Playoff bid on the line for HVA-Bulldogs winner

When Hardin Valley Academy invades Bill Young Field to tangle with Bearden this Friday, it will mark the eighth meeting between the two football rivals.

But there will be more than just bragging rights at stake Oct. 20.

Both the Hawks and the Bulldogs have lost two consecutive Region 1-6A games.

A Bearden loss eliminates the Bulldogs [4-4 overall, 1-3 in Region 1-6A play] from playoff contention.

If Hardin Valley loses, the Hawks (4-4, 2-2) would need to beat Farragut and hope Morristown West could win at home against BHS Friday, Oct. 27, to close out the regular season.

HVA has lost to Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett [36-25 at HVA lasst Friday, Oct. 13] and Johnson City Science Hill after winning for consecutive games.

The Bulldogs have lost to the Indians, Science Hill and Farragut in region play.

“Hardin Valley has become a rivalry game for us,” Bearden head coach Morgan Shinlever said. “We still have something to play for and I think these kids want to end on a positive note.

“These are good hard-working kids and their not going to fold up ship,” he added.

The Bulldogs moved the ball well in their last game against the Admirals [8-1, 4-1] at Eddie Courtney Stadium/Bill Clabo Field last Friday night.

But Bearden was bitten by the turnover bug thanks to three interceptions and a muffed punt that eventually turned into seven points in a 31-14 loss.

Collin Ironside, sophomore quarterback who threw a touchdown pass to fellow sophomore London Stephney last week, said he’s looking forward to tangling with the Hawks at home.

“It’s another big region game and it’s another big rivalry game for us,” Ironside said. “It should be a good game and we should do well.

“But we’ll have to stay away from the turnovers and we have to stop making silly mistakes.”

Ironside has a complete arsenal of weapons including receivers Stephney, Hayden Candela, Dawson Houser and Jacob Klenck. Bearden’s top running backs are D.J. Cox and Sam Coffin. Coffin also plays defensive back for the Bulldogs.

Hardin Valley, meanwhile, has had a roller coaster ride of a season in 2017. The Hawks opened the campaign with consecutive losses to Oak Ridge and West High.

HVA then won over Heritage, Central, Morristown West and Jefferson County before falling in back-to-back weeks to the Hilltoppers and the Indians.

“It’s a big week, it’s a rivalry game,” said HVA senior running back/defensive back Aaron Dykes, who rushed for 71 yards last week. “Everybody looks forward to it when they see it on the schedule.

“We’ve got to come out and play well because Bearden, they have a very physical and fast defense this year. They’re going to fly around and hit us in the mouth if we don’t come out and play well. We just need to come out ready to play so we can play our way into the playoffs.”

Hawks senior wide receiver/defensive back E.J. Caldwell agreed.

“We’re really looking forward to going out there,” Caldwell said. “It’s always a great game against Bearden.

“It starts with practice. We really need to buy in to practice. If we do, I think we’ll come out and be victorious [this] Friday night.”

The Bulldogs likely will see two quarterbacks for Hardin Valley Friday. Junior Grayson Vaughn and freshman Zak Acuff split duties under center against Dobyns-Bennett.

Acuff relieved Vaughn Friday night and threw three touchdown passes in a valiant comeback effort that came up short versus the Indians.

The Hawks and Bulldogs have met seven times since HVA opened its doors.

The Hawks hold a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series. Hardin Valley has won four straight against Bearden and routed the Bulldogs 35-7 at BHS in 2016.