It’s a game which doesn’t even raise a blip outside of their communities. It probably won’t make much of a ripple in the playoff picture.
But when Jo Byrns visits Watertown on Friday night, it will mark the end of an era which has lasted most of the last century when the Purple Tigers play at Robinson Stadium for the final time.
Elsewhere, Friendship Christian, the only Wilson County team which would be in the playoffs if they began this week, will try to pick up more momentum at Davidson Academy before a big East-Middle District 1-A game against Donelson Christian next week.
According to the TSSAA website, Mt. Juliet is the 33rd team in the 32-team Class 6A playoffs while Wilson Central is 35th, meaning the Golden Bears and Wildcats can still play their way in.
Lebanon at Portland
Both teams are trying to make the most of disappointing seasons. Portland, under former Wilson Central coach Traye Aric, has yet to scratch the win column through six games while Lebanon is 1-6.
The Blue Devils have actually played their best football against the better teams, including Station Camp and Gallatin, while not playing as well against lesser teams.
“We’ve been bipolar, I think,” Lebanon coach Sam Harp said. “We played very good football last week [in a 14-12 loss at Gallatin]. What hurt us last week was our kicking game. That’s been our Achilles’ heel all season.
“We practice it every day. It’s not from lack of trying. When there’s a breakdown, there’s usually big yardage involved.”
As for Portland, the Panthers try to travel by an antiquated mode of transportation, the single wing. In fact, it’s so outdated and so few teams use it it’s new to the teams that see it, making it potentially effective.
“That’s not their whole offense, but it’s a huge part of it,” Harp said of the Panthers’ single wing. “I’ve seen it a couple of times in my [33-year] career.
“But you don’t see it very much so it’s hard to prepare for it, and you can’t simulate it in practice. It’s like playing against the triple option. You have to stay on your assignment and not go where you think the ball is.”
Portland does have good size.
“They got a couple of 6-4, 300-plus linemen on defense and they play one of those guys on offense,” Harp said. “They’ve got some athletes who can hurt you if they get out in space.”
Harp said running back Jarren Stewart, who broke his fibula in the opener against Mt. Juliet, has been cleared to play and will see limited snaps, Harp said. Offensive tackle Jonathan Burlingame is questionable with hamstring issues.
Beech at Wilson Central
The Buccaneers aren’t the easiest team to contend with when needing to pile up the wins to get in the playoffs. Beech has had a couple of hiccups since losing Tennessee-commitment Jalen Hurd in the season opener, but none in District 9-AAA where the Bucs are 4-0 [5-2 overall].
Dorian Carter has stepped into Hurd’s spot in the backfield and Beech has hardly missed a beat offensively.
“He totes it about 25-25 times a game,” Central coach Brad Dedman said of Carter. “He runs it hard. He’s got some speed when he gets out in the open.
“[Quarterback Parker Henry] does a great job on bootlegs, play-action fakes and quarterback reverses. [Fullback Parker Campbell] does a good job of kicking defensive ends out. He’s definitely the muscle of their offense.”
Beech runs multiple defensive fronts, both even- and odd-man fronts.
“They’re very physical up front,” Dedman said. “The] does a good job of kicking defensive ends out. He’s definitely the muscle of their offense.”
Beech runs multiple defensive fronts, both even- and odd-man fronts.
“They’re very physical up front,” Dedman said. “They have a lot of guys gong both ways, kind of the way we do. They do a good job of running to the football.”
Central is 3-4, 1-3 and needs to make a move now to keep playing past Nov. 1.
“We’ve gone back to work to fix those mistakes,” Dedman said of last week’s fourth quarter which saw the Wildcats cough up 28 points to Station Camp. “We’ve got to maintain drives. We’ve got to stop the big play defensively.”
Jo Byrns at Watertown
The Red Devils played for the state championship in 2008 and ’10, losing both. At 3-3 in ’13, they’re trying to solidify their hold in this year’s 1A playoffs.
Senior quarterback Kevin Adkins, son of coach Tom Adkins, runs an offense which will run out of the pro-I and the spread.
“[He] runs the ball well, throws the ball well,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said. “We’re going to see a mixture of run and pass.”
Jo Byrns runs a wide-tackle defense with six defenders in the box.
“They get after it,” Webster said. “They got good athletes on both sides of the ball.”
While the Watertown community says goodbye to Robinson Stadium, the 2013 Purple Tigers are trying to better a 2-5 season record.
“Just another week,” Webster said. “We’re not in school so you don’t hear what’s being said.
“We’re just taking it as another game, just trying to play a better ballgame and get a win. We have yet to play a complete game.”
Friendship Christian at Davidson Academy
Unlike Division I where non-district games play a part in determining playoff qualifications and positioning, they make virtually no difference in D-II. Next week’s home game with Donelson Christian will likely mean a first-round home playoff game for the winner.
This week is a chance for Commander coaches to catch up with Davidson’s coaches, including first-year Bear head coach Paul Townsend, who formerly coached Mt. Juliet Christian and was an assistant at Wilson Central for a couple of years. Townsend succeeded former Watertown coach Bill Alexander, who left DA to be an assistant at his alma mater Beech. Prior to Alexander, Paul Wade, another friend of Friendship coach John McNeal, coached Davidson to a couple of D-II-AA state championships.
“We haven’t played them, but we’ve scrimmaged them the last year or two,” McNeal said of the Bears, noting the schools’ middle school and fifth- and sixth-grade teams do face each other each season.
Davidson is 2-4 for the season and 0-1 in District 2-A. The Bears have an upcoming game with Zion Christian which will likely determine their playoff fate.
“They’ve got some offensive and defensive linemen with good size,” McNeal said of the Bears, who run an I and the spread on offense and a 40 defense. “One of those guys seems like he’s been there forever.
“They have some good skill players with quickness. They have a couple of linemen who are as big as any we have except [Andrew] Wood.”
Friendship is 4-2 with two straight wins since quarterback A.J. Long returned from a three-game absence, two of which the Commanders lost. But Long’s return doesn’t erase the inexperience elsewhere in the lineup.
“We still have a lot of learning to do,” McNeal said Tuesday. “Today, we had a couple of young linemen – I may feel different tomorrow – I felt real good. Offensive linemen, the thing about them being so young is adjusting to defenses. They were getting it, understanding it a little bit more. They were adjusting their blocking schemes.
“We need the inexperienced and young pups to grow up and we’ve seen it more and more each week.”
McNeal said lineman Jeff Cherry remains out with a high ankle sprain.
Hendersonville at Mt. Juliet
A year after missing the playoffs, the Commandos are back on track with a solid 5-2 record, 3-1 in District 9-AAA and tied with Station Camp for second place, a game behind undefeated Beech.
They’re using a formula which has served longtime coach Bruce Hatfield well for years – wing-T offense, 50 defense and strong kicking game.
“It’s fun to watch them on film except for the week you play them because of the great job the coaching staff does,” said Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry. “They’re going to be a physical bunch. They run the 50 defense and the wing-T with great technique.
“They’re scoring a lot of points and the defense has been pretty opportunistic.”
Current Mt. Juliet assistant coach James Wilhoit is part of a long line of Commando kickers which remains ongoing.
“They do a great job of scheming on their special teams,” Perry said. “Their punt-block team has been great for years, and it seems to be even better this year. It sets up short fields and even scores touchdowns for them.”
Mt. Juliet is 3-4, 2-2 and currently the first team out of the 6A playoffs with four weeks [three games] to go.
“We’re a team that’s getting better,” Perry said. “We’re just playing good football teams.
“Against Beech, we played three quarters. We’re just asking our team to play the fourth quarter against Hendersonville. There were a lot of positives to come from the film. We just got to start finishing games.”
After Hendersonville, the district [except for Portland and Gallatin] will take next week off before the Golden Bears finish at Gallatin and at home against Portland.
“We can play our way back in,” Perry said. “There are probably 100 teams in the state that would love to be in our position.
“If we can get there, we’re 0-0 and so is everybody else.”
On the injury front, Perry said offensive tackle Nathan Fields will be able to return to the rotation this week after tearing a muscle in his foot against Station Camp.
“For the first time, we’re starting to get a little more healthy,” Perry said.
Pickett County at Mt. Juliet Christian
A pair of one-win teams will hook up for the Saints’ homecoming at Suey Field.
Pickett County won its Week 0 opener against Clinton County, Ky., and hasn’t prevailed since. Mt. Juliet Christian beat Oakdale, which earlier knocked off the Bobcats.
The visitors run a 5-3 defense and a spread offense, but run more than throw.
“They will throw some, but they want to run the ball as much as they can,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said of the Bobcats. “Injuries have just really hurt them.”
Pickett County is expected to bring fewer than 20 players. The Bobcats are down to at least their third quarterback, who began the year at fullback.
“I feel their pain,” said Roberts, who has had an 18-man squad at times during his two-year tenure at MJCA. “Up front, they still have some pretty good players. They have two or three linemen who are pretty good sized layers.”
Mt. Juliet Christian is in a better place with the addition of 13 eighth-graders from the school’s undefeated middle school team.
“We’ve dodged that bullet since we’ve called up our eighth-grade players,” Roberts said. “They’ve really helped us a lot. They’ve given our guys a break on special teams. We’re trying to keep our guys from cramping and that has really helped us.”
That increased depth may help more this week as senior running back/linebacker Elliott Lee serves a one-game TSSAA-mandated suspension after he was ejected for allegedly throwing a punch during last week’s game against Friendship Christian. The play occurred while Lee was playing defense.
“He drove his guy into the ground,” Roberts said. “I thought he was taking on a blocker. He was pulling his jersey and Elliott was trying to get him off.
“The referee, from his vantage point, thought he saw a punch thrown. From our vantage point, there wasn’t anything close to a punch thrown… From [the ref’s] point, I can see how he saw it.”
Roberts said his staff had two cameras videotaping the play but the evidence was inconclusive to present to TSSAA on an appeal.
“We didn’t have conclusive evidence on the film,” Roberts said. “You see it, but then the cameras move away.”
That’s caused some shuffling in the Saints’ lineup.
“We’ve had to do some switching around, and when one guy goes down, it’s a total lineup shift,” Roberts said. “But I think we’ll be okay.”
Week 7 games
LEBANON at Portland
Beech at WILSON CENTRAL
Jo Byrns at WATERTOWN
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at Davidson Academy
Hendersonville at MT. JULIET
Pickett County at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.