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Hilltoppers upset No. 4 Tribe

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 26, 2019 at 1:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Behind the arm of Connor Batchelder and the leg of Kade Hensley, Science Hill spoiled Dobyns-Bennett’s undefeated season and put itself in position to win a share of the Region 1-6A title and earn the No. 1 seed in the upcoming TSSAA football playoffs.

Batchelder completed 20 of 32 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and Hensley booted three field goals — including a 48-yarder and a school-record 50-yarder — in the Hilltoppers’ 23-17 upset of the fourth-ranked Indians on Friday night at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

A victory at Bearden next week will give Science Hill (4-5, 4-1) a share of the region title with the Indians as well as the No. 1 seed.

“It has been a tough season and we’ve not had a lot of breaks,” Science Hill coach Stacy Carter said. “Our kids came to play tonight against a great Dobyns-Bennett football team. It was tough sledding the whole time, but our kids hung in there and made the big plays when they needed to. The defense stepped up when they had to. I can’t say enough about the kids’ resilient effort.”

View the photo gallery from the game

The Indians (8-1, 5-1), who were looking for their first undefeated Region 1 season since 2012, will try to rebound against Class 3A power Alcoa.

D-B drove to the Science Hill 29-yard line with less than two minutes to go but got backed up 10 yards by two motion penalties. The Indians weren’t able to convert and the Hilltoppers ran out the clock.

D-B lost despite outgaining Science Hill 320-215 in total offense. Quarterback Zane Whitson hit 14 of 27 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for 58 yards and a TD. Hayden Sherer totaled a team-best six catches for 83 yards.

“Our kids fought to the end. We had some penalties through the year and were able to overcome them, but tonight we had so many,” Tribe coach Joey Christian said. “We weren’t able to overcome it and make plays when we needed to. You have to catch balls, make plays, hit receivers ... we have to coach better. We just have to do a better job top to bottom.”


D-B drove to Science Hill’s 39 before being stopped on fourth-and-2. The Hilltoppers marched downfield and Hensley booted a 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The Indians answered with an 80-yard drive capped by Whitson’s 9-yard run. Whitson finished off the next drive with his arm, a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jet Harris for a 14-3 lead.

Science Hill closed to 14-10 with a 59-yard drive that ended when Batchelder found Joshua Santiago in the right corner of the end zone. Batchelder completed his last eight passes of the half, including a 13-yarder to Cole Torbett that set up Chris Thomas’ 1-yard TD run that gave the ’Toppers a 17-14 halftime lead.

Despite often facing a rush, Batchelder was sacked only once.

“I just trusted our coaches and the play calls,” he said. “The line gave me just enough protection and I was able to get the ball to our great receivers. I just had to get my checkdown when they came to blitz. My guys got open, especially Chris Thomas.”

Thomas was held to 16 rushing yards but caught five passes out of the backfield. Torbett hauled in four catches for 67 yards and Marquis Griffin had four receptions for 47.


In the third quarter, Science Hill had a short field and Hensley kicked his 48-yarder to give the ’Toppers a 20-14 lead with 9:25 left in the period. Hensley booted his 50-yarder on Science Hill’s next possession for a 23-14 lead.

“Kicking in the rain, at the end of practice every day, we kick with a wet ball where the coaches spray it with water,” Hensley said. “The conditions worked to our favor and our line held up really well. It’s huge for us to win this game. Farragut lost to Hardin Valley, so we’re in position to play at home in the first round of the playoffs.”

D-B drove downfield on its next possession, but a false start on fourth-and-1 at the 1 forced the Tribe to settle for Jaden Alderson’s 22-yard field goal. The Indians then forced a Science Hill punt for a chance to win but couldn’t come through in the end.

Malik Bowman led Science Hill with 13 tackles and Nicholas Copenhaver had nine.

D-B held Science Hill to just 11 rushing yards on 23 carries. Senior linebacker Braxton Kulbacki promised the Indians will come back focused next Friday night.

“The season isn’t over. We’re coming ready to play,” Kulbacki said. “We stopped the run, but Batchelder got the ball out well. We could have gotten more pressure on him and helped our secondary out. We’re going to figure things out. I can promise that.”

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