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Dobyns-Bennett looking to avoid upset against William Blount

JEFF BIRCHFIELD • Nov 8, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Dobyns-Bennett comes into the football postseason a little bruised but still a solid favorite over William Blount in a first-round TSSAA Class 6A playoff game set for Friday 7 p.m. at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

History, however, has taught the Indians (8-2) not to take the Governors (4-6) lightly. In 2001 and 2006, undefeated D-B teams lost to William Blount in the first round of the playoffs.

This year’s version of the Governors has come on strong. They were 2-6 after a brutal schedule which included games against Maryville, McMinn County, Elizabethton and Bradley Central. However, Blount has built some momentum the last couple of weeks with back-to-back wins over Cleveland and Lenoir City to end the regular season.

D-B coach Joey Christian pointed out the Governors have also grown up over the last 11 weeks.

“They start five sophomores, and the first of the year they took some lumps with those guys,” Christian said. “Now, they’re in their 11th game with some success at the end of the year. They believe in what they’re doing and they play together as a team.”

BLOUNT OFFENSE VS. D-B DEFENSE

Junior quarterback Trey Clemmer runs the Governors’ offense and has proven to be a dual threat much like D-B’s junior signal-caller Zane Whitson. Clemmer has completed 105 of 186 passes for 1,311 yards. He’s also rushed 50 times for 219 yards and eight touchdowns.

Blount’s most dynamic player is sophomore running back Micah Franklin. He has rushed for 861 yards and seven touchdowns. With his pass catching and special teams returns, he has accounted for 1,259 all-purpose yards.

Senior running back Seth Cooper is a grinder with 356 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The leading receivers are Job Matossian with 28 catches for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and Noah Durman with 24 catches for 387 yards and three scores.

Junior center Logan Swanner (6-1, 270) anchors Blount’s offensive line, with sophomore Sydney Wilburn and senior Brayden Pierce (6-3, 280) at guards. Senior Ben Kenny (6-1, 290) and sophomore Jonah Lee (6-1, 240) are tackles with Trey Smith at tight end.

“Pierce is a big kid who Elizabethton had a hard time with,” Christian said. “They’ve got a good quarterback and a bigger offensive line. They don’t have a big kid on the edge like Johnson City has with Solomon Dunn, but they have some good receivers.”

The question is how Blount will handle D-B’s aggressive defense. Linebackers Braxton Kulbacki (75 tackles) and Jackson Martin (67 tackles, eight sacks) have led the way, while other defensive leaders are: Nate Whitley with 64 tackles, seven for a loss and Jet Harris with 62 tackles, eight quarterback hurries, seven sacks and three caused fumbles.

Safety Isaac Ratliff has 49 tackles, while lineman Fonzo Booker has 31 tackles, including five for a loss.

D-B OFFENSE VS. BLOUNT DEFENSE

The D-B offense has been slowed the past couple of weeks, but the Indians are still averaging 33.1 points per game.

Whitson has remained efficient, hitting 103 of 176 passes for 1,470 yards with 17 touchdowns and only one interception. He also has 53 rushes for 268 yards with five touchdowns.

Tyler Tesnear has 121 rushes for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Phillip Armitage has 135 carries for 648 yards and seven touchdowns. The “Thunder” (Armitage) and “Lightning” (Tesnear) combination has also caught 18 passes out of the backfield for 245 yards and four touchdowns.

Whitson has spread the ball, meaning teams can’t concentrate on one receiver.

Nacir Sensabaugh has 19 receptions for 306 yards and four touchdowns, but Hayden Sherer (18 catches) and Dalton Harkleoard (17 catches) are right there with him.

Cameron Williamson has 10 catches in the slot and Ben McCluskey has eight catches at tight end.

Injuries have certainly taken a toll on the offensive line, but the unit is still formidable with Caleb Burleson at center, Seth Hale and Aiden Neale at guards and Kyler Banks and Blake Collier at tackles.

Through their scouting, the Indians are aware of Blount linebacker Eli Turner, who has a team-best 87 tackles.

Adam Mathews is next with 63 tackles, while two-way players Cooper and Franklin have 49 and 47 tackles. Weak safety Zach Gardner has 45 tackles and defensive end Jon Barton has 44.

Running a defense similar to D-B’s, Grant Lovin and Pierce give the Governors size in the middle.

“They play together and play as a team,” Christian said. “No. 56 (Turner), he’s a good player and I like Gardner at safety. They play a lot of guys both ways and they have a collective effort of going to the ball.”

Both teams now look forward to a collective effort, with the winner moving on to the second round against either McMinn County or Bearden.

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