Knox Central is the same team that defeated the Trailblazers in the opening round of last year’s postseason on Boone’s field. And the Bobcats did it with a 16-0 shutout.
The rematch is set for Friday at 7 p.m. on Central’s field.
“We have prepared well and know the opportunity we have in front of us,” said Boone head coach Jeremy Jenkins. “When you get to the second round, the stakes are raised a little higher so you need to be playing at a high level in all phases.”
Both teams enter with records of 9-2 while Central carries a nine-game winning streak after opening the season with losses to Tennessee High and Knox Fulton.
In other games involving area teams, Sullivan South travels to take on Greeneville, Unicoi County visits Alcoa, and Cloudland plays host to Coalfield in a game that has been moved to Happy Valley because of the condition of Cloudland’s field.
Knox Central boasts quarterback Dakota Fawver, who has passed for 2,025 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season.
Demetrien Johnson is the biggest receiving threat with 823 yards and five scores.
“Their quarterback is a very good athlete who can beat you with his arm and legs,” said Jenkins. “(Johnson) is the big-play receiver. He makes a ton of plays — either by the deep ball or they will throw the slip screen and if you miss the tackle, he can score.”
The Bobcats bring it on defense, too, with Xavier Washington boasting 100 tackles, 20 for loss, and six sacks.
“He makes defensive plays all over,” said Jenkins. “He is very instinctive and aggressive.”
Boone relies on running back Charlie Cole, who has 1,815 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Easton Harrell provides a strong complement to Cole.
“We can’t have negative plays or turnovers,” said Jenkins. “The No. 1 thing we have to do is match their physicality, especially in the line of scrimmage.”
Rebels head coach Justin Hilton said his team must get off to a better start than it did in the 62-7 loss to Greeneville a month ago.
“Obviously we would like to not get down 21 points right off the bat,” said Hilton. “I really love the way our guys have come to work, especially the latter part of the season. We look forward to the opportunity to play the best team in the state.”
Hilton said Greeneville does everything well.
“They block as good on the perimeter as any team I’ve seen,” said Hilton. “They are well coached and have excellent athletes.”
Greeneville is led by quarterback Cade Ballard, receivers Dorien Goddard and Cameron Hite, and other weapons on both sides of the ball.
South leans on quarterback Luke Pollack, who has racked up 2,405 total yards (1,368 rushing) with 29 total touchdowns.
It’s a tough task, facing the team that many call the best in the state regardless of classification.
The Tornadoes have won 16 state championships, including the last three in a row.
“There are just no weak links anywhere to be found,” said Unicoi head coach Drew Rice. “They are extremely talented and very well coached. They are a tremendous team and program.”
The Blue Devils have enjoyed one of their best seasons in school history, earning their first playoff win in 33 years with last week’s 27-20 decision against Kingston. They are led by running back Kody Lewis, who has rushed for 1,921 yards and has 26 total touchdowns.
“We will have to try to put some drives together early and limit mistakes,” said Rice. “We can’t afford to give them anything.”
The Highlanders know the drill. Coalfield has made this trip each of the last four years, and walked away victorious each time.
However, it appears the gap has closed and the Highlanders should have a chance at turning the tide.
Shifty quarterback Peyton McKinney gives Cloudland something to worry about on offense and can make plays on defense, too.
Cloudland counters with running back Jordan Coffey, who has rushed for 1,301 yards and scored 21 touchdowns this season.