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'Cats, Devils meet in opposite directions
Sep 14, 2012 12:00 am
Mt. Juliet hosts Hurd, Beech in battle of 4-0 teams
By ANDY REED
Wilson Central and Lebanon, two teams headed in opposite directions in the District 9-AAA standings, will get together on the Blue Devils' brand-new Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins for the first time Friday night.
But look west for the real game atop the 9-AAA standings as Class 5A's top-ranked Beech visits 6A's No. 9 Mt. Juliet.
Wilson Central at Lebanon
After three straight down seasons, the Wildcats are enjoying a renaissance at 4-0 while Lebanon is trying to lay a foundation that is off to an 0-4 start.
"It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you look at film and see all the skill people they can run in and out in the course of a ballgame," Lebanon coach Troy Crane said of the Wildcats. "Not only that, they put a strain on your defense because they can attack you; run the football between the tackles, on the edges and also throw the football deep. They're a deep football team.
"What really gets them going is their play on defense and special teams. Every week it seems they not only find a way to hold their opponents under their normal yardage, but they also find a way to score on defense and also they find a way to score on special teams and set up field position to give their offense a shortened field."
Wildcats kicker Brad Cavonough's kickoffs kept Shelbyville starting at its 20-yard line last week. He also beat the Blue Devils last year with a late field goal.
"He's a weapon in itself," Crane said of Cavonough. "We remember quite well from last year what kind of field-goal kicker he is.
"They are probably the most complete football team we've played so far."
Meanwhile, Crane is trying to lay a foundation for future success. It starts with getting some current Blue Devils healthy.
"Looking at the score and looking at the 0-4 record, a lot of people think I'm crazy, but our football team gets better every week that we play," Crane said. "We still have a long way to go. But there's no substitute for our young guys getting experience. [Freshman quarterback Christian] Haffner is getting more and more comfortable every snap that he takes. We're slowly but surely getting healthy."
"They're definitely better than what their record says," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said of his alma mater. "Their offensive line is really good, in my opinion. All five guys block really well. Defensive line plays well. It's definitely going to be a war in the trenches.
"It's one of those county-rival games we talk about all week long. I'm sure they're talking about it also. You got to be ready to go at all times. Everybody's going to have a few tricks up their sleeves. We have to be able to adapt well to whatever they put out there."
Lebanon running back Taye Davis had to leave last week's game at Glencliff in the third quarter with body cramps but is expected to play this week. Sophomore Julien Crutchfield has gotten a few snaps at running back and is expected to see action at defensive end, which Crane said is his most natural position.
Still questionable is senior lineman D'Shaun Jones, who was carted off the field at Glencliff with a recurrence of a heart issue. Middle linebacker Cameron Reese has had a bout of pinkeye and a bacterial infection in his elbow which has kept him off the practice field this week.
Central freshman running back Gabe Angel is questionable with a sprained ankle sustained on a touchdown run against Shelbyville. Right tackle Andrew Campbell is also questionable with a shoulder. Running back D.J. Majors and receiver Chase Hobbs will be back.
"I guess we're swapping two for two there," Dedman said.
Before the game, an HTC Evo View 7" tablet by Sprint donated by Absolute Wireless will be the big prize during the pre-game show which begins at 5:30 p.m.
Pickett County at Watertown
The Purple Tigers will celebrate homecoming with a 3-0 record [1-0 in Region 4-A] as 0-4 [0-2] Pickett County comes to Robinson Stadium.
"Offensively, they look like they're trying to spread you out to run and throw," Watertown coach Gavin Webster said of the Bobcats, who are coming off a 59-26 loss to Monterey last week. "Defensively, they run some type of 40 front.
"Got a few decent athletes. They try to spread the athletes out and give them the ball."
Watertown running back Brannon Hill suffered a hip pointer on the game's third play last Firday at Red Boiling Springs and is doubtful for this week, Webster said.
Jackson County at Friendship Christian
The teams saw each other twice last season, with Friendship putting the Blue Devils out in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
"Jackson has 10 starters back on defense and I thought they were pretty good defensively last year," Commander coach John McNeal said of the Blue Devils. "They got good size. They got some guys who can run the ball and the quarterback can throw it. All around, a pretty solid football team."
The Blue Devils have broken in a new quarterback to replace a graduated senior who had started for several seasons. Jackson County is off to a 2-1 start, 0-1 in Region 4-A, following an open date last week.
"The kid that's back there is pretty good," McNeal said of Jackson County's new quarterback. "They're lucky to have someone who can step in and take the place."
McNeal said Jackson County runs the I on offense and a 40 and 50 defensively.
Friendship is 3-1, 1-1 as the Commanders go into the second game of a four-game homestand at Pirtle Field. The Commanders are a heavy favorite, but McNeal noted the Blue Devils played FCS tough for a half in both meetings last season.
"It was 7-0 at halftime," McNeal said. "They played us in the two games last year real close at halftime. We haven't played well in the first half against them, so that's something we've got to get off to a better start in the first half."
McNeal said the Commanders should be 100 percent healthy for Friday's game.
Beech at Mt. Juliet
If you're not wedded to any other team, this is the game for you – a battle of 4-0 teams looking to strengthen their hold, along with fellow 4-0 Wilson Central, atop District 9-AAA. The Buccaneers are led by 6-3 junior running back Jalen Hurd, who has 1,230 yards and 17 touchdowns through four games. Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are three of nine schools who have already offered him a scholarship.
"He is bigger, faster and stronger [than last year]," Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry said. "It's pretty amazing what a young man like that can do. Nobody has slowed that young man down, yet. We hope to slow him down. We're not talking about stopping him, we hope to slow him down and score a couple of more points than they do."
Mt. Juliet's offense has scored a lot more points than the opposition this season. Last week's 27-0 win at LaVergne was the Golden Bears lowest point total this season.
"Our offense is going to have to play much better this Friday night," Perry said. "More clock control and keep the ball out of their hands. Defensively, we have a challenge in front of us and [Hurd] is definitely college bound."
Beech runs multiple offensive formations, but Perry calls the I the Bucs' "bread and butter.
"He'll get back there at tailback, eight or nine yards deep. He's got a good field of vision. A lot of people talk about Jalen Hurd and he is an outstanding football player. A lot of times they leave out that offensive front. And that offensive front for Beech is the best that we've gone against, without a doubt. Some of the holes that they create makes it that much easier for Jalen Hurd."
The Bucs run a 3-4 defense.
"They're very sound in all phases," Perry said. "Their kicking game is good. If we play up to par, it ought to be a heck of a football game."
Perry said wide receiver Jalen Graham will be back after two weeks absence with a shoulder injury while sophomore defensive lineman C.J. Brooks will be out with an illness.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Tri-Cities Christian
The Saints are traveling all the way to Kingsport for their first win after four season-opening losses. The Eagles are coming off a 46-32 win over Oakdale last week.
"They've got some athletes," Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said of the Eagles. "They're an I team. They'll get in doubles and they like to get their fast guys on the perimeter. Whatever they can do to get their athletes the football, that's what they'll do. [They'll run] counters, powers counter.
"Defense, last week they started in a 50 front and shifted out of it and got in a 4-3."
Roberts said wide receiver Preston Raymer is still out with a concussion.
McClain Christian at Riverside Christian
The Knights, based in Fayetteville, were rivals of Mt. Juliet Christian in the East-Middle Region in recent seasons before switching to eight-man football this season where they are 1-3.
"They run a pretty aggressive, pretty unorthodox defense," McClain coach Seth Bass said of the Knights. "They like to bring a whole lot of pressure and they don't worry about what's going on out back.
"They're bringing five and dropping back three. They're saying they're going to get to the quarterback before you get the ball out. We're going to have to be a run-heavy team this week. I'll be surprised if we throw the ball five times this week, if that much."
Riverside's offense will run the gamut from a split-back veer to four-wide.
"Their quarterback's very, very athletic and we're going to have to focus on containing him," Bass said.
McClain, at 4-0, should dress all 14 Bulldogs for the first time this season, Bass said.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com