By JOSH VARDAMAN
The Summit Spartans and Spring Hill Raiders enter Week 7 in the thick of a playoff hunt.
Summit will have to avoid an upset at LaVergne Friday to keep itself in the top four of Region 5-5A. Spring Hill hosts Giles County in a matchup that may be a deciding factor in the Region 4-4A standings later in the season.
See below for a closer look at those matchups:
Summit (3-2, 1-1) at LaVergne (1-5, 1-2), 7 p.m. Friday*
A bye last week was precisely what the doctor ordered for the Summit Spartans ahead of their Region 5-5A clash with LaVergne Friday.
The off week gave a chance for head coach Scott Blade’s Spartans to do a little healing.
“We still have a couple of kids who will be out for a considerable amount of time, but they’ve adjusted to new positions and we have most everybody back,” he said.
The rested Spartans will look to continue a hot rushing offense against the Wolverines.
In Summit’s 35-14 loss in the Border Battle against rival Independence two weeks ago, the Spartans’ run game came alive in the second half behind junior Tai Carter. He rushed 25 times for 138 yards and added one catch for 50 yards and a touchdown.
A slow start that created a 21-7 deficit at halftime proved to be the Spartans’ downfall, though, even with Carter leading the comeback charge.
“I think they really responded in that second half,” Coleman said. “That third quarter and half of the fourth we really did a good job. I don’t know if we weren’t ready to play, I think we just weren’t ready for their speed or accuracy on passing or things like that. We were kind of deer in the headlights in the first quarter.”
Summit’s offense should be chomping at the bit to get after a LaVergne team giving up 33 points per game. The Wolverines have lost three games in a row and gave up at least 40 points in each of those contests.
While LaVergne comes in struggling with just one win, Coleman said he’s been reminding his team all week that the roles were reversed last season when a 1-4 Summit squad beat the 4-2 Wolverines.
“I think [our confidence] is high, but then again we have to keep them grounded,” Coleman said. “They’re not a 1-5 team, and what I want to preach this week is we had one win last year when we beat them. A one-win team can very easily beat a three-win team … you can’t let up whatsoever.”
Defensively, the Spartans will have to deal with two talented LaVergne receivers in Princeton Fant and Maleik Gray, both University of Tennessee commits.
“They’ve got two four or five star athletes at wide receiver,” Coleman said. “The biggest thing that scares me is their big-play ability. They can score pretty fast and pretty easily sometimes.”
In order to try and keep the ball out of the Wolverines’ hands so they can’t utilize Gray and Fant to their fullest, Summit will try to use their ground game to chew the clock and keep the LaVergne defense on the field.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to break a big one … so we’ll have to be methodical with the ball like we usually are,” Coleman said.
The Spartans are currently tied for third in the Region 5-5A standings at 1-1 with Franklin County and Shelbyville. If they want to keep pace in the region and stay in the driver’s seat for at least a fourth-place finish and postseason berth, they will have to take care of business Friday against a struggling Wolverines bunch.
Giles County (4-2, 1-1) at Spring Hill (4-1, 1-1), 7 p.m. Friday*
A critical matchup in the Region 4-4A standings is set for Friday at Spring Hill High School.
The Raiders will welcome Giles County to SHHS. The two teams are currently tied for third in the region at 1-1, one game behind leaders Page and Marshall County (2-0).
Spring Hill should be plenty rested after a bye in Week 6, while the Bobcats go in fresh off a 49-14 win over Kenwood.
Giles County’s defense shouldn’t worry the Raiders’ potent offense, at least on paper. The Bobcats are giving up an average of 23 points per game, while Spring Hill is scoring at a 39-points-per-game clip.
The Raiders have been led offensively all season by running back Dontae Smith. The junior has rushed for 840 yards (168 per game) and nine touchdowns.
Quarterback Tyler Ennis has done a nice job over Spring Hill’s last two games of stepping in behind center. He’s thrown for 290 yards and four touchdowns (one interception) in the last two games. He also has a rushing score and is completing 75 percent of his passes.
Defensively, the Raiders will have to deal with a multi-dimensional Giles County offense led by quarterback John Bachus. The junior has thrown for 1,750 yards (291 per game), 13 TDs and five INTs.
Senior running back R’Kell Reed has also enjoyed a good season so far with 701 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
The winner of Friday’s contest will sit in good shape midway through the conference season.