Putting a two-week fall break in October has forced schools to be creative in scheduling homecomings.
Lebanon has gone to an extreme. LHS will celebrate that rite of fall before Labor Day - that's this weekend.
"Five of our first six games are at home, which is certainly not the type of schedule you would like to walk into where the last four are on the road," said first-year Lebanon coach Sam Harp, who did just that when he was hired last December, about a month after athletic director Darian Brown made out the slate for the 2013 and '14 seasons. "I don't like the idea, honestly, of having homecoming the second game of the season.
"But it is what it is. I didn't want homecoming on a district game, either… Franklin County just happened to be the one we got it on."
Elsewhere, Wilson Central and Watertown will be in opposite corners of Rutherford County - the Wildcats in the northwest corner at LaVergne and the Purple Tigers in the southwest at Eagleville. Mt. Juliet will face its former State Route 171 rival Antioch in a battle of the Bears in MJHS' Curd Road opener.
Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet Christian are off this week.
Franklin County at Lebanon
Both teams are looking for their first wins. The Rebels lost at home to Chattanooga Central 18-9 while the Blue Devils fell at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium to Mt. Juliet 29-8.
"Chattanooga had a couple of guys who got in space on them and they're the kind of guys who make you miss in a phone booth, and they really made plays out of nothing," Harp said. "Honestly, I thought Franklin outplayed them from beginning to the end. It was about 2-3 plays there that cost them."
Like Mt. Juliet, Franklin County runs the wing-T offense. But while the Golden Bears run a number of plays out of a few sets, the Rebels run a few plays out of multiple formations.
"They're definitely different than Mt. Juliet," an out-of-breath Harp said after running, sometimes actively, the Blue Devils through drills earlier this week. "Franklin County majors in the buck sweep. They'll run a little trap off the inside, but they're going to major in buck sweep and belly G. They're going to do that out of quite a few formations… out of six or seven different formations. They even run it out of trips.
"They force you to really check your formation alignments every time you come up defensively. What they're trying to do is get angles on you if you don't get proper alignment."
Franklin County runs what looks to be a four-man front.
"But that's misleading," Harp said, noting the Rebels run multiple formations on that side as well. "Sometimes, it'll look like a 50 with a drop end similar to Mt. Juliet.
"They're always going to put their best linebacker out on the edge. It looks like a rush end. The kid is a very good athlete. I felt like he dominated in last week's game. They're aggressive defensively and they'll fly around and get to the ball."
The Blue Devils struggled with cramps and other injuries in the second half against Mt. Juliet. Most of those players returned to the game that night and will play this week. But running back Jarren Stewart sustained a spiral fracture in his fibula which resulted in two screws being inserted.
"You hate to say this, but it's kind of fortunate that he didn't tear a ligament because he'll come back from this a lot quicker than he would have if it had been ligaments," Harp said. "If it had been ligaments, we probably wouldn't see him the rest of the year. We got a chance to get him back maybe Week 6 or 7 depending on how he comes. They say if he follows what they tell him, he'll be walking in three weeks."
As for the cramping, the Blue Devils were noticeably taking their water during practice this week.
"It's not that they hadn't before and it's not that we're not in great shape," Harp said. "This football team is in very good condition.
"Dehydration comes from several factors. One, obviously, not getting enough fluids in you. The other is also nutrition. Unfortunately, we're in a situation where we got a lot of guys who don't eat as they need to. You got to get your three squares a day, plus more if you're in athletics. We got too many guys that's not happening for. We had Gatorade, water and coolers in the locker room since Wednesday of last week."
Wilson Central at LaVergne
Both teams are seeking their first victories of the season. While the Wildcats were getting doubled up at Hendersonville, the Wolverines were wiped out by arch-rival Smyrna 56-7.
"They are definitely fast," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said of the Wolverines. "They're athletic all over the field."
Dedman said LaVergne's offensive line averages around 240 pounds and the D-line 220. The Wolverines run the no-huddle spread offense.
"They're going to snap it as quick as they can, get as many plays in as they can," said Dedman, noting a pair of 6-foot-3 receivers as well.
LaVergne runs a 4-3 defense.
"They're physical up front," Dedman said. "Secondary guys are pretty good."
This game is the second of five straight on the road to open the season for the Wildcats, who are trying to prove the adage the most improvement comes between the first and second games.
"Our guys went back to work this week," Dedman said. "We did a lot of film work Monday and went back on the field Tuesday. We're trying to get more physical, trying to fix mistakes we made Friday night."
Dedman said two-way lineman Evan Juknke, who has knee issues since practice started, is questionable for this week.
Watertown at Eagleville
The big question in Tigertown this week has been the status of senior quarterback Ty Jobe, who suffered an ankle sprain during the second quarter of last weeks' 42-6 loss to Cascade. Coach Gavin Webster said Jobe has been working on rehab drills this week and has not ruled the dual-threat out of Friday's game, though freshman Seth Price has been getting the reps in practice.
"We're hoping he can, but we're preparing like he can't," said Webster, who also will be without free safety Austin Brown for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.
As for Eagleville, the Eagles have been playing football for less than a decade, but had an undefeated season just two years ago.
"They're going to be sound, no matter what they do offensively and defensively," Webster said of the Eagles.
Eagleville opened with a 17-8 win over Mt. Pleasant last week. The Eagles base out of a 50 defense and a shotgun two-back offense.
"They got their quarterback returning, their running back returning," Webster said. "They lost a lot of receivers.
"Pretty big up front, like to play pretty physical. They like to run the ball downhill at you."
Antioch at Mt. Juliet
Both Bears are coming off season-opening wins over neighboring arch-rivals. While Mt. Juliet was beating Lebanon 29-8, Antioch was downing Cane Ridge 28-21. MJ faced Cane Ridge in a scrimmage earlier this month.
"Our kids know how good Cane Ridge is and how good Antioch is by point of comparison," Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said. "They're pretty loaded.
"They have 17 returning starters. With that experience comes a lot of talent. Those two things, combined with what they run, makes them very dangerous."
Antioch runs what Perry called "a true veer-read offense" in which the quarterback is under center, rather than in shotgun.
"They can do a lot out of multiple fronts," Perry said. "They are very good at it.
"They got a quarterback who's fearless. He runs it well and distributes it well."
Antioch's fullback/linebacker is "a stud, reminds me of [former Mt. Juliet star] Contrez [McCathern] last year," Perry said.
Antioch will throw the ball occasionally.
"I would call it timely passing," Perry said. "They're effective enough to keep you honest.
Antioch will bring a 4-3 defense to town.
"Very aggressive with it, a lot of man coverage, let their athletes pin their ears back and blow things up at the point of attack," Perry said. "Get a lot of bodies to the ball and create some havoc when they get there."
Perry reports no new injuries to front-line players.
"We are very fortunate," he said. "We are really healthy right now."
Week 1 games
Franklin County at LEBANON
WILSON CENTRAL at LaVergne
WATERTOWN at Eagleville
Antioch at MT. JULIET
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.