But the rivalry aspect adds plenty to the mix.
“I hope it stays on the schedule,” said Hilltoppers coach Stacy Carter. “With these new schedules, we can miss some of the community rivalries. This is a good gate for both teams, and we need a few more.”
The Hilltoppers host the Trailblazers at Tipton Stadium with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Science Hill is 2-3 and Boone 3-1, but the Hilltoppers are far from an underdog. The teams’ common opponent is Elizabethton, which nipped Science Hill 36-34 and crushed Boone 38-10.
Comparative scores typically don’t tell the whole story, and they won’t take into account the score of last year’s game between the Hilltoppers and Boone: 63-6 in favor of Science Hill, a game where Boone was missing its top two offensive threats.
Neither coach thinks that game is still lingering.
Carter: “We haven’t even thought about that. It’s a new bunch of kids for us, and I don’t think it has crossed their minds.”
Boone’s Jeremy Jenkins: “Last year is gone. This is a new team with a different identity, and we just have to come out and play.”
Boone’s identity is built partly on the foundation of sturdy running back Charlie Cole. He has rushed for 590 yards and leads Northeast Tennessee with nine rushing touchdowns this season.
“You have to deal with him on offense and defense, because he’s a good defensive end,” Carter said. “On offense, when he gets started he can really run over the secondary. And he has good speed, too. He’s a physical kid. And I like how their quarterback (Easton Harrell) plays. Boone’s kids are gritty.”
Science Hill will counter Boone’s attack with running back Chris Thomas. He has rushed for 558 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. He is boosted by a solid offensive line.
“We have to tackle really well, and the biggest concern is their offensive line and how physical they play,” Jenkins said.
Also, Science Hill has gotten better in the passing game with quarterback AJ Stewart getting more comfortable in his role.
Carter noted that Boone’s defense is anchored by the linebackers, singling out James Richardson, Logan Rivers and Devon White.
Pioneers coach Hayden Chandley said he doesn’t expect his team to get involved in overlooking an opponent.
“We have great senior leadership, and I don’t think they will let us overlook Hampton,” said Chandley, whose undefeated Class 5A team is favored over the Class 2A Bulldogs (2-2).
Last year’s game was a shoot- out, which Crockett won 56-39.
Hampton QB Alex Hardin has thrown for 453 yards and five touchdowns in four games.
With their season rolling along without a loss and two impressive wins in the bag, the Golden Raiders appeared to be in great shape. An upset loss to South Greene changed things.
North (4-1) will likely try to use the Rangers (1-3) as a chance to get those good feelings back in order.
The Chiefs (1-4) are coming off a win over their county rival, while Morristown West may be in desperation mode. This could be the last game this season in which the Trojans can make a case for being a favorite.
West (1-3) won this matchup last year 44-27, one of only three victories for the Trojans.
The Falcons (2-2) have struggled to stop teams from scoring, giving up an average of 47 points per game over their last four contests. The Grizzlies have struggled to score, counting three one-score outings among their four games.
Grainger (1-3) has won two of the last three meetings with Volunteer, including last year’s 46-0 whipping.
UNICOI COUNTY-SULLIVAN CENTRAL
The Blue Devils won easily last year, 48-14, and the Cougars carry the baggage of a 34-game losing streak.
But let Unicoi (4-1) be warned: Central’s average margin of defeat this year is just nine points. And Cougars quarterback Jackson Harrison is just 14 yards away from 1,000 in total offense this season.