Friday night preview: Oneida looks for playoff berth, Scott looks for first win


For the first time this season, both Scott and Oneida will be on the road Friday night, concluding the first half of the season with region games at Gatlinburg and Cumberland Gap. The Highlanders will be looking for their first win of the season in the foothills of the Smokies. The Indians will be trying to wrap up a playoff berth in Claiborne County.

Oneida will put its undefeated start to the season on the line with a trip to Cumberland Gap to face an improved Panthers team that would like nothing better than to work its way into position to challenge for a home playoff game in November.

Cumberland Gap is off to a 2-1 start to the season, but that record might be a bit deceiving. The Panthers started the season against Union County and Hancock County. They defeated the Patriots narrowly, 28-18, and handled Hancock County, 38-7. But in their first real test, they lost to Region 2-2A championship favorite Meigs County, 42-6.

The last time Cumberland Gap won more than two games in a season was 2012, which also was the last time the Panthers made the playoffs. Cumberland Gap was 7-3 that season. One of the team's losses was a 39-14 loss to Oneida on their home field. That was the last meeting between the two teams.

Oneida comes in to this week's game with a 4-0 record. The Indians have won in convincing fashion and they've also won in dramatic fashion. Last week, Oneida used a late touchdown to pull off a 13-7 win over Harriman. In Week 2, the Indians won in double overtime against Gatlinburg-Pittman, 23-20. The Indians' other two games were blowout wins over Claiborne and Wartburg, by a combined score of 79-0.

Oneida and Cumberland Gap have met six times over the years. The Panthers won the first meeting, 29-17 on a foggy night in Claiborne County back in 2007 — Tony Lambert's first season as a head coach at Oneida. The Indians have not lost to the Panthers since, and the only time Cumberland Gap came close to winning was 2010, a 22-21 decision. Since that 2007 meeting, the Indians have outscored the Panthers 165-49. The two teams played annually from 2007 to 2012, then did not play for five years.

A win by Oneida in Friday's game will secure a playoff berth for the Indians. By starting 2-0 in Region 2-2A with wins over Cumberland Gap and Wartburg, it would be statistically impossible for them to finish lower than fourth in the region.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Cumberland Gap. The game will be broadcast on a tape delay basis on WBNT 105.5 FM with Tim Smith on the play-by-play.

Scott High is searching for its first win of the season as it heads to Gatlinburg on Friday to face a team it last saw 15 years ago.

In the newly-redrawn Region 2-3A, the Highlanders of Scott High and the Highlanders of Gatlinburg-Pittman are region opponents. Despite its 0-4 start, the Highlanders are not out of the playoff picture, but a loss on Friday would start to make the hill to climb a long one.

Gatlinburg will enter Friday's game with a 2-2 record. The Highlanders lost their first two games to smaller programs, falling to Cloudland and Oneida, but they have rebounded in a big way since. First-year head coach Derek Rang, who has state championship experience, appears to have his team adjusted and set to make a run in Region 2-3A.

The Highlanders gave up 46 points in their season opener against Cloudland, and lost to Oneida in double-overtime, 23-20. Since then, though, they've given up just 34 points in two games, beating region foe Northview Academy and non-region opponent Hampton easily, by scores of 35-14 and 45-20.

Scott enters with a record of 0-4 after a difficult start to the season. The Highlanders started the season with a 10-0 loss at Clinton in a game they felt they should have won. That was followed by a 21-14 loss to Stone Memorial — another game they felt they should have won. After that, they lost to Alcoa, 42-0. Perhaps the most disappointing game of all was Scott's last time out against Grainger. The Highlanders led early, but saw Grainger build a 38-14 lead before Scott returned a kickoff for a touchdown near the end of the game.

Scott High has had difficulty scoring at times this season, but has at times looked like a team on the verge of big things. The narrow loss to Stone Memorial was an example of that. The Highlanders had their opportunities to knock off the Panthers, who had not lost a regular season game in two seasons coming into 2017. While Stone did lose its season opener against an East Ridge team that is still undefeated, the Panthers have not lost since.

But last weekend's non-region loss at Grainger was a disheartening blow for the Highlanders, who expected to be able to knock off the improved squad of Grizzlies.

Still, the Region 2-3A playoff picture is wide open, as the Highlanders have played just one region game thus far and no team in the region — besides Alcoa, which Scott has already played — looks unbeatable.

Scott and Gatlinburg have played 12 times over the years, with Gatlinburg winning eight of those meetings. The last time the two teams played was 2002, when Gatlinburg won 36-14.

Friday's game will be broadcast live on WBNT 105.5 FM with Rick Keeton on the play-by-play.

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