Friday Night Preview: Heritage at William Blount

When: Friday

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Records: Heritage (3-2, 0-2), William Blount (2-3, 0-2)

Previous meeting: The last seven minutes last season was a wild ride. The Mountaineers mishandled a punt to get things started, the Governors recovering at the Heritage 12-yard line. Five plays later, it was 14-7 William Blount. After an exchange of punts, the Mountaineers got the ball back with 1:32 remaining. An early shotgun snap then sailed by Heritage quarterback Tyler Hartley into the end zone for a safety. After the Mountaineers recovered the ensuing onsides kick with 36 seconds left, Governor defensive back Maurice Hurd picked off Hartley to clinch a 16-7 William Blount win, extending the Governor winning streak over the Mountaineers to 11 seasons.

Last week: The Governors fell, 27-10, to Class 5A top-ranked Catholic, but it was a lot closer than the final score. William Blount twice failed to convert from the Irish 1-yard line in the opening half. The Governors had another score nullified by penalty. Hunter Saunders cut it to 13-7 Catholic on a 6-yard run in the third on a night William Blount chewed on the Irish defense for 18 first downs. It was 10-0 Catholic at the half.

The Mountaineers looked ready to answer a game-opening Maryville score last week. When they didn’t, the Rebels poured it on in steady doses to roll to a 38-3 win. Heritage moved the ball effectively at times, Hartley spreading the ball around to his receivers and running back Chase Cline. The Mountaineer secondary was hurt badly by a Maryville passing game that saw Rebel senior Desmund Horne catch three touchdown passes of 35, 42 and 46 yards.

Keep an eye on: Cline is a first-ballot All-Blount County selection right now. Heritage needs badly to find a compliment for the hard-running, energetic back. Eventually, we think it’s going to be sophomore Jalyn Haley, his duties at cornerback withstanding, but is Friday too soon for a sneak peek. Hartley is making better and better throws out of the Mountaineer spread offense. Receivers Dylan Burchfield, Je’Rell Bledsoe and Chase Everett can genuinely hurt a team deep. Chris Weeks just makes plays at one of the linebackers. Evan Brown is proving tough for anyone to block this season at one of the ends.

The Governors have toyed with a big night offensively, and there’s plenty of speed on hand to make it happen. Backs Greg Cook, Dalton Wheeler and Brookes Cunningham each have the speed and cutting to run for a big night. Sophomore Lane Bloom doesn’t need a lot of room to take it the distance. Receivers Jesse Crisp and Hunter Saunders are as solid as any receiving duo in the county. Senior Zach Witt plays with a cool head at quarterback. The District 4AAA race is nearing the halfway point with both the Mountaineers and Governors in need of a league win. Barring turnovers, this one plays like a shootout. The Cline/Cook duel will tell you a lot.

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