By CHRIS CANNON
JACKSBORO—Campbell County football players huddled in the film room on Saturday morning, waiting to learn the team’s fate during the Class 5A playoffs.
The selection show had its difficulties, but the Cougars learned they would host District 3-AAA foe Gibbs High School in the first round of the 2013 playoff bracket.
“You know a little bit about them,” head coach Justin Price told his team during the meeting. “We just got done playing them. We’ve got to stop the triple option.”
The Cougars have already downed the Eagles once this season in a 35-28 battle at Gibbs High School.
This Friday’s game will begin at 7 p.m., unlike the 7:30 p.m. starts of regular season games. Admission will be a TSSAA-mandated $8.
The game can also be viewed on Pilot’s Playoff Fridays on MyVLT or online at RivalryThursday.com.
“I think it’s good to promote your program,” Justin Price said of playing on television — the Cougars second-such game this season. “Anytime our kids can be seen all over East Tennessee and however far that goes, that’s what hard work does to people. I think our guys have experienced so much success on so many different levels — it’s more than just winning football games.”
Coming into Friday’s game, the Cougars have never won a playoff game.
In three attempts, Campbell County has fallen to Farragut, William Blount and Ooltewah.
But, Nick Bailey thinks the team has a big chance for a win.
“Why not? Why not win a playoff game?” he said. “We’ve been breaking records all year. It’d be huge. It’ll be the first time we’ve ever won a game in the playoffs. I don’t see why we shouldn’t do it this Friday.”
However, the team is looking for a big crowd for the game. Although it’s aired on television, Justin Price hopes fans will come out to support the team.
“I’m sure it’s going to be wild,” Bailey said. “It is every Friday night here. I expect nothing less than that, because that’s the way it’s been all year. I hope it’s like that so we can play in front of our fans and play good for them. Hopefully, they’ll show the support they’ve had all year.”
Campbell County will need all the support, as it’s likely to have its hands full in this first playoff game.
Gibbs’ triple-option attack is one the team rarely fades from, as the Cougars had trouble defending the pompous attack earlier this season.
Much like the Powell game was for Campbell County last season, the Eagles have taken their game against the Cougars as accreditation that they can play with anybody.
“I think we’re both two of the hottest teams in our district,” Justin Price said. “They’ve basically been playing the playoffs since we beat them. They found a way to beat everybody that they’ve played. They’re coming with a lot of confidence, but we have a lot of confidence, too. We’ve won six in a row.”
Since that 35-28 loss, the Eagles have beaten Karns (24-10), Powell (28-14) and Central (24-14) for a 5-5 record over all in order to qualify for the playoffs.
“It’s tough,” defensive coordinator Matt Price said of the offensive attack. “We saw it firsthand. It’s over and over again. Even if you get a stop, they’re going to keep running it. Eventually, their whole philosophy is 2 yards, 2 yards and then 10 yards. We’ve got to have a disciplined practice. We’ve seen it live, so I think our kids will understand it.”
During the last contest, the Eagles out gained Campbell County by 329 yards to 246. Of those 329 yards, 309 of those were rushing yards, as the Eagles ran 67 times. The team averaged 4.6 yards per carry, while scoring four rushing touchdowns.
“Nick had an unreal game over there last time, but he’s got to have some help,” Matt Price said. “The discipline from our ends and our interior guys have to be high the whole game.”
The senior linebacker had 17 tackles — 15 of those solo — and a fumble recovery, which he returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
However, according to Justin Price, the team didn’t play inspired football at Gibbs. Coming off an intense game with Oak Ridge, emotions were still running high. Will the Powell win effect this team?
Ethan Jeffers doesn’t think so.
“It just gives us a lot of confidence in what we do,” the quarterback said. “Every game we win just makes us build more confidence. We can’t get a big head about it. We’ve just got to keep working hard and doing what we do.”