Gas up the bus this week.
A couple of Wilson County teams will make their longest trips of the season and another will play host to a team traveling so far the kickoff has been backed up 30 minutes, both this year and next.
Lincoln County at Lebanon
These two longtime playoff antagonists are trying to get back to the postseason. Both are 1-2 with two-touchdown wins over Franklin County. Their styles are even similar.
"They play very physical, a lot of downhill running, similar to what we do," Lebanon coach Sam Harp said of the Falcons. "They'll get in the I, get in the gun, spread and things, too. Their running backs are good, hard-nosed downhill running backs. I'm impressed with their offensive linemen, too. The quarterback throws a good ball.
"It looks like a pretty even matchup."
Lincoln County runs a hybrid 4-4 base defense with lots of variations.
"They're going to mix it up."
Lincoln County has won three state championships [two under former Blue Devil player and coach Louis Thompson] since its 1979 opening. But the opening of Fayetteville High School has siphoned off some of its students and the Falcons have struggled in recent seasons.
"They got an impressive tradition and history and program," said Harp, a 33-year Kentucky coach who is learning about Tennessee tradition this season. "I'm sure there's still much pride involved in that program. But the main thing for us is we got to be concerned about ourselves and make improvements in what we do and now really worry so much about what the other team does.
"But we know Lincoln is going to come up here and do all it can to get a win for themselves."
Harp said tight end Coleton Thomas may return from a knee injury this week. Tight end Chris McCathern, who had been playing tight end in Thomas' absence, injured his shoulder last week and is doubtful this week.
"We kind of developed [McCathern] into a tight end in one week's time and thought he did a really good job, and then he goes out in the second half," Harp said. "We've been struggling in some of our games in the second half because we've been losing some of our guys by attrition. It's either by cramps or guys getting hurt. If we could just get by those two things, I feel pretty confident.
"We were 9-8 against Mt. Juliet and had an opportunity honestly if we had capitalized on some of the things we did we could have been up 24 at the half, but we weren't. Last week, it was 7-6 [going into the fourth], and the our kicking game [two blocked punts, two returned for scores] goes into destructo mode.
"Counting last Friday, I've had 10 punts in my career blocked against me and lost nine of those games. It tells you how big how important the kicking game is."
Due to the distance from Fayetteville, the game has been moved back 30 minutes to 7:30 p.m. Next year's game at Falcon Stadium [The Pit] will also kick off at 7:30.
Wilson Central at Cleveland
At 2 1/2 hours, this is easily the Wildcats' longest of their five straight road trips to start the season, surpassing last week's one-hour bus ride to Portland. When they arrive at Benny Monroe Stadium, they'll find a Blue Raider team off to a 2-1 start under second-year coach Ron Crawford, who won a state championship during a long stint at Brentwood and a couple more during an earlier run as a Riverdale assistant.
"They're definitely fast," Wildcat coach Brad Dedman said of the Raiders. "They're a well-rounded football team."
Operating the spread offense, quarterback Austin Herink ran for four touchdowns and threw for three more in Cleveland's 49-7 win over McMinn County last Friday.
"He's supposed to be one of the better quarterbacks in the state of Tennessee," Dedman said of Herink. "He has two receivers [D.J. Jones and Eric Goodwin] he likes to go to. We got to keep our Ps and Qs to know where they are at all times."
Cleveland's 4-4 defense held McMinn County to 32 plays, including 12 which resulted in loss. The Raiders collected six turnovers, including three interceptions.
"They do a lot of stunting from just about everywhere," Dedman said of the Raiders. "They run to the football extremely well.
"We got to make sure we stay on our blocks and finish blocks."
Dedman said running back/linebacker D'Sean Osborne should return from an ankle injury this week and that fellow RB/LB Kaleb Butler could be back from turf toe.
Fans unable to make the drive to the game can watch a live video stream broadcast of the game on a home computer [at wilsoncentral.ezstream.com/broadcasts] or smart phone [www.nhsbn.com/broadcasts]. Broadcast time will be at 5:30 p.m. CDT, according to play-by-play announcer Jay [Doc] Holliday.
Oneida at Watertown
The Indians are one of the better Class A programs in rural east Tennessee. They lost at home to Trousdale County in a low-scoring state semifinal a few years ago. They are 3-0 this season.
"Coach [Tony] Lambert said he's got several young kids he's playing," Watertown coach Gavin Webster said. "Pretty sound football team in what they do. We can see anywhere from a 50 on defense to a 4-3. Traditionally, he's run a 50.
"Offensively, he's running some true wing-T. He'll get in some tight end, wing, slot and run the stuff out of that. Very sound football team. Doesn't do a lot, but what he does, they do it well… He told me he's young and trying to keep it simple, and they do it pretty well. He's got some good-looking kids, got decent size."
Watertown is still looking for its first win of the season going into the Purple Tigers' fourth game.
"We're trying to get better," Webster said. "This is one that if we play right, play hard and cut out all of our mistakes, it gives us a better shot and gives us a shot to win. We got to cut out the turnovers, cut out the missed tackles. It doesn't matter who you're playing, if you're missing tackles and giving up big plays on defense and having to overcome penalties and not tackling, not blocking very well it's hard to beat anybody."
Friendship Christian at Trousdale County
For the first time since these two teams began playing each other in the late 1970s, there is no district/region standing to worry about, no playoff seeding to contend with, no season to extend in the playoffs. In fact, both have bigger games, at least on paper, next week when Friendship goes to Knoxville Webb and Trousdale County travels to Goodpasture.
The Commanders and Yellow Jackets are now in the category of traditional rivals. And in football, that should be enough.
"Trousdale is still in the playoff system where wins and losses can affect you," said Commander coach John McNeal, whose school moved to Division II where only district games will matter in terms of playoff destiny. "It is just a rivalry game and we felt like keeping that game would be a good one for both of us."
After going 8-4 last season, considered a bad year north of the Cumberland River, the Yellow Jackets are 3-0 with blowout wins over Macon County and Watertown and a double-overtime thriller over Class AA Sycamore.
"They're playing well," McNeal said of the Jackets. "They had some injuries last year and some things that hit them. They're like any program our size; one or two injuries can really make a difference.
"This year, they got the players back, their playmakers are back and they look good. I watched them play against Sycamore and they played like you would expect a Trousdale team to play."
After Webb, Friendship will play host to Franklin Road Academy before two straight road games as the Commanders explore Division II for the first time, even though they have played many of these schools in the past.
"We got to worry about Trousdale first and then we'll take the next game as it comes," said McNeal, whose Commanders are 2-0. "They're rolling in 3-0 and it's always been a big game for us no matter what it means, whether it's Thursday Night Lights, seeding or a playoff game."
Blackman at Mt. Juliet
The Golden Bears have begun the process of putting the pieces back together from last week's 41-3 loss at Station Camp.
Junior quarterback Nolan Chowbay underwent successful surgery on his broken collarbone this week and assistant coach Roger Perry said doctors reported a clean break. He won't play in the foreseeable future, but could possibly return before the end of the season, Perry said.
In the meantime, junior Alex Landis is getting a full week of reps with the first-team offense.
"Alex throws the ball extremely well," Perry said. "He knows our offense. He can get the job done.
"Last week was a shock to Alex and the football team. That's not something you expect to happen… We went back to work and everything goes on as scheduled. Guys have had a great attitude."
"I don't know how the football game is going to turn out Friday night, but I'm proud of how our kids have responded in practice this week," head coach Trey Perry said. "If we had lost 7-6, it still would have been a loss. We still have a lot of football to play. We're a little banged up right now, but that's 6A football."
As dominant as Station Camp was, Blackman may be an even bigger bear for the Golden Bears with a 3-0 record.
"We're playing a better team this week than we did last week," Roger Perry said of the Blaze. "They're sound through and through.
Roger Perry, the offensive play caller, has spent the week studying Blackman's 3-4 defense.
"They're strong at every position," he said. "Coach [Phillip] Shadowens made the statement he has two of the best linebackers he's ever coached, and that's saying something.
"They don't have any weak spots… A well-disciplined team. They know their reads, they know their keys."
Shadowens, who coached back-to-back state champions at Smyrna, also has quarterback/safety Jauan Jennings, who has offers to play safety from Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State.
"He's an absolute stud," Trey Perry said of Jennings, who has help from all over the unit, including tailback Cole Notgrass.
"For the second week in a row, it's difficult to key on one thing," Trey Perry said. "They have playmakers at wide receiver and they have a solid offensive line."
But this week has been as much about working on the 2-1 Bears as on the Blaze.
"It was a big week of evaluation this week, and there are numerous players, not even because of injuries, who have performed well enough in practice to earn a starting nod this week," Trey Perry said.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Oakdale
The Eagles have not had much success in recent seasons, but are 2-1 in 2013 with wins over first-year Sale Creek and Pickett County and a blowout loss to established power Oliver Springs last week.
"They're a spread," Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said of the Eagles. "They like to throw the ball a lot. They run a 4-4 on defense.
"They're pretty quick. They've got an athletic quarterback, he runs around a lot."
Mt. Juliet Christian is 0-2 going into this trip to rural Morgan County near the Roane County line near Harriman.
The Saints will be without junior running back/linebacker Peyton Sloan, who is sidelined with a torn labrum. Return man/defensive back/wide receiver Daniel Boehm sustained a mild concussion during practice this week and is out, Roberts said.
Roberts said kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CDT, or 8 p.m. local time in the Eastern Time Zone community.
Week 3 games
Lincoln County at LEBANON, 7:30 p.m.
WILSON CENTRAL at Cleveland, 6:30 p.m. CDT
Oneida at WATERTOWN, 7 p.m.
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at Trousdale County, 7 p.m.
Blackman at MT. JULIET, 7 p.m.
MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN at Oakdale, 7 p.m. CDT