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Thursday Night Lights shine on Mt. Juliet-Central showdown
Oct 26, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
It's hard to remember when a Mt. Juliet-Wilson Central football game meant so much.
Many of the previous 10 matchups came at the beginning of the season. Last year's Week 10 meeting came with Central trying to finish a struggling season while Mt. Juliet was preparing for the playoffs.
This time, both teams are 8-1 for the season and 5-1 in District 9-AAA. The winner will finish second behind unbeaten Beech and likely host a first-round playoff game. The loser is also postseason bound but may have to open on the road.
"There are so many different scenarios out there, some of my younger coaches have looked at that and tried to explain it to me," Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry said. "I guess we'll just going to have to wait and see.
"They talk about what happens in West Tennessee can affect where we're going to be after Friday night's games."
"You're never going to know as far as the playoff goes until Saturday morning when they release it all," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. "As far as the hype of the game, it's good to be in a position where the last game of the regular season means something. It's been a while at Wilson Central since we've had that opportunity. We're just going to relish that opportunity."
In addition to an expected packed house, a Midstate TV audience will also look in on the rivalry as MyTV30 Thursday Night Lights wraps up its season.
"MyTV30 group ought to be excited about closing out their season in the 10th week with two teams playing like this," Perry said. "We just hope, as we limp in there for this game as we've had several injuries to this football team, that we can give them some competition."
After Friday's games, fans can log on www.tssaanetwork.com at 10 a.m. Saturday for the BlueCross Bowl Bracket Release Show hosted by Chris Eakes and Mt. Juliet graduate Chad Withrow of 104.5 The Zone. The brackets will also be posted on www.tssaa.org as they are announced.
Mt. Juliet at Wilson Central
Both teams run versions of the wing-T. Mt. Juliet's has been very explosive in recent seasons.
"Very athletic, especially on the offensive side," Dedman said of the Golden Bears. "All three running backs, actually all six running backs they put in there can actually go to the house at any point in time.
"Very impressed with their offensive line. They do a great job of getting down and blocking on secondary guys."
Dedman and Central's defensive unit have had to worry about a new play - fullback Contrez McCathern as a pass catcher after the senior made his first high school catch count, a 54-yard winning score with 25 seconds left in the Golden Bears' 34-31 win at Hendersonville last Friday.
"I'm sure they'll look at him a little bit more," Dedman said. "But he's definitely going to be a run threat. He isn't the only one we got to be worried about. They got a whole stableful of people."
"Those guys have put up a lot of points this year," Perry said of the Wildcats. "A group of very talented young men. I think they've had some guys move in that have really helped their football team."
Central's wing-T will attack Mt. Juliet's 3-4 front.
"They bring people from a lot of different positions," Dedman said. "They play hard on defense. Defensive line does a good job of maintaining its gaps. Linebackers do a good job of running."
"Coach Dedman, [defense] has always been his strong suit and this year is no exception," Perry said. "When you study film on them and see how they got after folks like holding [Beech superback] Jalen Hurd to the number of yards they did and almost winning that football game, or should have won that football game.
"The games that we've really struggled to win, some of those games they blew people out."
Dedman said the Wildcats are healthy. Mt. Juliet is still without linebacker Josh Belhu [dislocated hip] and offensive tackle Jared Caperton is in a cast. Several others will be game-time decisions on a short week, Perry said.
Hendersonville at Lebanon
For years, the Commandos have given opponents a steady diet of wing-T offense, 50 defense and a strong kicking game.
It's no different this year. But Hendersonville's uneven 4-5 record is as a win over Riverdale and narrow losses to Mt. Juliet and Beech have been countered by a loss to rebuilding Gallatin.
"It's hard just to look at their record and figure them out," Lebanon coach Troy Crane said of the Commandos. "You have to look deeper into their situation. They've been snake-bitten this year with injuries and stuff. Whenever they have all of their horses in the stable, they're one of the better football teams in our league.
"They seem to be as healthy as they have been. They have both of their running backs back. They're a typical Hendersonville football team. They're physical on both sides of the ball in the trenches and they line up and impose their will on people. Stopping their power running game is going to be a chore for us."
The Commandos will try to will their way into the Class 5A playoffs, which a fifth win should accomplish.
"They've got a lot at stake in this game," Crane said. "Coach [Bruce] Hatfield runs a tight ship and I know they'll come in here with an agenda. This is more or less like a playoff game for them."
On the other side, Lebanon is trying to make the best finish of an 0-9 season. Linebacker Zach Vaden tore his ACL last week and running back Taye Davis is also out. But the Blue Devils will get fullback/defensive end Julien Crutchfield and lineman Daniel Kemp back from a suspension.
"We're about as healthy as we can be with the people that we have," Crane said. "The season is what it is. There's not many good things you can say about 0-9 heading into Week 10. The one good thing I can say is our kids have been here at practice and they've been coachable and couldn't ask for anything more from that aspect."
Jackson County at Watertown
A look at the standings might reveal Jackson County is more in need of a victory to make the playoffs as the Blue Devils have five wins while Watertown has six.
But the Purple Tigers are trying to snap a three-game losing streak with the playoffs approaching.
"We just got to take care of ourselves," Watertown coach Gavin Webster said. "It's a crucial game for us."
Ty Jobe has been a question mark all week after sustaining an MCL bruise early in the 28-0 loss at Trousdale County last week. Backup Cooper Jacobsen was forced into service after working on even shorter reps at the position than normal. Though the Tigers were shut out, they did move the ball behind Jacobsen.
"Cooper did a good job," Webster said of the senior who normally plays wide receiver and was playing nose tackle last Friday before Jobe was injured. "He was a little banged up at the beginning of [last] week. We were limited in what we could do.
"As long as he's playing quarterback, he won't be playing nose guard."
In addition to Jobe, senior receiver Jake Belcher is also day-to-day with a knee injury sustained in Week 7 against Friendship Christian. Dennie Holcomb, also a senior receiver/defensive back, practiced a little bit earlier this week after undergoing surgery for a high ankle sprain following the Week 2 game against Huntland and could play his final regular-season game, Webster said.
As for Jackson County, the Blue Devils have added to their spread package of the last several seasons.
"They want to get in a pro-I and they're going to try to spread you out and throw it around," Webster said of the Blue Devils. "[Defensively] they like to blitz a lot. They like to put a lot of pressure on you, play a lot of man."
Monterey at Friendship Christian
The Wildcats are looking forward to a Class 1A playoff trip next week while the Commanders are hoping their postseason won't begin for two weeks.
Friendship is looking to go 9-1 for the regular season and, if the playoff quads on the TSSAA Website hold true to form, the Commanders may avoid Boyd Buchanan and Grace Christian until the semifinals and be the No. 1 seed in Quad 2.
"There's a couple of things that have to happen," Commanders coach John McNeal said. "There are some scenarios that have to happen Friday night and if that happens, then it looks like [Boyd Buchanan] may go far east.
"If we do get a bye, we've already talked about practice next week concentrating on just one thing a day. We've got some guys that have been out. We held out a couple [lineman Tanner Martin and receiver Stefan Remus] last week and they'll be out again this week. Barring anything during practices and in the game Friday, hopefully we can get into the playoffs with everybody."
On the other side, Monterey is 5-4 and though the Wildcats are heavy underdogs, it appears five wins will be enough to keep playing next week against either Eagleville or South Pittsburg.
"They're excited about that and they've really played well this year," McNeal said of the Wildcats, who run a single-wing mixed with other formations.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Franklin Road Academy
The playoff-bound Panthers are trying to build some momentum while the Saints are looking to end the season with the momentum established with their second win of the year last week.
"Our guys really enjoyed the win last week and they're going in with some confidence," first-year Mt. Juliet Christian coach Jake Roberts said. "They think, we all do, that we can hang with them."
FRA runs a 3-4 defensive front with two stand-up ends and an I on offense.
"They're a blitzing team," Roberts said of the Panther defense. "They like to bring as much pressure as they can.
"Offensively, they do a little bit of everything. But mostly they like to line up and run the football... They'll get out and throw it when they need to."
FRA's field is artificial turf, the first time the Saints will play on anything but natural grass this season.
"It'll be an experience for our boys," Roberts said. "They're excited about it."
Roberts said the Saints will be healthy except for linebacker Peyton Sloan, who got a concussion last week at Middle Tennessee Christian.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com