It was the latest edition of a fierce county rivalry.
Well, sort of.
The Sweetwater and Tellico Plains football teams played each other in 7-on-7 action at SHS on Monday, July 15, giving a taste, albeit one without tackling or a running game, of the two teams’ Oct. 25 matchup this fall.
It was the first time new head coaches Mike Martin of Sweetwater and Jon Rechtorovic of Tellico have faced each other in a game-like situation, although this lacked the intensity or meaning of a regular season contest.
“I saw that we got a long way to go,” Martin said, “as far as knowing what to do, where to line up, quarterbacks on the reads, receivers on the routes and receivers understanding when it’s man and when it’s zone. But that’s our first 7-on-7 so it’s about when it is expected.
“I thought we competed, but we still can compete a little better.”
Sweetwater quarterback Austin Long had a strong performance against Tellico’s defense. He threw for nine total touchdowns, scores that ranged from short throws to deep bombs.
“Austin’s got a cannon,” Martin said. “That’s not a secret. Everybody knows Austin’s got a cannon. It’s just if I can get him to throw it where he’s supposed to throw it … He’s a quarterback learning a new offense. But he’s made some strides and he had a decent day.”
Transfer Drew Hicks, who left Sweetwater for Knoxville Catholic before recently rejoining the program, caught two touchdown passes. Both came on short passes at the goal line.
Tellico’s offense didn’t fare nearly as well as that of the Wildcats, with Sweetwater outscoring the Bears 10-2 on the day. But that doesn’t mean that Tellico didn’t see some impressive play from its skill positions.
With veteran quarterback Dale Rinehart not available for Monday’s 7-on-7, Reid Shaw and Landon Hollinghead manned the signal caller spot for Tellico. Both players threw one touchdown each.
“I thought we moved the ball decently,” Rechtorovic said. “We didn’t get in the end zone as much as I like, but we moved the ball consistently down the field. We had some younger kids step up that have been backups for most of the summer.
“As a whole, I thought we did pretty good. We thought too much defensively and didn’t do our job like we’re supposed to. But ... they competed and that’s what I want.”
The scrimmage ended with specific goal line work.
While it can be tricky, and not always effective, to evaluate a team’s scheme and offensive system without an offensive line or running plays available, Monday’s action did give a small insight into what fans could expect to see from each team when they take the field this fall.
Sweetwater utilized almost a multiple-style offense, with most plays ran in the shotgun but a few originating under center. The Wildcats often lined up in a split shotgun look, with two running backs in the backfield, one on either side of the quarterback.
Tellico, meanwhile, also ran the majority of its plays out of the shotgun, but typically just with one running back flanking the quarterback. The Bears also often worked out of an empty set, with just the quarterback in the backfield and multiple receivers split out wide.
“Offensively, we’re going to try to spread you out and see what opportunities you give us to run or pass,” Rechtorovic said. “We’ll take what you’re giving us and we’ll go from there.”
Both the Wildcats and the Bears will partake in more 7-on-7/scrimmage action before Sweetwater’s jamboree on Aug. 16, which each team will participate in. All county teams open the 2019 regular season on Aug. 23.
“These kids show up and they go to work everyday,” Rechtorovic said. “Whatever I ask them to do, they go to work and they bust their tail everyday, trying to make themselves better.
“As long as they do that, we’ll get it figured out, we’ll get it straightened out in the long run.”