The calendar says it's Week 4. But the weather forecast reads like the first week of full pads practice the first week of August.
Nonetheless, the season will go on, and though it's a non-region week for most teams, there are a few intriguing matchups, none more so than Mt. Juliet's visit from 1980s nemesis Gallatin.
Also, Watertown will play host to an old traditional rival, DeKalb County, in the Battle of Sparta Pike. Lebanon will visit LaVergne in a battle of LHS featuring two blue-clad teams. Resurgent Wilson Central will look to keep the good times rolling when the Wildcats welcome Antioch to Gladeville for homecoming.
It is East Region week for Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet Christian as the Commanders bus to Chattanooga to take on Grace Baptist while the Saints await a homecoming visit from King's Academy from the greater Knoxville area.
Lebanon at LaVergne
The Wolverines are 2-1 with a 44-20 triumph over Rockvale in that school's inaugural game and a 68-0 shellacking of Antioch sandwiched around a 33-26 loss to Rossview.
"It doesn't matter who you play," said Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry, whose Blue Devils are 1-2. "If you score that many points and don't give up any, you're pretty good.
"They got a lot of steam speed, a couple of long athletic wideouts and a quarterback who can throw it and run around in the pocket and then throw it. That's probably when worries me the most.
"They're much improved on defense."
The Wolverines will run a 50 defense and a spread offense.
"They very rarely have a tight end," Gentry said.
At least the Blue Devils have seen a spread recently, even if they didn't expect it, as erstwhile wing-T team Mt. Juliet showed up at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium last Friday with the new-look offense.
"Everything they did on offense was unexpected," Gentry said. "They came out and ran the spread, which they hadn't done in a year and a half. It wasn't until we were down 7-0 did we realize we didn't need to be in the wing-T defense. We needed to be in the regular defense.
"We were aligned properly, but your mindset is different for playing a wing-T team."
But Mt. Juliet's surprise offense wasn't the only problem as Lebanon's offense rarely got untracked in the 24-7 setback.
"Bad field position, and a lot of that was us being undisciplined with penalties," Gentry said. "You can't line up and go 90 yards, or 80 yards. It seemed like we were faced with that all night long. A lot of that was self-inflicted."
On the injury front, linebacker Christian Borden broke his tibula during an interception by safety Levi Sampson, Gentry said.
Antioch at Wilson Central
With a 3-0 start and a trip to Mt. Juliet next week, this homecoming game with winless Antioch looms as a trap game for Wilson Central. The Bears (Antioch, not Mt. Juliet) have been outscored 200-12 through three contests.
"We don't want to be that team (that loses to them)," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. "We've got to take care of business.
"It's homecoming week and there are enough distractions as it is. We've got to concentrate on the task at hand."
Antioch runs a pro-style offense and a 4-4 defense.
"They try to run the football quite a bit," Dedman said. "They run to the ball well (on defense)."
Dedman said offensive guard Tucker Wilson will be out this week with a knee injury.
DeKalb County at Watertown
After the Purple Tigers rallied for an overtime win over Trousdale County in an early Region 4-AA showdown, Watertown now must refocus for the visit from its Sparta Pike neighbor.
"We'll have to get them grounded and we'll preach that all week," Purple Tiger coach Gavin Webster said. "(Trousdale's) over with. We've got to get ready for this bunch.
"It's not a region game, but it's an important game."
DeKalb County, also called the Tigers, is coming off a 33-0 shutout of Stone Memorial. The Tigers lost to Warren County 35-21 and Upperman 35-0.
"They're good size, like aways, athletic," Webster said of the Smithville team which runs a mixture of one- and two-back offense. "Got a good quarterback (6-foot-2 junior Axel Aldino), got good size. he's athletic. He throws the ball good.
"They're similar to our offense. We do a lot of 20 personnel (two-back) and a lot of 10 personnel (one back). They have some good receivers. A good running back like DeKalb always has."
Friendship Christian at Grace Baptist
The Golden Eagles are 2-1 for the season and 1-1 in the East Region, coming off a 27-12 triumph at Bell Buckle Webb last Friday. Prior to that, they lost 28-7 to Mt. Juliet Christian and opened the season with a 21-13 win over Lookout Valley.
"They've got some good athletes," Commander coach John McNeal said. "Had to replace the (region) player of the year from last year. They've got some kids, like us, they're trying to replace."
Friendship is 2-0 in the region and 2-1 for the season. For McNeal, this week is as much about the Commanders as it is the Eagles, who run a spread offense and a 5-2 defense.
"This is our first long trip," McNeal said of the upcoming journey to Chattanooga. "We're getting people back, gradually, in shape. For us, it's just trying to get better. We saw some things we did well Friday night (in a 22-6 win at Donelson Christian) and some things we need to work on.
"We're really focusing in because we've got to get better on our end. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We've got to take what we did Friday and get better. If we do those things better Friday night will take care of itself."
McNeal said some players have been returning to action and expects offensive lineman/linebacker Lee Palmer Bridges to return after he was injured in a preseason scrimmage against DeKalb County.
"We have guys who played last Friday who didn't practice all week and we got to get them back in practice mode because that's where you get better," he said.
Where they will practice could be up for debate due to the triple-digit heat indexes that were forecast for the two key practice days of the week - Tuesday and Wednesday. It's already been hot enough for the coach.
See Heat/Page B3
"It was pretty hot last week," McNeal said. "There was one day last week I thought I was getting heat stroke. It got to me. If it's worse, we'll be coming back at night.
"We were on the soccer field (located in a low end on the back end of campus) and there was no breeze. It was cooler on the (Pirtle Field) turf. There was a breeze blowing. Feeling that breeze made it a whole lot better."
Gallatin at Mt. Juliet
Back when only one team from a district went to the playoffs, Gallatin made a habit of keeping Mt. Juliet out with a run of Week 4 wins in the late 1970s and much of the '80s.
This Week 4 matchup doesn't have playoff implications, but Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry hinted this Green Wave team (3-0 by a composite score of 127-21) may be as good as those Calvin Short-coached squads.
"They are as improved a football team as I've seen in a calendar year," Perry said. "Very balanced offensively and featuring the No. 1 running back in the state of Tennessee (Spencer Briggs). It's going to be a challenge Friday night.
Former East Robertson head coach Chad Broadrick has come in to run the defense for first-year coach Chad Watson.
"He's multiple up front," Perry said of Broadrick. "He can switch from odd to even. They like to do a lot of man coverage, and they have the athletes to do it."
That defense will have video of Mt. Juliet's wing-T from the Week 1 loss to Stewarts Creek and the spread Perry and offensive coordinator Zac White sprung on Lebanon last week following the Bears' bye.
"We just had some guys who were playing as hard as they could (against Stewarts Creek), but they were playing too many snaps," Perry said. We felt good about our tight end and H-back personnel and running this enabled us to utilize those guys more.
"And Coach White and the offensive staff did a great job with the game plan."
The bye also allowed receiver Malik Bowen time to recover from a contusion on his meniscus sustained early in the Stewarts Creek game. But there are other issues as well for the Bears, who will now have to play nine straight weeks plus the playoffs.
"We wanted him to finish his physical therapy," Perry said of the Duke commit. "That kid heals fast.
"We're banged up. It was a very physical football game (last week). They're iffy for Friday night. It wasn't from Stewarts Creek or fall camp, but from Friday night. We're going to have to bite down and bear it. Next up mentality. The next guy's going to have to step up and play. I'm sure Gallatin's banged up, too. It's getting to the point in the year where you're starting to see that."
King's Academy at Mt. Juliet Christian
It's a little early to probe the tiny details of the region standings, but King's and MJCA are tied for second place at 1-0 in the East Region, just behind 2-0 Friendship. The Lions roared past Franklin Grace Christian 48-7 for their first win of the season last week after a 24-17 loss to Seymour and a 55-20 setback to Gatlinburg-Pittman.
"They're a well-coached team," MJCA coach Dan Davis said of the Lions, who will be the Saints' homecoming opponent at Ed Suey Field. "It's going to be a good game."
Davis said King's will run a 3-3-stack on defense and a spread offense, throwing the ball about 60 percent of the time.
"They got a few athletes," Davis said. "They have two big boys, both over 6-5, playing in the offensive and defensive lines. They're both over 270."
But just as the region race is starting to heat up, the Saints and most high school teams (at least those not blessed with a practice bubble) are dealing with the mid-summer-like heat this week.
"The good news is we've been out here conditioning all summer, just like everybody else," Davis said. "We'll just do what the trainer says, modify and keep going. We're in the season now. Wd got to make adjustments and keep going."
| Region | Overall
WILSON CENTRAL | 1-0 | 3-0
Hendersonville | 1-0 | 2-1
MT. JULIET | 1-0 | 1-1
LEBANON | 0-1 | 1-2
Rossview | 0-1 | 1-2
Station Camp | 0-1 | 0-3
Last week's scores
MT. JULIET 24, LEBANON 7
WILSON CENTRAL 20, Rossview 14
Hendersonville 48, Station Camp 7
This week's games
LEBANON at LaVergne
Antioch at WILSON CENTRAL
Gallatin at MT. JULIET
Rossview at Northeast
Beech at Hendersonville
Springfield at Station Camp
| Region | Overall
WATERTOWN | 1-0 | 2-1
Westmoreland | 1-0 | 2-1
East Robertson | 1-0 | 1-2
Trousdale County | 0-1 | 1-1
Jackson County | 0-1 | 1-2
Cascade | 0-1 | 0-2
Last week's scores
WATERTOWN 16, Trousdale County 13, overtime
East Robertson 21, Cascade 14
Westmoreland 35, Jackson County 7
This week's games
DeKalb County at WATERTOWN
Huntland at Cascade
Red Boiling Springs at Jackson County
East Robertson at Lewis County
Gordonsville at Trousdale County
Westmoreland at Whites Creek
| Region | Overall
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN | 2-0 | 2-1
MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN | 1-0 | 1-2
King's Academy | 1-0 | 1-2
Donelson Christian | 1-1 | 2-1
Grace Baptist | 1-1 | 2-1
Franklin Grace Baptist | 0-1 | 0-3
Middle Tennessee Christian | 0-1 | 0-3
Bell Buckle Webb | 0-2 | 0-2
Last week's scores
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN 22, Donelson Christian 6
Macon County 55, MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN 7
King's Academy 48, Franklin Grace Christian 7
Grace Baptist 27, Bell Buckle Webb 12
Howard 54, Middle Tennessee Christian 27
This week's games
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at Grace Baptist
King's Academy at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN
Franklin Grace Christian at Cornersville
Donelson Christian at Middle Tennessee Christian