Fall break means abbreviated Week 8 slate

George Page • The Lebanon Democrat

Mt. Juliet quarterback Brice Messenger (12) hands the ball to running back Jamari Sowell (17), who ran a jet sweep for a 1-yard touchdown last week.

Most teams are taking a break from the playoff races this week. In fact, half of Wilson County's teams and a good percentage across Tennessee are taking the week off from football as all schools locally and a bunch statewide are on fall break from classes.

The local exceptions are Mt. Juliet, whose bye came in Week 2; Wilson Central, which will take next week off; and Mt. Juliet Christian, which is coming off a rare back-to-back open dates. For the second straight, the Golden Bears are playing on Thursday night.

Mt. Juliet at Spring Hill (Thursday)

Once upon a time, Spring Hill was a strong Class A power which won a state championship in the mid-1980s. But the area, and the school along with it, exploded with the arrival of General Motors Saturn plant in the early '90s. But success didn't follow the Raiders with the increased student body.

The Raiders are still looking for their first win of 2019 after six games as Mt. Juliet makes its first trip in memory to the northern Maury County school. Golden Bears coach Trey Perry does remember the now-Class 4A Raiders from his days at Portland.

"I remember from days of old, and they still have it, they have speed," Perry said. "Schematically, I've been very impressed (with the Raiders' spread offense). They try to get it to their athletes in space. That may be through quick screens or through perimeter runs.

"They counter that with, they have a very talented tight end/H-back (senior Elijah Williams) they will slip under coverage. He's as good as we've seen at the position all year. He's also their best defensive player (at end)."

Spring Hill runs a 3-3 stack.

"Defense will present a challenge because it's the first time we've faced it this year," Perry said. "It's a good move because it utilizes their speed."

Though this isn't a Region 4-6A game, should the season end today, the Golden Bears would have a fourth straight league championship in hand. Following next week's visit from East Tennessee-power Oak Ridge (another newcomer to the schedule), Mt. Juliet will close the season against last-place Station Camp and at Hendersonville, which could end up being for the top spot for the second straight year.

LaVergne at Wilson Central

Both teams are sitting fourth in their respective regions, if that means anything. The Wolverines are 3-3 overall while the Wildcats are 4-3 and trying to break a three-game losing streak.

"We've got to find a way to stop the bleeding," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. "We got to get back to running the ball. We got to quick shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties. Think we had 125 yards in penalties last week."

These may not be elite teams, but they appear to be even enough on paper to play an entertaining game in front of the MyTV30 cameras. It's clear to Dedman what LaVergne's strength is.

"They're athletic all the way across the board," Dedman said. "They have receivers everywhere able to make plays. (Senior wide receiver Mister Jones is) acrobatic. He goes up and brings one-handers down and wins 50-50 balls.

"The other receivers (Josh Cartwright, Kristen Lainez, Isiah Banner and Dagem Samuel) do a really good job as well, running their routes and getting open ... They do a good job of looking for open grass. The quarterback (Lavandrea Webb) does a good job of getting the ball to them."

If the season ended today, Central would be the No. 4 seed out of Region 4-6A for the playoffs. When they return from their open date, the Wildcats will play host to Lebanon in a key league game as the Blue Devils try to lock down the No. 2 seed (where they would reside if the season ended now) and accompanying first-round home game before traveling to currently winless Station Camp in the finale.

Bell Buckle Webb at Mt. Juliet Christian

Because Ezell-Harding elected to transition to eight-man football after the East Region schedules were made out, Mt. Juliet Christian had back-to-back open dates in the heart of the schedule, meaning the Saints will only have nine regular-season games instead of the usual 10.

"Everybody's ready to get back to work," MJCA coach Dan Davis said. "We made good use of our time. We're ready to rock and roll. We watched film, worked out some things we needed to work on and get ready for the next game."

Webb, in its first year back in 11-man football as a TSSAA member, is playing just eight games, only one of which is outside the East Region (in two weeks at Tyner), thus, the Feet's 1-3 record is also their league record. Their win came Sept. 27 against Franklin Grace Christian 38-34.

"They run the spread," Davis said. "They have a couple of athletes (receivers Avant'e Harris and Shemar Fray) out there who can run pretty well.

They got a couple of basketball players out there."

The Saints sit at 2-3 for the season. But at 2-1 in the region, they are the only one of the three one-loss teams who haven't lost to first-place Friendship Christian, meaning they are the team with the best (if not the only) mathematical chance of catching the Commanders, but only if they don't stub their toe against Webb before they travel to FCS' Pirtle Field next week.

Following Friendship, MJCA has a trip to Murfreesboro to take on Middle Tennessee Christian before closing the campaign at Suey Field on Nov. 1 against Donelson Christian for could be a first-round playoff bye. A win this week would likely at least seal a first-round home game for the Saints.

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