The term Week 0 is a misnomer. There’s nothing “zero” about this week to the 85 percent of Tennessee high school football teams, and 100 percent from Wilson County, who will participate in season-opening action Friday night.
Lebanon will visit Mt. Juliet in the local rivalry [nothing zero about that] which is in its 38th straight season while Wilson Central plays host to last year’s Class 6A state runner-up Hendersonville in a game which will play out before a primetime audience on MyTV30’s rechristened “Friday Night Lights”.
By the way, both games count in the District 9-AAA standings.
Lebanon at Mt. Juliet
Both teams are looking for fast starts to what the hope will be rebound seasons from disappointing 2013s under first-year coaches. The Blue Devils went 2-8 under Sam Harp while the Golden Bears finished 4-6 under Trey Perry.
It didn’t count, but the Bears are coming off a 41-0 beating at the hands of a powerful Oakland team in last week’s Rutherford County Jamboree.
“I know they took it on the chin last week,” Harp said of the Bears. “That’s going to happen to a lot of people. Oakland looks like a college team.
“Defensively, [the Bears] are solid. They fly to the ball, have good technique, good up front. Offensively, they’re kind of new to what they do.”
What the Bears are doing is running the spread offense after being in the wing-T since Roger Perry’s arrival as coach in 2006.
“They got enough weapons they can be explosive,” Harp said. “You got to keep [quarterback Nolan] Chowbay contained. He gets out in the open field, he’s tough to catch.
“Kicking game is solid. Their punter [Justen Dubay] can kick it 45 yards. When they kick off [with Hayes Foster], you’re looking at starting at the 20 every time.”
Perry said the Blue Devils are showing the fruits of a year in Harp’s season.
“They’ve got quickness in the skill positions, and that’s where it counts,” Perry said of the Blue Devils, noting they scored plenty of points in scrimmages at Kenwood and against Rhea County [played at Winfree Bryant Middle School while the re-sodded Clifton Tribble Field takes hold]. “They are starting to be able to run what Coach Harp’s familiar with and what made him so successful in Kentucky.
“He’s spreading it out and he has the big back [Taye Davis] to do damage.”
Perry said quarterback Darren Stewart, a running back in the past, is a good enough passer defenses can’t just play him as another running back. He’s also impressed with 6-foot-3 tight end Kyle Santana.
“He’s big, but does a good job on his routes and finding space, being able to catch the ball and doing something with it after he catches it,” Perry said of Santana.
“You can’t load the box to stop Davis.”
The Blue Devils run a 3-3-stack defense, something most teams in this area don’t’ run.
“They’re quick and that defense you don’t see a whole lot and it can be very disruptive,” Perry said.
Harp said the Blue Devils are ready to play a game.
“You reach a point where practice gets mundane,” he said. “The scrimmages can sometimes be misleading, either for you or against you, because you’re not game-planning, at least I’m not.”
Perry put a positive spin on the loss to Oakland, which is nationally ranked and will open its season Sunday at Blackman on ESPN2.
“We chose not to dress 16 people due to minor injuries,” Perry said. “The jamboree is nice for the kids, but at the end of the day, your record is still 0-0.
“The kids have worked really hard at rehabbing their injuries. Not all of them will be back this week. But if you can get two or three kids back, it helps your depth so much.”
Ready or not, the Bears are ready to play.
“We’re excited,” Perry said. “We’re a young football team. We did some good things n camp. We did some bad things in camp. But the big thing is we did grow. Our kids have done a tremendous job in preparation this week.”
Harp said defensive end/tight end Julian Crutchfield remains out with a knee injury sustained during an offseason basketball game. Linebacker Brett Hutto will sit out the game with a shoulder injury.
Hendersonville at Wilson Central
Under longtime coach Bruce Hatfield, the Commandos have no secrets. They run the wing-T, 50 defense and have a powerful kicking game.
“They’re a typical Hendersonville team,” Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. “They’re big up front. They have athletic skill guys to go with that.
“Defensively, they’re hard-nosed. We got to make sure we read our keys on defense and be ready to match their intensity.”
Central had a couple of question marks on the injury list for Week 0. Offensive guard/defensive end Alex Comer [knee] and wide receiver/defensive back Anthony Dobson [concussion] are both questionable.
Watertown at Cascade
The Champions finished 7-4 last season under Kenny Parker. But a new coach has changed the offense from a ground attack to the spread.
“They’re bringing back a good quarterback who throws the ball pretty well,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said. “Looks like they’re going to spread the field and throw the ball.
“They’re going to be no-huddle. They’re going to get you thinking pass, pass and then surprise you with the run.”
Webster said Cascade’s defensive coordinator is still at the Wartrace school and is continuing to run the 4-3 defense.
Watertown has run a spread offense for years. Sophomore Brady Swann is stepping into the role of quarterback. But a sprained ankle kept out of last week’s jamboree and left running backs Luke Turner and Austin Brown taking snaps and running out of a wildcat formation with little passing.
Swann was considered day-to-day and Webster admitted his possible absence would hamper the offense “a little bit.
“We’ll just do what we can,” he said. “We’ll just adapt to what we have to do. If it’s not a strength, we won’t do it, or do it as much. If they can’t throw it real well, we’ll find out and adapt and go from there.”
Friendship Christian at Harding Academy
The Lions opened and ended their season with trips to Pirtle Field, including the first round of the playoffs. Now, it’s the Commanders’ turn to make a second straight trip to Memphis, having been put out of the postseason at St. George’s in suburban Collierville. Harding is located in the heart of Memphis.
“They’re similar to last year,” Commander coach John McNeal said of the Lions. “They run the 4-4 [defense] still. They’re a spread team. They got a new quarterback. He’s a freshman, just like ours [Mike Jones Jr.]. There had to replace their receiver who was the tops I saw in the league last year. He did graduate. They have their running backs back.
“Outside of that, we don’t know a lot. We got one scrimmage. We traded one for one. Really, the beginning of the year, it’s about us and getting ready to be where we need to be and sharpen some things to get better at.”
McNeal said all the starters should be available.
“Our practices are set up we don’t just go out there and try to kill each other,” he said. “We teach the proper techniques and things we need to do to know where we line up on Friday night.”
Whitwell at Mt. Juliet Christian
In a meeting of new coaches, the Tigers’ R.C. Helton is bringing a wing-T attack to Pirtle Field in which the quarterback lines up in the shotgun.
“They run the ball, trap, dive, a little option game,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said of the Tigers, who are coming off a 5-5 2013 season. “They’re trying to run the ball at you.”
Davis said Whitwell has the same defensive coordinator who is running a 3-4.
“From looking at the roster, they got some pretty good-sized kids,” he said.
When asked of the Saints were ready to play, Davis said it’s time to play.
“We had two scrimmages, we got some work in,” he said. “It’s been a lot more physical camp. Now it’s time to put the rest of the hay in the barn and go out there and play Friday night.”
Week 0 games
LEBANON at MT. JULIET
Hendersonville at WILSON CENTRAL
WATERTOWN at Cascade
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at Harding Academy
Whitwell at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN
All kickoffs at 7 p.m.