With almost all of Wilson County's schools, plus many others across the region, on fall break, Lebanon, Wilson Central and Friendship Christian are taking a break from football as well.
But Watertown and Mt. Juliet Christian face key region games while Mt. Juliet undergoes a final tuneup before the frantic, final two weeks of the regular season.
Watertown at Gordonsville
These old rivals sport identical 6-1 records. But Gordonsville is 5-0 in Region 4-A and considered by many to take the Class A state championship seven weeks from now.
Watertown is 4-1 in the region and is trying to keep pace with Friendship Christian [5-1] in league play. The Commanders' lone loss was a 28-21 Week 2 decision at Gordonsville.
"When you're senior-dominated like they are, you're expected to have a good year," said Watertown coach Gavin Webster, who was a senior on Gordonsville's 1984 state champions under Coach Mark Medley, now GHS' offensive coordinator. "A lot of them have started since they were sophomores."
Gordonsville is led by the 1-2 backfield tandem of tailback Kaelin Cason and quarterback Payton Watson. Cason has 1,134 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing while Watson has picked up 643 yards and eight scores on the ground.
"[Cason's] going to be hard to tackle," Webster said. "Payton Watson runs the offense well.
"They got a two-headed monster back there."
Up front is a big line led by tackles Tyler Coen [6-foot-3, 235 pounds] and Cody Payne [6-3, 240]. In addition to the linemen, fullback Nic Payne [5-11, 205] also blocks for Watson and Cason.
And then, there's the other side of the ball.
"Most of those seniors play both ways," Webster said. "They're physical. They get to the ball. They tackle well."
Watertown is coming off a 68-26 loss to Friendship which hurt the Purple Tigers in more ways than the standings.
Wide receiver Jake Belcher sustained a knee injury when he was tackled into the fence on a touchdown catch and will miss this week's game. Fellow wideout Dakota Self is dealing with a back issue and will also sit out Friday's game at Turney Ford Field. Right tackle/linebacker Robert Davenport is day to day with a knee injury.
And then, there's the psychological aspect of the loss.
"You want to see how your kids respond this week," Webster said. "There's a lot of football still to be played.
"We've had a good week of practice, so I'm confident the kids will bounce back well."
Mt. Juliet at Cookeville
With most teams focused on district races and the upcoming playoffs, it might be tempting for the Golden Bears to look past the Cavaliers to the season-ending showdowns with Hendersonville and Wilson Central in District 9-AAA.
But that was before the Bears' 21-14 goal-line escape from Station Camp last week.
"Our young men understand last week we didn't play well offensively," said Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry, whose 6-1 Bears are also celebrating homecoming this week even though there's no school. "There are so many areas we can play better. It's crunch time. We better make improvements this week."
Cookeville is 4-3 for the season, but leads District 6-AAA at 3-0.
"They've had some games they've competed well," Perry said of the Cavaliers. "They play a schedule where they go from one extreme to another. A lot of their non-district games are very tough. We won't be a surprise to them."
After 14 seasons of consistent excellence under Coach Jerry Joslin, longtime assistant Scott Cook now sits in the head coach's chair.
"I don't think a whole lot of things have changed," Perry said of the Cavaliers' system, which includes multiple formations on both sides of the ball. "Got typical Cookeville players, got big linemen."
Mt. Juliet is banged up as the Bears hit the stretch run of the season. Inside linebackers Josh Belhu and Brigham Powell have missed the last couple of games with injuries. Adam Gilg has stepped in at one spot while Kenneth Clemmons, who has started every game this season, has moved to the inside from outside while a rotation of players are filling his OLB spot.
"Credit to the young men who have stepped in," Perry said. "We won the football game last week with a goal-line stand."
Donelson Christian at Mt. Juliet Christian
DCA is an uncharacteristic 3-4 while Mt. Juliet Christian is 1-6. But at 0-1 in East-Middle Region 2, a win would put either one of these teams on the fast lane to the Division II playoffs.
'No matter what kind of year they have, they're well-coached," Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said of the Wildcats, who have former MJCA coach Paul Townsend on their staff. "They're very disciplined. they're athletic.
"In a nutshell, they're a good football team, no matter if they're 3-4 or 7-0."
DCA runs a pro-style offense with designs on setting up the pass with the run.
"They want to establish the run," Roberts said. "They're going to beat you being physical and throwing the football, too."
The Wildcats run a 4-3 defense.
"They like to keep the three linebackers in the box and play with seven men in the box and use the strong safety as the adjustment.
"They like to blitz a lot, bring the outside 'backers a lot. They want to put hat on you, hit you hard and fast."
Evangel Christian at McClain Christian
The Bulldogs have been in an 0-3 free fall against a tougher schedule since an 0-4 start. They lost at home to Aaron Academy 82-38 last Saturday at Stroud Gwynn Field.
"The backloaded schedule, I knew it was going to get tougher," said McClain coach Seth Bass, noting his school's two-week break from classes hasn't helped with football. "What is concerning me is the attitude. We're too complacent. We're not showing the fight we showed in the beginning of the year.
"But giving up 82 points is something of a wake-up call."
Evangel is coming down from Louisville, Ky., with a 3-1 record. Bass said he didn't know much about the Eagles but was planning to obtain more film.
"They got quite a bit of size," Bass said. "I don't think they have a great deal of speed.
"They run it up the middle, very simple on offense. A run-first team."
On the injury-front, wide receiver/defensive back Austyn Laude has a concussion and Bass didn't expect him to be cleared to play.
This game has been designated the second annual Pinkskin Classic in which the Bulldogs will wear pink jerseys as part of breast cancer awareness and to raise funds for research.
"We're asking our kids to raise $100 each this week, which will be $1,500," said Bass, who also helped hold a Think Pink volleyball match a couple of weeks ago as MCA's coach in that sport against Mt. Juliet Christian, coached by his wife, Bridgett.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org