 tackles for loss, four sacks) is a standout player.
“He’s probably their best defensive player,” said Carter. “They just get after it. They blitz a lot, and they are tough kids. They are a hard-nosed team.”
Bradley ended Science Hill’s season in 2017 with a 41-34 first-round decision, a game that was controversial throughout.
After the game, Carter said, “I’ve been doing this for 14 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.” His team was called for 10 penalties, some at very inopportune times. Also, despite a fourth-quarter fumble recovery by quarterback Jaylan Adams as the Hilltoppers were driving deep into Bears’ territory, the ball was awarded to the Bears. They drove for a score that clinched the outcome.
IF IT’S CLOSE
Seven of Science Hill’s games have come down to the final play. So the Hilltoppers should be in a comfort zone if the game is close.
“I think we’re in that mode where we expect it to be another battle,” said Carter, whose team is led by running back Chris Thomas’ 1,187 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.