- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Playoff races heat up as second half starts
Sep 28, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
High school football enters the second half of its schedule this week and, with a few exceptions, every game involving Wilson County teams will be in district/region play.
That means the noose will tighten on teams harboring hopes of playing in November, even before the calendar turns the page into October.
Station Camp at Lebanon
The Blue Devils aren't thinking about November. They're still trying to get their first win. But for 3-3 Station Camp, this is an opportunity for the Bison to climb the District 9-AAA standings from a 1-2 mark, the win being its first-ever over neighboring-rival Gallatin.
"They did a really good job of getting back to some basics where they just utilize their size up front, running downhill," Lebanon coach Troy Crane said of the Bison, who are coached by former Mt. Juliet standout Shaun Hollinsworth. "They had been more spread in the games early on. But when they decided to get in pro-twins and hand it to the tailback and line up and mash people, that's when they started having success out of that formula.
"They have a quarterback who's the equivalent to a high school version of Ben Roethlisberger. You see defenders come in on blitzes and just bounce off him. He's a guy who's not going to make plays with his legs outside the pocket, but with his physical abilities within the pocket, he can keep plays alive and step up and make the throws."
On defense, the Bison "have a lot of speed at linebacker and also in the secondary. They have a real quick nose guard out of their 3-4 look. They do a really good job of slanting the fronts and blitzing linebackers on zone blitzes. They really come and get after you."
While Station Camp is moving up, it's been a case of a step forward and a step back. After weeks of showing improvement, an incident on the team bus returning home from Cookeville last Friday has several Blue Devils sidelined by suspension for this week.
"A lot of the guys are getting a lot more experience," Crane said of the recent improvement. "We had gotten healthy. It's kind of disheartening. We had racked up 320 yards of offense and some type of momentum we had going into the game gets kind of deflated by some choices our guys made.
"But we've had a good week of practice. Our guys have stepped up. We've moved Wayne Bruton off the defensive line and into the fullback position. He's really been a big surprise. It kind of makes you feel like an idiot for not playing him there sooner."
Portland at Wilson Central
This is homecoming for the Wildcats and a return of former coach Traye Aric, who guided Central to a 7-0 start in 2007, the last time WCHS started 6-0 like the 'Cats have this year. But Aric is overseeing another revival. His Panthers are 3-3 for the year as they appear to be off to their first start since before Roger Perry left PHS for Mt. Juliet in 2006.
"The last couple of years, they played a lot of sophomores," said Brad Dedman, who was Aric's defensive coordinator for a season before replacing him as Wildcat head coach in 2010. "Now, they have a lot of older kids. They're reaping the benefits.
"They're going to come in here with a lot of confidence. A lot of things are going their way."
Portland's renaissance is fueled in part by a classic offense - the single wing, an attack so old it's new to most football people these days.
"They run a very non-conventional offense," Dedman said. "They're big and physical up front. They're a strong bunch of kids. We're definitely going to have our hands full.
"On defense, their front seven is as physical as anybod we've seen. They've done a good job of stopping the run. We're going to have to make sure we latch on and hold onto our blocks and our backs have to make sure they hit the hole."
On the injury front, fullback/linebacker Vic Johnson will miss his third game with an ankle issue. But on the plus side, freshman Gabe Angel [sprained ankle] and senior Tim Fitzgerald [broken hand] will return to the Central backfield.
Watertown at Clay County
This is the Purple Tigers' final game before their schedule takes a treacherous turn next week with a visit from Friendship Christian. But Watertown has built a 5-0 record by taking it, as Coach Gavin Webster put it, "One game at a time."
As for this game, Clay County is 1-5 for the season and 1-3 in Region 4-A.
"Offensively, they'll get in some in wing-T and they'll get in a little spread as far as double twins both sides and try to throw it around and run it a little bit," Webster said of the Bulldogs. "Got a little quarterback, probably the best athlete they got.
"They got three our four good little skill guys we'll have to keep our eyes on."
Clay County runs a wide-tackle 6 defense, which isn't seen much these days.
"They like to send a lot of pressure," Webster said. "They're going to try to blitz more than you can protect."
Webster said the Tigers are healthy.
Trousdale County at Friendship Christian
The Yellow Jackets are in the unusual position of being the chaser instead of the target in Region 4-A with a 2-1 region mark, 3-2 overall.
But Trousdale's still Trousdale.
"Trousdale is always a team you got to be ready to play, the history," said Friendship coach John McNeal, whose 5-1 Commanders are also chasing Gordonsville and Watertown with a 3-1 region mark. "Some people say they're down a little bit, but they got athletes on the field.
"They're doing a little bit of the same things they've done in the past, but they're running some spread... Before, they had big linemen, big backs. This year, they feel like they have more speed across the field."
Commander quarterback A.J. Long has speed all over the field all by himself. The junior threw for six touchdowns in the first half against Pickett County last week to bring his season total to 18 to go with 1,435 yards on 52-of-86. Stefan Remus has 12 catches for 395 yards and six touchdowns while Hunter Watts has 11 receptions for 399 yards and five scores.
McNeal reported no new injuries.
Mt. Juliet at Gallatin
The Golden Bears' perennial heartbreakers in generations past, the Green Wave is in a rebuilding mode at 2-4 for the season and 1-2 in District 9-AAA.
"Their record's not showing their not getting off to a good start," said Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry, noting Gallatin's mostly new coaching staff. "They got a lot of young players. Their two inside linebackers are sophomores, but they're going to be good players."
With an open date last week, half of Mt. Juliet's staff watched Gallatin's 41-6 loss to Brentwood.
"What they said about Gallatin is they play extremely hard," Perry said of his assistants, also noting the Green Wave will get a couple of suspended players back this week. "Gallatin's getting better with a young football team.
"They'll play their best game against us."
The Bears sustained their first loss of the season two weeks ago against Class 5A No. 1 Beech to drop to 4-1, 2-1. But though they didn't play last week, it was hardly a week off for the players and coaches.
"We've gotten a lot of practice in the last two weeks," Perry said. "In fact, we hit it hard in the off week. We had five good practice periods during the off week."
One of the priorities during the open date was coaching up a linebacker position left vacant when three-year starter Josh Belhu went down during the Beech game.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Zion Christian
The Saints are coming off their first win of the season last week. Their 39-0 victory over King's Academy afforded first-year coach Jake Roberts something he hadn't had much this fall.
"I slept well for the first time in a while," Roberts said after his Saints committed no turnovers. "Our only goal going into the week was win the turnover margin."
That will be a good goal this week as well. Though 1-5 for the season, this is the East-Middle Region II opener. A win this week could well propel the Saints into their first playoff appearance.
But Roberts isn't selling playoffs. He's more concerned with the Eagles, who are 2-2 for the season.
"They're in the gun a lot," Roberts said. "They want to formation you. Sometimes they'll get into an overload set with their tight ends.
"They run about 70 percent of the time. They're going to throw when they have to. They like to screen you to death."
Zion runs a 4-4 defense with a cover-3, Roberts said.
On the injury front, receiver/defensive back Preston Raymer continues to be sidelined with a concussion.
McClain Christian at St. Andrew's-Sewanee
Eight-man football is high scoring by nature. But the scoreboard atop Monteagle Mountain figures to really be clicking when the Bulldogs and Mountain Lions hook up Saturday afternoon.
St. Andrew's, 4-2 for the season following a loss to Memphis's Macon Road Baptist last week, leads the state and is third nationally in total offense in eight-man football. But McClain [4-1] is third and eighth in those categories.
"Their quarterback is a very good athlete," McClain coach Seth Bass said. "He runs around a lot. We're going to se seven blockers and a quarterback running. We're going to have to score to beat them.
"Our defense is stronger than theirs. They've given up a ton of points."
Bass said all 14 Bulldogs will be available for the Saturday matinee.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org