EAST BRAINERD, Tenn. (WRCB) -- East Hamilton has met little resistance so far on its mission to repeat as District 6-AA champs.
This week it's Tyner's turn to try to topple the front-runners in the Friday Night Football Game of the Week.
Channel 3 Facebook fans chose the matchup as Week 8's feature game over a battle of two top-ranked teams, Boyd-Buchanan and South Pittsburg, in an online vote.
East Hamilton (6-1, 4-0 in 6-AA) needs just two wins to clinch at least a share of its second straight district title, but a loss could pull Tyner back into a tie for first. Hixson and Red Bank also enter the week with just one district loss.
"There's no room for error, and that's the key for our team. We talk to the kids about taking care of what we can take care of," said East Hamilton head coach Ted Gatewood. "The three teams left on our schedule are good teams that have won plenty of games the last few years, so we need to execute, compete and play hard to take care of our business."
The Hurricanes are riding high after last week's 49-0 dismantling of Hixson in a battle of the district's two remaining unbeatens. Senior running back Logan Jackson rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns to cross the 1,000-yard barrier for the second time in three seasons. For the year, Jackson has 1,111 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns.
"He's got great vision to see the holes and adapt when the play changes, so he makes the line and the team look really good sometimes when there's some miscues," Gatewood said of Jackson. "He's got great balance because he's a strong young man, but he also has speed so that when he gets out in the open he can really take off."
While Jackson is the focal point, quarterback Hunter Moore has also proven quite effective for an offense that's averaging 43.6 points per game. The 6-foot-1 junior has completed nearly 75-percent of his passes this season for 882 yards. He's thrown 10 touchdowns opposite just one interception.
Linebacker Austin Gatewood and defensive end Francisco Rodriguez lead an East Hamilton defense that's posted back-to-back shutouts. The Hurricanes have been filthy all season, allowing just 9.6 points and 115 yards of total offense per contest.
"We've been physical at practice getting ready for this game," said Tyner running back and linebacker Joseph Sturkey. "We know they're going to be big and physical, but we're ready to play. We just have to match their intensity and be better."
Tyner (5-2, 3-1) posted impressive early-season wins over Signal Mountain (33-24), Brainerd (27-0), East Ridge (34-0) and Tullahoma (33-7), but have struggled the past two weeks.
The Rams fell to Hixson 28-19 two weeks ago, their first loss in the series since 1991, to fall from a first-place tie in the district. Last week they overcame an awful start to beat Central 39-21, scoring 32 unanswered points to erase a 14-point second-quarter deficit.
"We've been so sloppy," Turner said. "I think we turned it over seven times against Hixson, and you can't beat anybody turning the ball over that much. Last week I think we had four turnovers against Central, but were fortunate to find a way to win.
"But we're getting older and better as the season progresses, and hopefully we'll be in a position not to make those kind of mistakes the rest of the year."
Quarterback Willie Stewart and receiver Sadik Spence connected on three touchdown passes to spark the rally, adding a new dimension to Tyner's vaunted "Ram Train" ground attack.
"I can't remember the last time we did that," Turner said with a laugh. "We've always used a lot of running backs, and we still do, but this year we're using three different quarterbacks, too.
"All three of them are capable of doing something different that helps the team, so we just try to put them in the best positions to be successful and help us be successful."
This week's contest will be the first of three straight road games to close the season for Tyner. In an odd scheduling twist, the Rams' only road trip in the season's first seven weeks was a 43-14 loss at Division II power McCallie.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET Friday night at Hurricane Hill, and Paul Shahen and Jordan Tippit will be live on site to provide full coverage on Channel 3's award-winning Friday Night Football starting at 11:10 p.m. ET.
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