HUNTSVILLE — It's homecoming here, as the Karns Beavers will roll into town this evening to cap a week of festivities at Scott High School that will culminate with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff tonight. The Highlanders will be looking for their second consecutive win, coming off a thrilling 34-28 win at Gatlinburg last week.
Oneida, meanwhile, will travel across the Big South Fork River Gorge to Jamestown to face York Institute for the first time in more than a decade.
Oneida and York Institute renew the Battle of the Gorge tonight, as the teams on either side of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area square off at 8 p.m. in Jamestown. The two teams have played 35 times over the years but not since 2006. Oneida's Tony Lambert has never faced York as head coach.
Oneida is 5-0 for the first time since 2008, and will try to run that record to 6-0 tonight. But to do so, the Indians will have to defeat what is arguably the toughest team on their schedule to date. York — which, like Gatlinburg-Pittman, is Class 3A — comes in with a record of 2-2 overall.
This is a York Institute team that was beaten by two touchdowns by Coalfield earlier this season, 34-20. But don't let that fool you too much...nobody is hanging with the Yellow Jackets this season. The Dragons have won two games in blowouts, defeating Cumberland County 46-0 and defeating Grundy County 40-6. Last week, York fell narrowly to Smith County, 41-40.
The take-away? It's a good York football team — probably better than its 2-2 record indicates. Their two wins have been by a combined score of 86-6. Their two losses came to teams that could make deep runs into the playoffs. Many think Coalfield will play for the Class 1A championship in Cookeville later this year, and Smith County is favored to win Region 4-3A. In fact, the Owls are 4-0 this season and York was the first team to give them a serious challenge.
Tonight's game will feature a battle of mights — a York Institute offense that is averaging 37 points per game against an Oneida defense that is giving up just nine points per game.
In fact, while the Dragons average 37 points every time they take the field, Oneida has given up only 47 total points through five games this season. York's season-low was 20 points against Coalfield; Oneida's season-high for points allowed has been 20.
Still, Oneida coach Tony Lambert will be the first to tell you that tonight's game features a different kind of beast for the Indians to tangle, as the second half of a back-loaded schedule gets underway.
"If we don't get better in a hurry, it'll get rocky for us," Lambert said after Oneida struggled to put away Cumberland Gap last week. "Now, if we do what we're supposed to do, we can be competitive."
It's been a busy week on the campus of Scott High School, as students and faculty have celebrated homecoming. The festivities will culminate with the crowning of a homecoming queen tonight, and with the Highlanders' showdown with Karns.
Tonight's game marks the first-ever meeting between Scott High and Karns. The Beavers are a Class 5A team — the fourth of four upper-classification non-region teams on Scott's schedule — and present unique challenges for the Highlanders.
The Beavers were picked to finish at the bottom of Region 3-5A and will roll into town with a 1-4 record, but don't let that fool you. Class 5A is still Class 5A, and Karns has played remarkable competition this season. After a 39-21 win over Halls back in Week 2, the Beavers have lost three consecutive region games, but they have been competitive. In fact, they took Powell to the wire before falling, 21-19. That is a Powell team, incidentally, that has lost only one game all season.
Scott and Karns do have a mutual opponent on the schedule: Clinton. The Highlanders opened their season against the Dragons; the Beavers will conclude their season against them. Since Karns and Clinton have not played, that common opponent cannot be used as a measuring stick.
Just for the sake of comparison, Powell defeated Clinton 17-0, and defeated Karns 21-19. Clinton defeated Scott 10-0. What does all of that mean? Nothing, really, except what Scott already knows: Karns will be a tough test, but one in which the Highlanders can be competitive.
Scott High coach Keith Shannon was focused on Karns within minutes of the Highlanders' win at Gatlinburg last week — "We'll enjoy this and we'll be ready to play Karns in a week," he said — and he knows that this is another important step for his Highlanders. While it's a non-region game that does not affect playoff standings, a win tonight would help bolster Scott High's confidence even more heading into the thick of the region slate, while also keeping the positive momentum going.
"We talked about winning seasons, we talked about going to the playoffs. Both of those things are very much alive," Shannon said last week. "We have a tough road to go down, but you climb mountains one step at a time."