Hixson’s confidence level has flourished in recent weeks.
The upswing started after the Wildcats’ come-from-behind victory over rival Red Bank, and it played a big role in Hixson knocking off Tyner last week.
“(Red Bank) was a team we hadn’t beaten in a long time,” head coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “I think the difference between then and at Tyner last week was that our kids are finally playing to win. Going out on the field thinking we can win, and that’s different from how it has been in the past.”
Its new-found confidence will be put to the test Friday, though, as Hixson travels to East Hamilton. The Hurricanes (5-1 overall, 3-0 in District 6-AA), who haven’t lost since Aug. 24, will be the Wildcats’ toughest challenge thus far.
East Hamilton delivered a 42-0 shutout over winless East Brainerd last week, and its offense has put up more than 40 points in each of its last four victories.
Running back Logan Jackson had a light work load in last week’s lopsided victory, but the senior workhorse, who has 954 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season, will play a bigger role Friday.
“Good luck,” said Fitzgerald on stopping the Hurricanes’ attack. “We’re going to have to disguise some things, and the biggest thing is we’re going to have to get off blocks and going to have to tackle. If we can’t do the fundamentals then it doesn’t matter what scheme we draw up. It’s going to be a challenge this week.”
The Wildcats (4-2, 3-0) have allowed an average of nearly 30 points this season, but limited a potent Tyner offense to just 19 a week ago.
“They’re coming in with a win over a very highly-touted program, and it says a lot about what they’re accomplishing over there,” East Hamilton head coach Ted Gatewood said. “Our kids respect that. We know what that’s like and I think it’s something our kids are looking forward to.”
Allante Novene has provided a spark for the Wildcats in recent weeks. The senior hauled in an interception and had four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in the 28-19 win at Tyner. Three weeks ago at Red Bank, the 5-11, 180-pound speedster finished with 181 yards of total offense, including a 76-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run.
“They run the ball well, but they also throw it,” Gatewood said. “They’re a pretty balanced team. We’ve got to be dialed in and be aware of what they’re trying to do.”
Polk County (5-1) at Signal Mountain (4-3)
The Eagles have gotten on a roll as of late, and they’ll look to extend their winning streak to four games Friday against visiting Polk County. The Wildcats suffered a 31-7 defeat against Bradley Central during Week Zero, but have since won five straight.
Ooltewah (4-3, 1-2) at Bradley Central (4-2, 2-0)
This matchup features a pair of teams both looking for their third straight victories. The Bears defeated Blackman 23-21 two weeks ago, and are coming off a 37-19 win over Rhea County. The Owls have averaged 43 points in their last two wins over East Ridge and Soddy-Daisy.
McMinn County (5-1, 3-0) at Cleveland (4-2, 2-0)
The Blue Raiders come off their bye week with a big opportunity ahead of them. Cleveland, which has won four straight, can take over the top spot in District 5-AAA with a win. The Cherokees are unbeaten in league play and haven’t lost since their Sept. 7 trip to Farragut.
Soddy-Daisy (2-4, 1-2) at Walker Valley (3-3, 0-2)
The Mustangs have cooled off in recent weeks after their surprising start under first-year head coach Glen Ryan. Walker Valley has dropped its last three, and has yet to win a District 5-AAA game. The Trojans, whose only win in league play came at Rhea County, have lost two straight to Central and Ooltewah.