picks

TENNESSEE

Northeastern Conference

Sullivan East at Sullivan South

Last meeting: Sullivan South 39, Sullivan East (Oct. 18, 2019, at Bluff City, Tenn.)

Getting that first win of the season will be difficult for the Patriots (0-7) with three teams remaining on the schedule with a combined 14 wins…Sullivan South (4-3) might need this one to get to five wins, having lost to Greeneville last week, and with roads games remaining at Elizabethton and Tennessee High…Sullivan East has been close this season, with four of its seven losses coming by a combined 17 points, and falling by 14 last week to rival Sullivan Central… Sullivan South is led by a huge offensive line, which will be a challenge for the Patriots, who don’t have a lot of size…The Rebels have scored 87 points in winning the last games in this series.

Prediction: Sullivan South 40, Sullivan East 7

Grainger at Sullivan Central

Last meeting: Grainger 48, Sullivan Central 20 (Oct. 18, 2018, at Rutledge, Tenn.)

After Sullivan Central (2-5) made it two straight wins over Sullivan East, the Cougars are now one victory away from their first three-win season since 2014…Grainger (4-3) has sandwiched a pair of two-game win streaks around a three-game skid, having outscored its last two opponents 81-13…The Grizzlies shut down Sullivan East’s running game in a 38-7 decision two weeks ago, and now will try to ground the Cougars, led by Will Nottingham, who connected with Bryson Crabtree for three touchdowns in last week’s win over the Patriots... Joey Byrd added 102 yards and a score on the ground…Sullivan Central’s two wins are over opponents with a combined one win…Upset special? Why not.

Prediction: Sullivan Central 36, Grainger 34

VIRGINIA

Black Diamond District

Hurley at Honaker

Last meeting: Honaker 39, Hurley 0 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Hurley, Va.)

With a win, Honaker can clinch the Black Diamond District title for the first time since 2015. The Tigers must also prevail to keep their precarious playoff hopes alive. … While Hurley still has one BDD game remaining (at Twin Valley on Nov. 8), the Rebels can all but wrap up their first district crown since 2016. … Honaker holds a 33-8-2 edge in the all-time series and has won 21 of the last 23 meetings. … Both teams rely on run-first attacks with Trevor Dye (898 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) being the top rusher for Honaker. Matt Blankenship (670 yards, six touchdowns), John Matt Justus (436 yards, five TDs) and Dustin Stinson (357 yards, six touchdowns) form a terrific trio in the backfield for Hurley. … The Rebels and Tigers have a lot to play for and that should make this one of the most intense games in Southwest Virginia tonight.

Prediction: Hurley 28, Honaker 25

Cumberland District

Eastside at Twin Springs

Last meeting: Eastside 51, Twin Springs 16 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Coeburn, Va.)

Grayson Whited and Evan Bellamy both had superb showings last Friday in Eastside’s win over Rye Cove. Whited caught two touchdown passes, rushed for a score, returned an interception for a touchdown and took a punt return to the house. Meanwhile, Bellamy finished with 24 tackles, a single-game program record. … Brayden Mullins has solidified the offensive and defensive lines for the Spartans. … Twin Springs is coming off a hard-fought 10-6 loss to Castlewood. “[Twin Springs] Coach [Keith] Warner does a great job and they are well-disciplined and a fundamentally-sound team,” said Eastside boss Michael Rhodes. “They run the ball really well. Their QB [Mason Elliott] throws a great deep bell, so we will have to stay in tight coverage.”

Prediction: Eastside 49, Twin Springs 29

Hogoheegee District

Rural Retreat at Chilhowie

Last meeting: Chilhowie 50, Rural Retreat 0 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Rural Retreat, Va.)

Chilhowie is still chugging along as the Warriors have won 27 of their last 30 games. … The defense has gotten a lot better each week for the Warriors with defensive end J.T. Lefew, defensive tackle Josh Allison and linebacker Gabino Silverio stepping up in particular. Jonathan Gilley (487 rushing yards), Lucas Doss (322 receiving yards) and Logan Adams (710 passing yards) are the statistical leaders on offense. … Both teams had a bye last week “Rural Retreat has their typical hard-nosed, physical, and scrappy team,” said Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson. “I fully expect them to come down here on Friday ready to play. We must be up to the challenge.”

Prediction: Chilhowie 38, Rural Retreat 16

Northwood at Holston

Last meeting: Holston 40, Northwood 8 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Saltville, Va.)

Holston has lost three straight and two of those losses have come to unbeaten teams in Narrows and Patrick Henry. The Cavaliers should get back on the winning track tonight. … Chase Taylor has been an unsung hero on both sides of the line for Holston. Meanwhile, Logan Walden is the team’s top receiver with 11 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns. … It’s been a tough year for Northwood as the Panthers have scored just seven TDs all season.

Prediction: Holston 38, Northwood 8

Mountain 7 District

Lee High at Gate City

Last meeting: Gate City 23, Lee High 20 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Ben Hur, Va.)

Lee High generated 197 total yards against Gate City last season but the Blue Devils rushed for 239 and won on a 20-yard field goal from Levi Rhoton as time expired. … A year after posting a 2-8 record, Lee High has struggled mightily under first-year coach Alec Haston, a White County, Tennessee, native who played football at Tennessee Tech and the University of Tennessee. The winless Generals have allowed at least 41 points in each game, with the closest loss coming in last week’s 42-21 setback at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. …. GC snapped its five-game winless streak in style last week, opening a 41-0 halftime lead against en route to a 55-0 victory over Marion. Landon Blanton emerged with a pair of touchdowns. With games against John Battle and Wise County Central ahead, the Blue Devils are gunning for the playoffs.

Prediction: Gate City 48, Lee High 7

Non-District

J.I. Burton at Grundy

Last meeting: J.I. Burton 44, Grundy 31 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Norton, Va.)

J.I. Burton is rolling with four straight wins by margins of 36, 41, 42 and 47 points. First-year head coach Jacob Caudill likes the physicality his team is displaying. … Freshman Trey Keys has emerged as a future star for J.I. Burton, starting every game at cornerback and becoming more involved in the offense. Meanwhile, senior Mikey Culbertson of the Raiders has been his reliable self at linebacker and fullback in racking up 376 rushing yards and 64 tackles. … Grundy has lost two in a row after starting the season 4-0. Reid Campbell has played well on both sides of the line. … “J.I. Burton seems to be hitting on all cylinders and making explosive plays,” said Grundy coach Craig Plymal. “Their team speed is a tremendous challenge for us.”

Prediction: J.I. Burton 48, Grundy 12

Thomas Walker at Twin Valley

Last meeting: Thomas Walker 34, Twin Valley 12 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Ewing, Va.)

At 5-1, Thomas Walker is off to its best start since 1996. … Quarterback Zack Kidwell has thrown for 703 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Pioneers with Logan Ely being his top target. Kenny Ball and Dalton Langley have also made things happen. Linebacker Jaron Warf, defensive lineman Ethan Hounshell and defensive end Jason Cowden have played well. … Both head coaches – Nick Johnson of Thomas Walker and Jeremy Ward of Twin Valley – are Grundy High School graduates. … It’ll be a long trip for Thomas Walker, but bus lag won’t slow down the Pioneers.

Prediction: Thomas Walker 49, Twin Valley 16

Lebanon at Castlewood

Last meeting: Lebanon 35, Castlewood 6 (Oct. 12, 2018 in Lebanon, Va.)

Lebanon is looking for its first win of 2019, while Castlewood is trying to make some history. The Blue Devils haven’t beaten Lebanon since 1987. … Castlewood (4-3) has already surpassed last year’s win total as first-year head coach Chris Lark has brought energy to the program. … Landen Taylor and Shane Aesque are among the players who’ve emerged as key contributors for Castlewood. … Lebanon is allowing 36.7 points per game. ... “Throw out the records, this game is about pride and community,” Lark said. “We know this is going to be a tough, physical game. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.”

Prediction: Castlewood 27, Lebanon 26

Unaka at Rye Cove

Last meeting: First meeting

Rye Cove has lost three straight, while Unaka (1-6) has dropped five in a row. In other words, both teams desperately need a win. … Freshman Jonathon Howell has had a breakout season for Rye Cove and has seen time at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, free safety and several spots on offense. … Quarterback Landon Ramsey makes Unaka go with Devin Ramsey and Daniel Shearl the top receivers for the Rangers. “Unaka likes to toss it around,” said Rye Cove coach Cheyenne Osborne. “So we’ll have to be on our toes.”

Prediction: Rye Cove 38, Unaka 36

Bluefield, W.Va. at Tazewell

Last meeting: Bluefield 60, Tazewell 18 (Sept. 21, 2018 in Tazewell, Va.)

Tazewell rushed for 328 yards in this game last season as three players topped 100 yards. However, Bluefield opened a 34-0 halftime lead and compiled 395 total yards. … The array of injuries to skill players caught up with Tazewell last week in a 41-0 loss to rival Richlands. Junior lineman Josh Herndon (6-7, 295) remains a force. … Bluefield (5-1) posted a 63-14 victory over winless PikeView last week behind quarterback Carson Deeb and running back J.J. Davis. Deeb has tossed for a total of 16 scores against just three interceptions. Six-foot-three Bluefield kicker Kaulin Parris has committed to West Virginia.

Prediction: Bluefield 48, Tazewell 0

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