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There’s no place like home in Week 6

Andy Reed • Sep 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM

The second half of the regular season kicks off this week. You didn’t miss the halftime break, it’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, Lebanon and Watertown will try to extend a two-game winning streaks, Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet will try to go to 6-0 (with the Golden Bears looking for a sixth straight shutout) and Mt. Juliet Christian will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season as all six Wilson County teams will play in front of the home folks.

Antioch at Lebanon

If the Blue Devils have turned things around, it might have well been the 80-yard, 16-play drive which culminated in quarterback Chandler Crite’s go-ahead touchdown last week which might end up being the turning point.

“We only had one bust on the whole drive,” Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry said. “We have trouble at times learning a new system. We put it together. We didn’t have any false starts, little things that had been bugging us. We put on our big boy pants and drove down and scored. We grew up a little bit. Our players are getting comfortable with our coaching staff.

“I’m hoping our best football is ahead of us. But Friday night, we were at times a pretty good football team.”

This will be the last chance to see the 2017 Blue Devils at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium as they will play their final four on the road (one of which will be at Wilson Central). A two-game winning streak at a place where there hasn’t been one in seven seasons could give them a good Senior Night sendoff.

“I think there’s a little more buzz about the football game coming up,” Gentry said. “You can tell there’s a different vibe, for sure.”

On the flip side, Antioch comes in with a 1-4 record.

“Lost some close games to some decent teams,” Gentry said of the Bears. “They’ve played some teams we’ll play later.”

Antioch runs a 4-4 blitzing defense, “which has given us problems in the past.”

Offensively, the Bears run the gamut from the spread to the option.

“You got to prepare for different things,” Gentry said. “The option is what worries me because it makes you play assignment football. Hopefully by now we’ve seen just about every type of football you can see.

“They like to run the option and they like to spread it out three- and four-wide. It’s like having two game plans. It makes our kids have to think a little bit.”

Gallatin at Wilson Central

In posting a 4-1 start, the Green Wave have dialed back their offense from the spread to the old-school Gallatin look which revolves around running back Ladarius Stewart and offensive line.

“(Stewart) does a good job running the football through the holes and the offensive line does a good job opening the olds, of blocking up front,” Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said.

Gallatin’s defense is a 4-2-5 which revolves around linebacker Jalen Porter, who also lines up with Stewart in the offensive backfield.

“They run to the ball well,” Dedman said of the Green Wave defense. “(Porter) runs the ball down pretty well.

“He’s a big-time football player.”

One thing these teams have in common is Mt. Juliet. The Bears beat the Green Wave 37-0 and the Wildcats 35-0.

“We’ve got to get back to being able to run the football,” Dedman said. “Mt. Juliet took that away from us last week.

“We’ve got to be able to balance the run and throw.”

On the injury list, defensive tackle Drew Warren is a game-time decision with a shoulder issue, wide receiver DeMarius McBroom is a game-time decision with a knee injury and his brother, wide receiver/outside linebacker Devonte McBroom, is questionable with a rib injury.

Forrest at Watertown

These two teams were 1-2 in the old Region 4-2A the past two seasons. They’re in different leagues now, and it’s surprising to find the Rockets struggling at 1-4.

“They’re a pretty good 1-4 ball team,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said of the Rockets, who are coming off a 14-6 loss to Columbia Academy last week and have a 21-20 overtime loss to Eagleville on their resume. “They’ve played a lot of good teams. Granted, they lost a lot of good players.

“They look good on film. They’ve lost some close games… They could be 3-2 right now.”

Forrest still runs the wing-T on offense and 50 on defense.

“They got speed in the backfield,” Webster said. “They got decent size, but they’re not bigger than us. They’re about the same size as us. They got some good running backs. Quarterback is pretty fast.”

Watertown has scored 100 points over the last two games. Health, particularly that of quarterback Bryce Webster, is a big reason why. Webster, Coach Webster’s son, missed two games earlier with a broken collarbone. The Purple Tigers lost both.

“When you get your quarterback back who knows a lot of things that are going on, it helps in a lot of ways,” Coach Webster said. “We’re pretty much injury free right now.”

Ezell-Harding at Friendship Christian

The 5-0 Commanders will celebrate homecoming as 1-4 Ezell-Harding comes to Pirtle Field. One reason the won-loss numbers tilt so well in Friendship’s favor are the numbers on the sidelines between the teams.

“They got some athletes,” Commander coach John McNeal said of the Eagles. “They don’t have a lot of depth. Numbers-wise, they’re having to play a lot of people both ways.

“That’s helped us this year. The second half last week, not having to play our backs both ways really helped.”

Having two backs break 100 yards helped as Jajuan (Speedy) Foutch made an early return from an elbow injury to join Justin Seagraves in the backfield.

“When (the injury) first happened, it was three weeks, four weeks,” McNeal said of Foutch’s initial timetable to return. “We got the brace.

“He struggled at first. He hadn’t practiced. His arm is in this brace … it’s locked in and he can’t move it. He figured it out second half.”

Friendship is off to its best start since the Commanders won their first six in 2009. Their best start is the 14-0 in 2006 before losing the BlueCross Bowl. With most of the II-A East Region schedule in front of them, improvement is the key word right now.

“We feel like we have opportunities,” McNeal said. “We have to get better everyday to achieve these goals and we have to stay healthy.

“What can we do everyday to get better?”

Northwest at Mt. Juliet

The Vikings are 1-4 but are explosive offensively behind a wide receiver whose number is 21 but whose name could not be tracked down.

“They’re a spread team that finds different ways to get him the football in space,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said of the Vikings. “He’s a dangerous player. They will put him in different places…to get him the ball.”

Northwest runs a odd front on defense.

“They are a pressure defense,” Perry said. “They’ll slant the front and bring pressure from the outside linebacker position, or they’ll rotate their coverage and bring pressure from where they’re rotating the coverage, rely on their speed.”

Mt. Juliet has brought the heat on both sides of the ball all season, having outscored its opponents 200-0. An unsung hero of the defense is nose guard Cade Hoppe, who slid from end to the nose when Triston Kilmon was injured in the jamboree. Hoppe was originally credited with eight tackles against Wilson Central last week, but upon further review on video, coaches spotted 11 tackles. For the season, he has 30 tackles, 20 of which are against Central and Lebanon. He has 11 tackles for loss, including six against the Blue Devils and Wildcats.

“He’s been consistent the entire time,” Perry said of Hoppe. “In some games like Gallatin, he didn’t have stats, but he’s being triple-teamed, so somebody else is making the tackles.

“We still move Cade around a little bit to keep him from being located. But he’s pretty dangerous in the nose position.”

Like Friendship, Mt. Juliet has numerous opportunities for a special season, including a second undefeated regular season in this decade, joining the 2011 team.

“If we’re looking ahead, we’re looking ahead at what we can do to prepare for Rossview, because Rossview is the only other undefeated team in our region,” Perry said. “What can we put on film to prepare for Rossview and what can we do to prepare for Rossview?”

On the injury front, the Bears have suddenly become decimated at the wide receiver position. Senior Lawson Rich blew out his knee while making a half-speed cut during last Thursday’s walk-through and is out for the year. Colby Martin returned from the injury list just in time and caught Mt. Juliet’s first touchdown pass last week.

“The worst (feeling) for a coach and a player. I’m devastated and so is he,” Perry said of the Rich injury. “He’s the strongest kid we had pound for pound.”

In addition, wideout Malik Bowen injured his ankle against Gallatin and Connor Ruzek did likewise against Central.

“We’ve lost three starting wide receivers in a week’s time,” Perry said. “We’re really banged up for the first time in a while.”

Middle Tennessee Christian at Mt. Juliet Christian

For the Saints, this is an opportunity to get back on the horse after getting bucked by King’s Academy last week.

“They understand we’re halfway through the season,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said. “We’re 4-1. The biggest thing is to get back to what we were doing, playing hard and winning games.

“There’s no secret.”

This game is a meeting of teams immediately behind King’s and Friendship in the II-A East Region with a loss apiece.

Middle Tennessee Christian, 3-2 for the season, runs a mixture of spread and wildcat on offense and 3-4 on defense. Sophomore running back Kemari McGowan is the centerpiece of the offense.

“He’s their guy,” Davis said of McGowan.

Week 6 games

FRIDAY

Antioch at LEBANON

Gallatin at WILSON CENTRAL

Forrest at WATERTOWN

Ezell-Harding at FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN, 7:30 p.m.

Northwest at MT. JULIET

Middle Tennessee Christian at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN

All kickoffs at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

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