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High schools contributing to big football weekend
Aug 31, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
If Hurricane Isaac slides out of the way, this will be a great weekend of football at all levels.
From the Titans, Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State tonight and the Big Orange on Friday, there will be something for just about everybody.
And that includes aficionados of high school football, some of whose teams, because of the Tennessee Vols' Friday opener against North Carolina State in Atlanta, will play tonight.
Huntland at Watertown
This is not a short week for the Purple Tigers, who were off last week after a Week 0 win at Cannon County. Huntland was crushed by Columbia Academy 51-7 in the Hornets' opener last week.
"They lost several players from last year's team," Watertown coach Gavin Webster said of the Hornets. "I think they only have two or three returning seniors; playing a lot of young kids."
Huntland will run an offense including a pro-I, a double-tight end, double wing and a spread. Defensively, the Hornets run a 4-2 look.
"Got a few little speedy guys," Webster said. "Scrappy little ball team."
This is Watertown's final non-region game of the season before the Tigers go on an eight-game run against Region 4-A rivals.
"Stakes are going to start getting higher after this week," said Webster, whose Tigers will travel to Red Boiling Springs next week. "I told the kids it gets tougher each week. We just got to get ourselves prepared and focused for the challenges down the road."
Mt. Juliet at Portland
The Panthers have been down since Roger Perry left to come to Mt. Juliet in 2005. But Portland is 1-1 following a Week 0 loss to Beech and a 28-7 whipping of neighboring rival White House.
"I don't think they've beaten them since 2005," Perry said. "The White House game is always big in Panther Country."
Former Wilson Central coach Traye Aric is in his third year at the northwest Sumner County school. The Panthers finished second only to Mt. Juliet in the District 9-AAA strength competition at MJHS in the spring.
"They're much stronger in the weight room," Perry said of the Panthers. "Their technique is far better than it's been in the past few years. Of course, they've had young players who are now veterans.
"You mix strength and technique, you've got a whole lot of the battle won... Very physical up front. Their offensive and defensive lines are good size and strong young men."
Portland runs a form of the single-wing offense, a classic system Perry hasn't gone against since he faced South Pittsburg in 1986 while at Westmoreland.
"Had some impressive runs against White House," Perry said. "You can tell they have good speed in the skill positions.
"If you execute [the single-wing] well, it's a good offense, and they do. It's hard to find the football."
Mt. Juliet is 2-0 after outscoring Lebanon and McGavock a combined 89-14.
"Our young men are playing well, especially with the youngsters we've got in the lineup," Perry said. "We're pleasantly surprised.
"We know the tests are going to come, starting [tonight]."
Perry said wide receiver Jalen Graham will be held out of tonight's game due to a bruised shoulder.
Ezell-Harding at Mt. Juliet Christian
The Eagles are 1-1 with a 30-7 Week 0 loss to Columbia Academy, followed by a 34-13 thumping of Middle Tennessee Christian last week.
"They've got a couple of fast backs," Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said of the Eagles. "They've got athletes. They like to run the I a lot, at least they did last week, pretty much 90 percent of the time.
"[The line is] very aggressive off the ball and double team the D-line and make their way up to the linebackers, a lot of zone blocking."
Ezell-Harding runs a 5-2 defense.
"They like to bring some of their linebackers on some blitzes," Roberts said.
The Saints are seeking their first win of the season following two losses.
"We just got to eliminate turnovers on our end," Roberts said. "If it comes down to special teams and we win the turnover margin, I think we'll be in good shape."
Roberts said receiver/safety Preston Raymer will miss tonight's game after sustaining a concussion against Red Boiling Springs last Friday.
Lebanon at Gallatin
The future of Blue Devil football may begin this week when freshman Christian Haffner gets the start at quarterback for an injured Bryce Suber.
"We'll have plans to play the whole game with him," said Lebanon coach Troy Crane, whose Blue Devils are seeking their first win of the season after two losses. "We've had a few changes in the offensive line. And [running back] Taye [Davis] is another week healthier. We just hope that come gametime on Friday, he's ready to go."
Fullback/defensive end Julian Crutchfield got a carry last Friday to test out his injured foot.
"He's been released to start coming back slowly," Crane said of Crutchfield. "It's going to be a long road as far as rehabbing."
Also, running back Ethan Copas and linebacker Cameron Reese have been held out of practice this week due to various ailments and Crane was hoping either/or both could play Friday.
Gallatin's special teams self-destructed in a 35-13 home loss to Wilson Central in Week 0. The Green Wave fell behind to Springfield last week before rallying to a 37-23 triumph.
"It starts with [quarterback Morgan Campbell] on offense," Crane said of the Green Wave. "Real athletic quarterback, and a lot of times their best offensive play is whenever you flush him from the pocket and not contain. He makes a lot of plays with his legs and really makes you account for him in your game plan.
"It was a tale of two halves in the Springfield game... A lot of teams would have laid down and died being down that much at halftime. They hunkered down and found a way to get momentum on their sideline and Springfield just couldn't stop it."
Hendersonville at Wilson Central
The 2-0 Wildcats will try to continue their resurgence against a 1-1 Commando team coming off a 27-17 loss to Franklin last week.
Cameron Turner ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against Franklin while also scoring another TD receiving. Hendersonville beat Station Camp 17-9 in Week 0.
Wilson Central is at home for the first time this season after a 35-13 win at Gallatin and a 26-12 verdict at LaVergne.
Friendship Christian at Gordonsville
If you're not wedded to the Vols or another high school team, this might be the game of the week to go see as two top-five teams in their respective class go head-to-head in the Region 4-A opener at Turney Ford Field.
The Tigers, coming off a 1A semifinal appearance last season, lost 28-27 to 3A arch-rival Smith County last week while defending 2A state champion Friendship is 2-0 with one-sided wins over Donelson Christian and White House Heritage.
"They got almost all of their guys back from last year," Commander coach John McNeal said of the Tigers. "This is a good senior group, big, physical. Got a lot of good skill kids. To be honest with you, I don't see any weaknesses.
"They do a little bit of everything. We've seen some situations where they line up and run over the top of you. And then they also spread you and throw it. Really, you got to defend a whole lot of sets."
Gordonsville runs a 50 defense.
"They got all the weapons that you would want," McNeal said. "I think they're the best team in Class A [they're No. 4 in the Associated Press 1A poll], without a doubt. They could really compete on up. In the jamboree against [5A] Station Camp, they basically handled them physically. Just big and physical team."
McNeal said with a few exceptions, the Commanders should be healthy for Friday.
"I know we say this every year, but this is as thin as we've been and you hope you have as many people as you can going in," McNeal said.
Sacred Heart at McClain Christian
It'll barely be September, but McClain can clinch a home game in the MTAC Division II playoffs in the Bulldogs' home opener. MCA is 2-0 for the season while Sacred Heart is 0-2 with a 32-13 loss to the Middle Tennessee Heat and a 58-0 setback to Macon Road Baptist.
McClain coach Seth Bass is hoping the remnants of Isaac are long gone by Saturday afternoon at Stroud Gwynn Field for what is believed to be the first high school football game at the former home of Castle Heights Military Academy since the Tigers' final season in 1985.
"I expect to throw the ball a bit more this week," Bass said. "Our defense needs to play well early to keep their offense frustrated. We need the weather to cooperate so we can fully utilize our speed advantage. They are a bigger team than us size-wise, but almost identical numbers-wise."
MCA is a small school without a lot of history, but Bass said homecoming will still be special.
"Homecoming is always special, even for a young program," Bass said. "There will be lots of family and friends there supporting our kids, and I know they'll be fired up.
"It's important for us to start well this week to keep our crowd in it. SHJ is not playing with a lot of confidence right now, so we need to keep it that way Saturday."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com