Shane Heatherly is ready for his turn to gloat, to do unto his buddies from high school as they, now Appalachian State students, have been doing unto the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga linebacker for the past four years.
The Mountaineers had won three in a row over the Mocs when Heatherly, from Waynesville, N.C., signed with UTC in February 2008, as a senior at Tuscola High School.
Tuscola's nickname? Mountaineers.
That streak is now seven heading into Saturday's 6 p.m. Southern Conference game at Finley Stadium.
"Obviously App State has killed us for a long time now, and that would take a big monkey off our back," Heatherly said of beating No. 18 Appalachian State (1-2, 0-1), which is coming off a 52-28 blowout loss to The Citadel.
Since the early 1990s, many of ASU's wins in the series (it leads 25-10) were blowouts. The past two games, however, have been decided by a combined three points -- but the Mountaineers have kept on winning. And that has given bragging rights to many of Heatherly's former Tuscola teammates who go to ASU, including Mountaineers starting center Graham Fisher and tight end Austin Chambers.
Heatherly said he's heard from several of his friends leading up to the game, as well a few strangers.
"I think they gave out my phone number a little bit, because I've had a few prank calls here the past couple of days," he said, smiling. "They have a lot of fun with it."
Fun for him and the Mocs (1-2, 0-0) will be a win over a team they were in position to beat the past two seasons. The Mocs led 35-14 a few seconds into the fourth quarter in 2010 before ASU rallied for a 42-41 win. Last season, UTC's defense held the ASU offense scoreless, but a fumble and an interception were returned for touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 14-12 win.
Even without a recent win, the Mocs have earned the Mountaineers' respect.
"That last game we played, every play you had to play your [rear end] off," ASU linebacker Brandon Grier said during the SoCon media day in July.
Mocs coach Russ Huesman has tried keep this game in perspective, saying it's just the first of eight SoCon games. True, but there are more layers than that one.
UTC has been so close to beating Appalachian State — and numerous other teams — the past few seasons, only to come up short in the final minutes or seconds. The Mocs have to win seven of eight SoCon games to qualify for an at-large playoff bid, and it will probably take seven wins to win the SoCon.
Meanwhile, a loss would drop UTC to 1-3 with a game at the red-hot Citadel next Saturday.
"This game is probably going to be the biggest game since I've been here," said UTC defensive end Davis Tull, who leads the SoCon with three sacks. "This is a real big momentum game. Obviously if we didn't win,S our goals are still there and we could still go to the playoffs, but we really want to win this one and get some momentum and go into the conference strong."
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...
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