NEWPORT—The hits just keep coming for the Cocke County High Fighting Cocks football program, and this week isn’t going to get any easier.
After suffering their second loss of the season last week, the Fighting Cocks will welcome one of the state’s top 10 teams on Friday when they host No. 7 Class 3A team in the state, Gatlinburg-Pittman (KICKOFF: 7:30 P.M., RADIO: 97.9 FM / 1270 AM WLIK).
“We’re looking for our kids to come out and compete this week,” CCHS coach Scotty Dykes said. “After the game last week I told our guys we’re going to have to come in with a physical mindset moving forward. It won’t get easier as the weeks go forward.”
Coming into the fourth week of the season, attrition has built up heavily for Cocke County. Following last week’s contest with South Greene, CCHS has accumulated a laundry list of injuries and could be without at least nine key players in its two-deep rotation come Friday.
“The injury list is probably as long as I’ve ever seen one, to be honest,” Dykes said. “We had 19 kids on the list to start the week, and I’d estimate around 12 won’t be able to play this week. At least nine were in our two-deep, and the others gave us valuable reps on special teams.
“Almost every name on the list plays a big role in what we do, so this week is going to be a challenge for us.”
Although region play doesn’t begin for another week, the Fighting Cocks still want to even their record before beginning their league slate at David Crockett next week. With so many potential starters listed as out, or even questionable for Friday, though, the Big Red will have a tall task ahead of them.
This week will provide an opportunity for Dykes and his staff to see just how deep the roster is, which could be a benefit moving forward.
“We’re going to find out how deep we really are, this week,” Dykes said. “We’ve been moving kids around all week, trying find positions for them that they’re comfortable in and that they can help us in. This is going to be a week of managing the roster to where we can be competitive, but still be ready for region play next week.”
What lies on the other side of the ball on Friday for Cocke County is a Highlander program that’s run roughshod through their opponents in the first three games of the season.
GP holds a pair of 35-point victories over The King’s Academy and Northview Academy, and a 40-point win over former region foe Hampton to start the season.
The Highlanders utilize multiple weapons on offense to boast a high-powered attack, but no players are used more than leading rusher Tyler Akey and quarterback JD Shults. In the last two games alone the duo have combined to put up over 750 yards of offense, and totaled for at least 75-percent of the offense’s scoring efforts.
“(Galtinburg-Pittman) utilizes the passing game more than the last two teams we’ve played,” Dykes said. “They’re still a physical team, but have no problem airing it out even though they have a solid ground game.”
Last week, the Highlanders picked off Cocke County’s week two opponent, Northview Academy, in a 41-6 blitz of the Cougars. GP limited Northview to just 22 total yards in the first half, and didn’t relent a score until late in the fourth quarter.
Offensively, the Highlanders average over 47 points per game, while the defense has limited opposing teams to just six points on two separate occasions.
“We’ve got to be solid in what we do defensively,” Dykes said. “GP is a very physical team on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to play a more physical brand of football this week, and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
The most GP has allowed in a single game was in a 55-20 victory over The King’s Academy in week two of the season. With Cocke County’s ground game struggling to find its footing, Friday will leave a tough challenge for the Big Red offense to find consistent production in order to keep pace with the Highlanders’ high-powered attack.
“We worked last week to get Tyler (Venerable) in a better rhythm, and opening up the run game for him helped, I think,” Dykes said. “When we had time to throw and had running lanes, last week, it worked well for us. We’ve got to be strong up front to give ourselves opportunities to succeed again this week.”