The football regular season has one more game slated Friday, with Loudon High and Greenback schools vying for playoff contention.
Loudon will play for the regular-season region championship, while Greenback will battle for home-field advantage to start the playoffs the following week.
Meanwhile, Lenoir City High School will compete for its third consecutive win Friday.
All three teams will be on the road against region rivals to close out the regular season. LCHS will travel to Powell High School, LHS will play at Roane County High School in Kingston and Greenback will be at Oakdale High School.
Lenoir City’s game begins at 7 p.m., while games for Loudon and Greenback start at 7:30 p.m.
Panthers shoot for third straight
The LCHS Panthers (3-6, 0-3 Region 3-5A) had a second consecutive win, a 20-14 victory, Friday against non-region opponent Heritage High School.
“That was kind of our mantra: Two in a row,” Jeff Cortez, LCHS head football coach, said.
LCHS tallied 352 yards of offense against the Mountaineers (0-9, 0-4 Region 2-5A) and only gave up seven points on defense.
“So that was a nice defensive day,” Cortez said.
Heritage’s other touchdown came on a pick-six interception on an LCHS trick play.
Panthers junior running back Chris McCord ran for more than 100 yards for the second week in a row and rushed for a touchdown.
“That was good for him, really good for us,” Cortez said. “When you can have a balanced attack, that’s good for everybody.”
Sophomore quarterback Brett Cortez threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns to seniors Dusty Clevenger and Jordy Carroll.
The game was the third meeting between LCHS and Heritage in a renewed series between the two programs that Cortez believes are similar.
“They’re always good games,” he said.
On Friday, the Panthers will take on Powell, the No. 1 seed in the region and possibly the No. 2 team in Tennessee in Class 5A.
“They have the No. 1 recruit in the nation at defensive end (Walter Nolen),” Cortez said, also crediting the team’s junior quarterback Jordyn Potts.
“We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us,” Cortez said. “We’ve got to make them slowly move the ball down the field if they’re going to score. We’ve got to play special teams. We’ve got to create some turnovers. We’ve got to score. ... We’re going to have to play some great defense. ... We’re going to have to block Mr. Nolen and then score some points.”
Redskins play for region
Loudon (8-1, 4-0 Region 3-3A) was handed its first loss of the season Friday in a 31-21 defeat against non-region opponent McMinn County High School.
“It was a hard-fought game between what I would consider two good teams,” Jeff Harig, LHS head football coach, said. “We had two turnovers that led to them scoring points and that was kind of the difference. ... They had no turnovers.”
The Redskins had a balanced attack, Harig said. Senior quarterback Keaton Harig carried the ball 25 times for 150 yards and threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Kaden Dockins hauled in several big catches and caught two touchdown receptions.
With seven minutes left in the game, Loudon had a chance to tie the game at 28, but Loudon turned the ball over on downs. The Cherokees later scored a field goal.
“We just couldn’t get anything going enough to tie the game up,” Harig said.
LHS will end the regular season against Kingston, which is also undefeated at 4-0 in the region.
“This game is about the region championship,” Harig said. “This is the one that matters most. ... It will secure your home-field advantage through the playoffs up until the semifinals.”
The biggest challenge for LHS will be to limit Kingston’s run game, Harig said. Kingston is a run-oriented team with two running backs, one with speed and one with power. The Yellow Jackets also have an athletic quarterback they use in the run game.
“They’re kind of a three-headed monster in that run game,” Harig said, emphasizing the teams are evenly matched.
“Turnovers are a big deal,” he said. The Redskins will seek to create them on defense and limit them on offense.
Greenback battles for home-field play
Greenback School (3-5, 3-2 Region 2-1A) lost 29-28 Friday against Midway at home.
“It was a really good game,” Ethan Edmiston, head football coach, said. “We just needed to make one more play at the end and we could have come away with the win.”
The Cherokees were playing without four starters, Edmiston said.
“I thought we played good enough to win,” he said. “We just needed to make one more play or make our last 2-point conversion.”
Greenback failed on a 2-point conversation attempt at the end, which would have given the team the win.
Edmiston said the Cherokees had a good drive going in the final minute and scored on a touchdown pass to sophomore Kooper Williams. The attempted 2-point conversion was led by senior quarterback Micah Franklin running the football.
“We were just a few inches short of punching it in,” Edmiston said. “Just came up a little short.”
Sophomore Michael Payne caught two touchdown passes and Franklin had a good passing day.
“He had three touchdown passes and made a lot of good throws with guys in his face,” Edmiston said. “He played really, really well.”
Home-field advantage to open the playoffs will be on the line Friday in the region battle at Oakdale.
Edmiston said he thinks if the Cherokees beat Oakdale and Oliver Springs defeats Midway, the Cherokees would be the No. 2 seed and have a home game in the first round of the playoffs. If Greenback beats Oakdale and Midway wins Friday, Greenback will be the No. 3 seed and will travel to open the playoffs.
The Cherokees will have starters Caden Lawson and Cody Hearon back from injury this week, which will be needed to combat Oakdale’s speed.
“That’ll be a big positive for us,” Edmiston said.