Local fans can save their gas money this week as five of the six teams are at home.
And the lone road team, Mt. Juliet Christian, won’t leave the friendly confines of Wilson County as the Saints travel cross county to Watertown’s Robinson Stadium.
This week is the final tune up before region play kicks off next week.
Mt. Juliet Christian at Watertown
These two were region rivals in the 2000s. The Saints have come a long way, coming off their first playoff and winning season which included their first victory over the Purple Tigers.
“They’re coached better and got more talent,” said Watertown coach Gavin Webster, who first saw MJCA as a Purple Tiger assistant under Bill Robinson before climbing to the head coach’s chair in 2005. “They’re putting good, quality teams on the field now.
“You underestimate them, they could beat you.”
Much of the Saints’ stars from 2017 are back in ’18.
“They try to give (running back) Darius Hylick the ball,” Webster said. “They have the good receiver (Logan) Collier. they want to get the ball to those two guys.”
Watertown has had a dangerous receiver, senior Heath Price, for a while, including three TD catches last week from Bryce Webster (who didn’t play in the 42-21 loss last year due to a shoulder injury). But junior Deramus Carey emerged as a big-time running back with 108 yards with two touchdowns following an 88-yard opening kickoff return for a score.
“He runs hard,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said of Carey. “Decent speed guy. I didn’t know about him until I saw the tape, too. Looks like a player.
“A playmaker (Price), they try to get the ball in his hands.”
The Purple Tigers run multiple 40 looks on defense, Davis said.
“They’ll blitz you and try to make you hurry up,” Davis said. “They’re bringing somebody on almost every play. they like to blitz.
“The biggest thing is we have to be physical, be aggressive. It’s what we always do anyway. We try to do that every week. Nothing’s changed.”
Webster said the Saints will base out of a 4-4 but will be in a 4-3 occasionally.
“They got a little size on the defensive line and offensive line,” Webster said. “They have good linebackers. They fly to the ball pretty good.”
Both teams are 1-0. While the Saints were wearing out Franklin Grace Christian, Watertown was pulling off a convincing win over border rival Gordonsville. Webster said the Purple Tigers should he over the high of that win and not in line for a crash.
“I think they realize they got a good win last week, enjoyed it during the weekend and now it’s time to move on to the next opponent,” Webster said. “I think they realize you can’t live in the past. The seniors, the ones who’ve been around for a while, they get it.”
Both coaches reported their teams healthy early in the week.
McGavock at Lebanon
The Raiders return quarterback Harley Neal and receiver Greg Hanserd from the team which beat the Blue Devils 28-14 last year. Running back Ta’micus Napier, who ran for 167 yards and three second-half touchdowns last season, has transferred to Blackman and without him, McGavock dropped its opener to Maplewood 42-21 last week.
“They are young in some aspects, but big and athletic,” Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry said of the Raiders, who run a 4-3 defense. “Blitz from everywhere, playing press coverage, man coverage, all kinds of different things. That’s what gave us trouble last year.”
The Blue Devils are coming off a season-opening win at Trousdale County, their first in Hartsville since 1967. But now, it’s time to hit the reset button for the home opener at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium.
“We enjoyed the win,” Gentry said. “Anytime you go to the Creekbank and get a win, it’s a big one. We hit the snap and clear button (Monday) and focused on McGavock.
“We’re excited to be back at home. Hopefully, there’ll be a big crowd.”
Gentry said the Blue Devils came back from Hartsville healthy. But he said that Monday with two big days of practice ahead.
“We had more injuries during practice last year than we did during games,” Gentry said. “We try to keep contact to a minimum (during the season). But it’s football and you have to block and tackle.
“We try to protect our kids the best we can, but you still have to prepare.”
Smyrna at Wilson Central
The Bulldogs are coming off a 41-0 shutout of neighboring rival LaVergne as they report to Wilson Central for the Wildcats’ home opener.
“They’re a typical Smyrna football team,” Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. “They got good size, good speed. They’re a physical football team.”
Smyrna’s offense is led by running back Blake Watkins and quarterback Alex Bannister.
“(Watkins) does a lot of good things with the football,” Dedman said. “(Bannister)’s pretty good at slinging the ball around. Their receivers do a good job catching it. They have some good receivers.”
The Bulldogs run a 4-2-5 defense.
“Their D-line is big and physical,” Dedman said. “They do a good job running to the football. They do a good job with their assignments.
“Because their D-line is so good, their linebackers run the alleys and make tackles. The secondary’s got a lot of two-way players. They play really good as a unit.”
The Wildcats are coming off a 35-21 loss at defending Class 5A runner-up Beech last week.
“Hopefully, we can lear from the experience we had and not make the mistakes we made last week,” Dedman said. “We moved the ball well.
“We lost the field-position war and we got to do a better job.”
Dedman said everyone who played last week should be available this week. But running back Stratton Farmer (head injury) and two-way lineman Kameron Staten (knee) will miss their second straight game.
Trousdale County at Friendship Christian
This rivalry used to be for playoff positioning or playoff survive and advance. With one team in Division I and the other in DII, that’s no longer the case. But the intensity from the old days still makes it a rivalry on both sides of the Cumberland River.
“I told our kids this is going to be a great Friday night football game, have fun with it,” Commander coach John McNeal said of his team’s home opener, the first of four straight at Pirtle Field. “We’ve had a lot of good games with them and we look forward to another one Friday night.”
Though Trousdale is coming off a 16-12 loss to Lebanon, McNeal still sees a program with nine state championships, including several which, one way or another, came at the Commanders’ expense.
“They’re solid across the board,” McNeal said of the Yellow Jackets. “Offensive line has good size and are physical. Their backs run hard. They’re not just speedsters, they run physical in addition to having speed.”
Though Brad Waggoner is only in his second season in Hartsville as head coach, McNeal is well-acquainted with coordinators Blake Satterfield (defense) and Davy Cothron (offense).
“They’re doing a lot of things well. They’re very fundamentally sound.”
Friendship opened defense of its Division II-A state championship with a 19-0 shutout of Liberty Tech in Jackson last week.
“We were able to put together a couple of good drives,” McNeal said. “Other than that, we had a few breakdowns, which isn’t unusual for a first game.
“I felt good with a lot of things we saw and there were a lot things we’re going to have to get better, but I’m sure every team says that.”
John Overton at Mt. Juliet
The Bobcats dropped their opener 24-0 to Father Ryan. But Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said Overton fielded eight seniors last year and has 25 now.
“Overton is more experienced than a year ago,” said Perry, whose Golden Bears are coming off a 63-0 win over Glencliff. “They do a really good job of two-platooning as much as they can to keep their guys fresh. They got a good-looking team across the board, athletically.”
Nowhere are the Bobcats more experienced than at quarterback where Sam Mast is in his third season as the starter.
“They run a lot of it through him,” Perry said of Mast. “They’re a spread, but they also run a lot of two-back and they do a lot of RPO (run-pass option).”
The Bobcats run a 4-3 defense and it’s the type of D designed to deal with a wing-T offense such as Mt. Juliet.
“They play a lot of man coverage,” Perry said. “They got the athletes to do it.
“They do a good job of penetrating. It makes it tough on our blockers because of the angles.”
Mt. Juliet came out of fall camp with a lot of bumps and bruises. But with last week’s early blowout, Perry was able to limit the snaps of everyone who did play. A few didn’t suit up.
One of those who didn’t play last week, defensive end/right tackle Ronnie Kramer will return this week and Brice Messenger will be available to back up starter Alvin Mixon.
Week 2 games
MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN at WATERTOWN
McGavock at LEBANON
Smyrna at WILSON CENTRAL
Trousdale County at FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN, 7:30 p.m.
John Overton at MT. JULIET
All kickoffs at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.