By Trey Williams
Washington County has two high school football teams in the state quarterfinals for the first time in the same season.
And if Daniel Boone or Science Hill pulls off an upset Friday during their respective visits to undefeated Knox West and perennial power Maryville, it’ll be the first time a Washington County team has reached the semifinals.
Science Hill also reached the quarterfinals in 1979, ’93, ’94 and 2014. Boone’s other quarterfinals appearance was in 2009.
So, while waiting to see what swift-footed Tyler Moon (Science Hill) and strong-legged Ben Shrewsbury (Daniel Boone) do next, here’s a look at the programs’ previous teams to survive and advance to the Elite Eight.
Science Hill 1979
Tommy Hundley’s Hilltoppers put together what remains the program’s only unbeaten, untied regular-season record. Steve Fields rushed 210 times for 1,313 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The backfield included quarterback Curtis Hurt and blocking backs Ernie Carson and Dan Pence. Dee DeeScott was a home run threat on the outside and tight end Anthony Bell was a dependable target. John Hoynacki, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tackle, was the most touted offensive lineman.
Defensive backs Marvin Bell, Bill McKinney and Otis “Nick” Smith and linebacker Troy Hundley were key cogs, too.
Science Hill defeated Dobyns-Bennett, 9-7, in front of a massive crowd at Memorial Stadium during the regular season. Porky Arnold’s 40-yard field goal gave the ‘Toppers a 9-0 lead.
D-B all-state lineman Larry Cage played two years at Georgia.
“He was Herschel Walker’s roommate as a freshman,” Fields said.
Fields, who spent two years at Appalachian State, ran for a 51-yard TD in a 7-0 win against Dave Rider-coached Elizabethton.
Science Hill defeated Morristown East 19-13 in overtime to secure its quarterfinal berth. Pence scored from a yard out on a fourth-and-one in overtime. Fields, who’d rushed 31 times for 144 yards and two TDs, left the game injured late in the fourth quarter.
Science Hill’s season screeched to a halt at Oak Ridge in the quarterfinals. Science Hill alum Emory Hale’sWildcats, led by junior quarterback Doug Martin, romped to a 50-0 statement in the mud.
Oak Ridge won by double digits each of the following two weeks against Tullahoma and Jackson Central-Merry to win the second of three state titles in a six-year span.
“Oak Ridge beat the crap out of us,” McKinney said. “But we had a great season.”
Science Hill 1993, 1994
Science Hill all-time leading rusher Terry Copeland led the ‘Toppers to back-to-back quarterfinals appearances as a junior and senior in 1993-94. Copeland ran 30 times for 207 yards, including a game-winning 24-yard touchdown with 4:32 remaining, in a 21-14 second-round win at Chattanooga Baylor.
The following week was when a Johnson City-Washington County team got the closest to ever reaching the semifinals. Mike Turner’s Hilltoppers led Oak Ridge 15-3 at the half.
But an early second-half turnover set the tone for an improbable rally, one that was capped when Eduardo Rivera hit a 41-yard field goal with 29 seconds left. It was in the mud – and his first field goal of the season.
Copeland ran 17 times for 165 yards, Andy Harman threw an 8-yard TD pass to Chris Behrer and Tyrone Bachman recovered a fumble for a score and caught in improbable PAT conversion pass from kicker Matt Maggard, who missed a 36-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
Oak Ridge lost in the semifinals to Riverdale, which finished state runner-up and then emphatically ended Science Hill’s ’94 season in the quarterfinals en route to coach Gary Rankin’s first of 17 state titles (four at Riverdale and 13 at Alcoa).
Copeland had rushed for 330 yards and scored seven TDs in an opening-round win against McMinn County and piled up 249 yards and four TDs on 33 carries in a 30-20 defeat of Red Bank in the second round. KatonCollins’ interception and a fourth-down conversion by sophomore running back Michael Lewis – while Copeland nursed an ailing shoulder – were also key plays.
“Terry Copeland was special,” said Scott McClanahan, Science Hill’s first-year head coach in 1994. “We beat Red Bank down there in Chattanooga and they had a good team. But then we ran into a buzzsaw against Riverdale. They were loaded, man. They had kids that went to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Alabama. I mean,they were at a different level.”
Science Hill 2014
Science Hill again lost to the eventual state champion in the 2014 quarterfinals. The Hilltoppers were coming off their second win against Dobyns-Bennett in three weeks, and even some area coaches gave them an outside chance of hanging around at Maryville for a change in the quarterfinals.
Science Hill had quarterback Malik McGue was the reason for guarded optimism. He’d helped the ‘Toppers defeat Siegel, 52-28, and score 90 points in two wins against D-B, including a 41-6 playoff victory. McGuerushed for 140 yards and two TDs and passed for three TDs, including two to Tyrek Perkins, and Mikey White had an interception and a forced fumble in the playoff win against the Indians.
Science Hill was also impressive in a 45-42 loss at Brentwood Academy.
But Maryville once again rolled over the ‘Toppers, 45-0. It secured the 15th straight semifinal appearance for Rebels coach George Quarles, who left to begin a five-year stretch at Furman the following year before becoming the ETSU head coach prior to the 2022 season.
Daniel Boone 2009
Daniel Boone upset No. 1-ranked Tennessee High in the second round of the 2009 playoffs in Bristol. Former Science Hill assistant Greg Stubbs’ Vikings had defeated Boone 51-26 during the regular season. Taylor Harmon passed for 339 yards.
But Boone’s Blake Shropshire ran nine straight times down the stretch to polish off a 23-14 upset in the rematch. Shropshire was also part of a formidable inside linebacker tandem with Matt Duncan, Jeremy Jenkins’ Trailblazers held Tennessee High to seven yards rushing in the playoff game.
David Crockett coach Hayden Chandley was a junior strong safety for Boone in ’09.
“Coach Jenkins has to get a lot of credit for that second-round playoff win,” Chandley said. “I remember thinking we were better prepared than they were.”
Stacy Carter-coached Sullivan South defeated Boone 34-21 in the quarterfinals.
Boone took a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard screen pass from Austin Reppart to Dakota Whitson and Brandon Burkey’sPAT and went ahead 14-7 when Kevin Connell threw a 68-yard pass to Jessie Collins.
But South responded with 27 straight points. South had defeated Boone 35-28 in overtime during the regular season.
“The first time we played South, I think they turned it over four or five times and we still couldn’t beat ‘em,” Chandley said. “But we ended up beating ‘em my senior year (2010).”
Ethan Good, Boone’s offensive coordinator this season, was the center on the ’09 team. He said the ’09 team would give this undefeated squad a tussle.
But the ’09 players would love to see undefeated Boone shock the state by defeating another top-ranked team (Knox West) this year.
“It’s great to watch … and as a fan I am excited for these guys,” Connell said. “If I had any advice or words of encouragement for them it would be: ‘Trust the process, leave no doubt, play hard and when you step off the field, look yourself in the mirror and know you gave it all to the ones on the field, the ones to come next and the ones that came before you.’”