For the first time in many years, a majority of Wilson County football teams will be playing out the string in Week 10 Friday night.
Only Friendship Christian has clinched a playoff berth. Wilson Central may be fighting for its postseason life when Gallatin comes to Gladeville. The Wildcats would almost assuredly be in with a win while a loss would leave them on a very precarious bubble going into Selection Saturday.
The four other teams will be trying to end their seasons on an upnote.
For more than a decade, Wilson County has regularly sent three or four teams to the playoffs.
Lebanon at Beech
The defending state 5A champion Buccaneers were considered a contender to repeat when the season game. But an opening-day injury to Division-I bound Jalen Hurd and an injury to his backup, Dorian Carter, three weeks ago at Wilson Central has left Beech vulnerable-looking at 5-4 overall and 4-2 in District 9-AAA.
“We all got injuries at this time of year,” said Lebanon coach Sam Hurd, whose first Blue Devil team is 2-7, 1-5 going into the finale. “When you play football, at this time of year you got guys banged up and you’re going to have to have younger kids come in and take their place and pick it up. Unfortunately, we’ve been in that position too much this year and it’s been hard to overcome.
“But Beech is well coached. They do a great job with their offense. It’s a lot of down-hill attacking. Defensively, they play very aggressive. You can tell they’re a disciplined football team.
“I don’t know if [Carter] is going to come back or not. I guess it’ll be game time before we know.”
Hurd said his Blue Devils are getting healthier as the season’s ending.
“We got some guys gimping around a little bit,” said Hurd, who will miss the playoffs as a coach since 1985 in Kentucky, a state his teams won seven times from ’89-’03. “It’s tough to swallow right now.
“I knew this was a building process but I’m not discouraged by it. I’m disappointed we didn’t do better. We lost three games by a total of nine points. There’s no excuse in a couple of games we did lose. We just take care of the ball against Station Camp, we win. We take care of our kicking game in a couple of areas against Gallatin and we win. Ifs ands and buts all you want, fact is we didn’t. Anytime you do those kind of things it’s frustrating.
“Personally, I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide last Friday night. That’s the first time I’ve honestly had an offensive performance [150 yards in a 43-6 loss at Wilson Central] like that in my coaching career. But I’m not down about it. I’m disappointed, I get frustrated. But I also know that a good future is going to lie in Lebanon.”
Gallatin at Wilson Central
While the Wildcats [5-4, 3-3] are fighting to return to the 6A playoffs, the Green Wave [6-3, 4-2] are trying to strengthen their seeding in 5A and possibly even snatch the district championship.
“We’re looking for that sixth win, I think that gets us in,” said Central coach Brad Dedman, whose Wildcats would travel to Oakland if the playoffs started now, according to the TSSAA website. “Gallatin’s playing for a home playoff game, and we’re just trying to play our way in.
“It’s definitely going to be a playoff atmosphere Friday night.”
The Wildcats are rounding into form with three wins in their last four games.
“Part of that is we’re getting injuries back and we’re finally starting to put everything together,” Dedman said. “It took seven weeks for that to happen.”
Gallatin’s explosive offense is led by quarterback Clay Carnes, who missed most of last season with an injury, and running back Eric Debow.
“[Carnes] is definitely the leader of their offense,” Dedman said. “He runs the ball some and he throws it well. You can tell they definitely missed him last year.
“[Debow] can definitely carry it the distance at any time. You got to make sure you get him all the way to the ground.”
Watertown at Jackson County
At 2-1 in District 7-A, Jackson County is in the Class 2A playoffs as the Blue Devils try to even their 4-5 record going in. Monterey, a team the Purple Tigers routed in an August scrimmage at Robinson Stadium, is the district champion at 5-4, 3-0.
Watertown is out of the money at 2-7 for the season.
“We’re just trying to close out on a win and trying to build for next season,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said.
Jackson County runs a mix of traditional and modern in its offense.
“Running a lot of I formation is what we’ve seen them in,” Webster said. “They will spread it around. But it seems that going into a game, they’re wanting to run the football and they’re going to get in the I and do that. They’ll get some smokestack-I out of it.
“Defensively, they seem to be anything from a 4-3 to a 50.”
Webster said a couple of Tiger starters went down during practice Tuesday. A couple of younger players were injured last Friday at Goodpasture, a game senior quarterback Ty Jobe didn’t start due to not feeling well. But Jobe entered the game in the second half and ran for three touchdowns and passed for another.
“We’re going through some injuries right now and trying to recoup from that,” Webster said. “Seems like the past four or five weeks, we’ve done nothing but get the injury bug.”
Friendship Christian at Ezell-Harding
The Commanders [7-2, 3-1 East-Middle District 1-A] are trying to extend a five-game winning streak before playing host to a first-round Division II playoff game on Nov. 8.
Ezell-Harding has struggled through an uncharacteristic 2-7, 1-3 campaign.
“They’re as athletic a team as we’ve played this year,” Commander coach John McNeal said of the Eagles. “Quarterback is a good athlete, a running back, a receiver, a couple of linemen that are big and athletic. Defensively, they just go. They’re a 5-2, but they just kind of go to the football, they don’t have a lot of reads. It seems they use their athletic ability and fly to the football. Offense, they’re more throw than run.
“They’re not a 2-7 team.”
McNeal said the Commanders play host to the winner of Friday’s Harding-Lausanne game next week. Harding opened the season at Pirtle Field with a one-sided loss to FCS. The winner would travel to the winner of Friday’s St. Georges-University School of Jackson game which will determine a district champion and recipient of a first-round bye.
After years of traveling east for the playoffs, Friendship faces a second-round trip west, possibly as far as Memphis in its first season in D-II.
“The whole newness is what we wanted, so I guess that’s what we got,” McNeal said.
Portland at Mt. Juliet
Both teams are starving for victories, not for playoff reasons, but for their own mental health. Portland is 0-9 while the Golden Bears are 3-6.
“I’m sure both teams look at it the same way – can we end this on a one-game winning streak and get some momentum for next year,” said first-year Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry, who will say goodbye to 26 senior players and two senior managers. “And we want to send our seniors out as winners because they’ve had a lot to do with the success we’ve had [25-3 and two state semifinal appearances the last two seasons] the last four years.
“A win would be the 38th of their careers, which is not too shabby.”
One reason for Mt. Juliet’s struggles are injuries. Junior quarterback Nolan Chowbay hasn’t played since Week 2 and won’t this week either.
“We have some guys who are going to gut it out and play hurt, especially some seniors because they want to play their last game.”
Whether banged up or healthy, the Bear defenders will get one of the few looks a modern player ever gets at a single-wing offense.
“It is extremely difficult to prepare for,” Perry said. “It’s hard to emulate it and it’s even harder to get good solid reads and get downhill to make tackles.”
Perry said because a rainy forecast is threatening to make tonight’s Halloween a soggy one for trick-or-treaters, youngsters 10-under dressed in costume will be admitted free to the game. Candy will be passed out.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Donelson Christian
The Saints are trying to stretch a 3-7 record to a school-record-tying fourth win. But that will be a tall tale against a 7-2 DCA team prepping for the playoffs. Mt. Juliet Christian got a big boost of confidence from a come-from-behind win over Zion Christian last week.
“Last week’s game was a great win for us,” second-year Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said. “That was a win that we’re going to use as a building block to step off of in the future.
“We needed a win like that for our program to show our kids that we can do this. We can battle and win.”
But even Roberts is realistic enough to realize a DCA team which put up 49 points on Friendship in a last-second loss is a tall order for his Saints.
“Our guys really want to win against DCA,” Roberts said. “We did some research. No Mt. Juliet Christian team has ever scored on DCA, so that’s an objective of ours, to score points on DCA.
“We haven’t been shut out this year, and we don’t want to start now.”
DCA hasn’t been shut out either.
“They’re pretty explosive on offense,” Roberts said of the Wildcats. “They’re very-well coached. They’ve got good players and defensively, they’re about the same. They’re going to line up in the right spot. Their coaches do an excellent job getting them lined up.”
Roberts said sophomore safety/receiver Nathan Green will miss the finale with a concussion.
Week 10 games
LEBANON at Beech
Gallatin at WILSON CENTRAL
WATERTOWN at Jackson County
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at Ezell-Harding
Portland at MT. JULIET
MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN at Ezell-Harding
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.