It’s the first month of the high school football season — five weeks for teams with an early bye — and it holds nearly half of a team’s regular-season allotment of games.
Getting off to a good start in some sports isn’t that big of a deal. But with only 10 games to prove your postseason worth in football, a slow start can be extremely difficult to overcome.
With that in mind, which Northeast Tennessee teams face the toughest scheduling tasks right out of the gates?
Here’s the top 10 — counting down from more favorable to the toughest First Four schedule for area teams:
No. 10 — SULLIVAN SOUTH
Starting with a home rivalry game against Daniel Boone is difficult, but the Rebels should be favored in their next three: Cherokee at home before traveling to meet Grainger and Gate City.
No. 9 — CLOUDLAND
By the time the Highlanders get to a favorite role against Hancock County, they will have traveled to meet rivals Happy Valley and Hampton with South Greene at home in between.
No. 8 — VOLUNTEER
On the road to face private school Christian Academy of Knoxville makes a tough opener. The Falcons follow that up with Sullivan Central, David Crockett and Sullivan East at home.
No. 7 — ELIZABETHTON
The Cyclones will meet two of the top running backs in Northeast Tennessee in Weeks 1 and 3, Science Hill’s Chris Thomas and Daniel Boone’s Charlie Cole. Games at Sullivan East and home for Grainger round out the early slate.
No. 6 — HAMPTON
A three-game road stretch is tough enough, but since the opponents are Gatlinburg-Pittman, Unicoi County and league rival Happy Valley, it’s a daunting task. And the next game is another rival: Cloudland.
No. 5 — DAVID CROCKETT
After opening at home against a pair of solid Class 6A schools in Ooltewah and Science Hill, the Pioneers travel to Volunteer before a road trip to battle private school Webb in Knoxville.
No. 4 — TENNESSEE HIGH
Three big road challenges hit the Vikings right off the bat: Dobyns-Bennett, Daniel Boone and intra-city rival Virginia High. With that trio to start, the Week 4 home game against Morristown East looks inviting.
No. 3 — DOBYNS-BENNETT
The good news is the Indians have three at home. But after playing host to Tennessee High and Oak Ridge, the Indians hit the road to Knoxville for a tough region battle against Bearden. Up next is another league challenge against Hardin Valley.
No. 2 — DANIEL BOONE
The path starts with a rivalry game on the road (Sullivan South), followed by the two-time defending Class 4A champion (Greeneville) at home. Then the Trailblazers face arguably their second-biggest conference game (Tennessee High) before hitting the road again to take on Class 4A power Elizabethton.
No. 1 — SCIENCE HILL
With opponents coming off a combined season of 43-8, this was an easy pick for the top spot. The Hilltoppers open with Elizabethton before traveling to David Crockett and Hardin Valley. The stretch ends at home against Greeneville. For a team with a lot of young starters, Science Hill will have to grow up fast.
Contact via email Douglas Fritz at firstname.lastname@example.org.