KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Can't believe it but we're talking high school football! Practice is underway--with the season just a few short weeks away. In conjunction with the start of two-a-days, we are also starting our yearly 60 Schools/25 Days preview.
Coach Brad Taylor returns a number of talented players on defense. Offensively he returns arguably the best running back in East Tennessee in Devrin Young, who's been offered by Stanford. However, Young will be running behind a revamped offensive line. How quickly those kids come together will go a long way in determining Bearden's success, a Bearden team which qualified for the class 6-A playoffs a year ago. The Bulldogs kick off the 2010 season at home against Walker Valley.
Taylor:"...I think after our season, the measuring stick was easy to read on where we had to improve and where we want to be."
Young:"...that year was a lot of tricks and turns, we lost one of our best defenders for me personally In was playing through alot of injuries, and just our team came together like none other."
Coach Buck Coatney's Falcons, who opened practice Monday morning, finished 8-4 last season losing in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs to Red Bank.
Back for his senior season is leading rusher Demtrius Thomas, who provided the bulk of the offense running for a thousand yards as a junior.
Aaron Miller(FALCONS SR. OL) "...We have Demetrius Thomas at running back who's gonna give us a bunch of carries and Micah Pitchford, Brandon Taylor at receiver and Ben Winters at quarterback and we might have an all senior offensive line that's really strong and knows how to block well"
Micah Pitchford (FALCONS WR) "...oh yeah we have a whole lot of talent coming back and a few newcomers who might contribute this year."
It's new beginning for the roadrunners who debut new head coach Robert Gillard, who was an assistant on the staff of the guy he's replacing, Kwayu Graham. Gilliard returns 9-starters on offense and five on defense. He's hoping what his team lacks in experience, they'll be able to make up with speed and skill:
Gillard:"...its very important skill wise I've never had a team with this many skill players can do so many things, some spread , I've got so many d-backs allows me to put pressure on opposing offenses."
Matt Lowe's Panthers return 14 starters on a team which finished 5-6
last season after bowing out in the first round of the playoffs.
Offensive line depth could be an issue early on, but the Panthers
return a good bit of talent at the skill positions, including star junior
Deshaun Mobley at running back.
Head coach Lamar Brown returns a team that went 8-3 in 2009. He returns seven starters on both offense and defense. Key returning players are linebacker Michael Cantwell and offensive lineman Pete Epps. Depth up front could be an issue for the Trojans, who bowed out in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Dewayne Hatcher's team was five-and-six last year, and lost in the first round of the postseason, but they return 11 starters from that team, including quarterback Cody Ricker. Hatcher says he likes his team's attitude, as it strives to advance further in the playoffs and to beat out fierce rival Morristown West, for county supremacy:
Hatcher:"We've been to the playoffs every year I've been there and we've got a real challenge this year because we've got a number of teams in our region that are gonna be improved."
Justin Sandifer:"...We definitely want that. Being a senior, I definitely want this year to be our year. I think the attitude's improved immensely."
Coming off a four-and-six season, the Hornets return seven defensive starters and four offensive starters. Head coach Heat Woods is entering his ninth year and will do so with key players:
Joe Wilhite on the line, wide receiver Dominique king, and free safety john stiles...
Work ethic is never an issue on a Coach Woods team, but as is the case with a lot of schools, depth is, and for gang green that holds especially true on offense.
Heath Woods, head coach: "I hope some of our kids can equate some of the camaraderie and all the hard work they have done in the weight room and things they've accomplished since December that i hope will equate in some wins they put a lot of time and hard work in and I'm proud of them."
The Red Devils struggled to a 4-6 mark last year and missed out on the playoffs. But this season, they'll take their trademark Wing-T and spice it up a little bit. Still, their bread-and-butter will be the running game. And if they can execute it, they'll find themselves in the postseason.
Josh Coffman, quarterback: "When we run the wing-t it can be very very successful as long as it is done correctly. If everybody does their job at the same time its very good...if we just come together and everybody does their job...we will come out with a better season than we have in the past two years. Like i said, we are not looking for a championship we are looking more of a playoff. "
The rebels look to improve on a 4-6 season with strong defense especially at the linebacker and d-line positions where depth is key:
Coach Scott Cummings:"...they've got an attitude they've got to compete for positions.. that depth is building good competitiveness, so hopefully that will do nothing but build the level of play for each position."
Lineman Isaac Mobley:"... It's good, everybody's fighting for positions, that'll help us for starters but for backups as well so our depth is gonna help us alot this year."
Coach Eddie Courtney's team is always stocked with talent and even after losing their starting quarterback and running back, the Admirals are looking to improve on last year's state quarterfinal berth. Nine starters return for the men in blue, so there will be lots of unproven talent on the field, but talent nonetheless:
Courtney:"...their togetherness and their competition to play they are bonding real well we got some great leadership. we got some fine young men that are on our leadership council christian men... the kids have responded and worked real hard, we'll just have some new names."
The Big Orange are extremely young this year. They return nine starters and have a two-deep peppered with freshmen and sophomores. For a lot of coaches, that would mean a lot of headaches. Not so for John Brewster. He's excited about his players' youthful energy... And enjoys their work ethic.
"We're gonna be starting I think 15-16 sophomores and freshmen. The kids have been working hard during the summer, extremely strong and a lot of those sophomores got a lot of playing time last year."
The boys in blue and gold made it to the second round of the playoffs last year. But for the fifth straight season, they were eliminated by Alcoa. In fact, their only two losses came to the Tornadoes. But the Warriors aren't worried about their nemesis. With 14 returning starters and a quick-fire offense, they're focused on putting up points and playing up to their potential.
Rusty Bradley, head coach:
"It helps because you have guys that have been in the battle before. It's not something that's new. We're not starting over from ground zero."
Quinn Epperly, quarterback:
"The experience has played a key factor for us this year. Having that chemistry is definitely important."
2009 was a year of firsts for the Hardin Valley football program. It was the Hawks first season at the varsity level. With a lack of tradition and experience, as you might imagine, Hardin Valley struggled to a 1-9 season. But, the growing pains the Hawks went thru in '09 should only pay dividends in 2010. The team returns ten starters on offense, nine on defense.
Hardin Valley quarterback Jake Bishop: "We're alot more confident because this this is now the third year we've all played together. Everyone knows more about varsity football and stuff. Everyone knows about filling in their spots. I think we'll be pretty good."
Head coach Wes Jones: We actually have some kids that know that you get on the bus, go to the game, and actually play it. They've been there, they've done it. So, that's really helping us in our preparation this summer."
With seven state championships to its name, there's few schools that have won more state championships than Oak Ridge. But, the Wildcats haven't won a title since 1991. Second year head coach Scott Blade is out to change that drought.
Blade returns five starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 7-3, before losing in the first round of the state playoffs.
Scott Blade, head coach: "The one thing I can say is that the kids are fun to coach. They are working hard. They're trying to reach the standard we've put in front of them. Any time you have that, win or lose, you feel like you're doing what you need to be doing."
Geoff Card, lineman: "The attitude I'm seeing in practice, I think it's our time to come back. Oak Ridge has been down the last couple of years and I think we are bringing it back this year."
The Webb Spartans captured two state championships last decade, and the green and white just might have the stuff to start this decade with a state title as well.
Entering his 26th season at Webb, David Meske is loaded at the skill positions. Parker Wormsley is a four year starter at quarterback and the Blance brothers--Caleb and Aaron--are as a duo that's as dynamic as any in the area.
The area for concern for Meske will be the offensive line. The Spartans don't have much experience on the line. Webb also only returns four starters on defense.
Coming off a 12-1, state championship season, Webb will go to work every Friday night with a target on its chest.
Catholic is coming off an un-Irishlike 6-6 seasons. Don't look for the same to happen in 2010. Second year head coach Scott Meadows returns 15 starters from last season. He also has a legitimate division one prospect at quarterback in the strong-armed Mike Wegzyn.
"He's got a tremendous, tremendous arm," said Meadows. "He's got a knowledge of the game. He came from a school in Michigan that used a similiar offense where they threw it around some. We're gonna jump on his back quite a bit."
"I'm not one that's going to take a break," Wegzyn recently told Sports Overtime. "I grab receivers every day after practice and get extra throws in. Keep pushing myself to be better than I was the day before."
We continue our 60 schools countdown with the school rivals.com rates as the 89th best in the nation heading into the season, the Alcoa Tornadoes. It's not every day you see a team win six straight state titles. In fact, Alcoa is the only Tennessee team to ever do it. This year, they're gunning for number seven, and they've got the ammo to do it. Several all-state players return for Gary Rankin's team. It's a group that went 15-0 last year, and is pushing hard for another perfect season this year.
"Our coaches expect perfection," said quarterback Austin Tallent. "And they do a great job of getting us prepared each and every week. It's just a work in progress. Hopefull, we'll have another great season this year."
Every year we try to set our goals to the state championship and take it one game at a time and go from there," said offensive lineman Caleb Mangum.
Some would say the maryville rebels have lost their edge. After all, it has been two whole years since they last won it all. If that edge has been lost, tons of schools would love to find it. Maryville has played in the title game 9 of the last ten years and won 7 of those matchups.
Head coach George Quarles returns 7 starters on offense, six on defense. A strong offensive line will lead the way to what should be another deep postseason run.
"There's not really any pressure, the big streak ended two years ago," said linebacker Jared Miller. "There's no pressure. You don't have to please anybody you just go out there and take care of business."
"It's great," wide receiver Stian Romberg said . "You run into people that want to talk football everyday. It's great."
Long time coach John Webb returns a team that made it to the fourth round of the playoffs last season and these tigers are hungry for more. They're hard nosed, disciplined and while young in spots, not necessarily rebuilding:
Webb:"...We've got some work to do in a few area's, we lost a lot of kids from last years team, rebuilding is not an option for us, whether it is or not we try not to say that, we're not in that mode I hope, because we've got a lot of good football players left on this team, a lot of guys willing to work."
The dragons rolled to an undefeated regular season last year before losing in the second round of the playoffs. This time around, they're without several of the players who got them there, including quarterback Darian Stone and running back weston Hazlehurst, but Andy Shattuck's team has had a taste of winning and they don't plan on dropping too far in the standings.
There's no question, youth will be served on this years Cherokees roster, but that youth is quickly coming together and head coach Bo Cagle says the chemistry won't be far behind. The Kees open the season August 20th against McMinn Central.
Steve Brewer is entering his 29th season at Sevier County. In 2009, his Smoky Bears rolled to an undefeated seaosn, but then lost to Bearden in the first round of the playoffs.
This year only nine starters return from that team, but the Smoky Bears now understand the level of play it takes to succeed in Tennessee's largest classification.
"Winning is contagious," says Sevier County running back Dakota Cogdill. "We lost a lot of pieces last year, but I'm confident with everybody coming up. The pressure is there to keep the tradition going, but it's exciting."
Head coach Steve Brewer: "We've got some shoes to fill with some senior kids who left and did a great job for us, so it'll be interesting to see who's gonna step up and take the place of some of those guys who were so productive for us last year."
Central head coach Joel Helton recently told Sports Overtime he started coaching in 1971 and he "didn't know anything about anything."
27 years later, Helton is still doing his thing at Central.
2009 was a seasons that Helton and his Bobcats just weren't use too, as Central posted a 2-8 record.
A big reason for that was youth, and now that Central has been thru the fire, Helton is hoping to things pay off in 2010.
Joel Helton, head coach: "We had real young kids last year. We played sophomores and freshmen. They are a year older. Our kids that are juniors are seniors, that makes a big difference. If we can win some early, we'll be fine."
Cody Blank, Central tailback. "We have the best talent at this high school that I've ever had. We have the best coaches. It just takes our attitude and how we come out and start off against Webb how our season will go."
Every football coach will tell you that there's no substitute for speed. Lucky for Greenback head coach Justin Ridge, he has that desired trait, saying team speed is one of his squad's strengths.
Greenback struggled thru a 3-7 season a year ago, but with seven starters back on offense and seven starters back on defense, Ridge is expecting to see a marked improvement in 2010.
Justin Ridge/Greenback head coach: "We had fourth quarter leads over a semifinal team and a quarterfinal team. We felt like if the ball had bounced the other way we could have been in that spot. We just have to focus one game at a time."
Experience and team leadership should be a key for this year's Jefferson County Patriots. The Pats are coming off a 5-5 season.
Justin Anderson heads into his fourth season as head coach and he's got to like what he sees on offense with 11 starters returning on that side of the ball. Jefferson County also won't have a shortage of leadership. There's 30 or so seniors that will suit up this fall for the Patriots.
Anthony Goins/Jefferson Co. quarterback: ""The past few years we really haven't had the leadership on this team, we'll have it this year."
Justin Anderson/Head coach: "The biggest thing is gotta be able to protect the football, take care of it. We had alot of kids get alot of playing experience last year, and our goal is to make the playoffs, be in the playoffs."
As the William Blount Governors head into 2010, they do so with the customary transitional year behind them.
2009 was a year to learn a new system under then first year head coach David Gregory. Now, in his second season, Gregory and the Govs are ready to take the next step.
The Governors will be looking to improve on a 3-7 record, something that won't be easy when you play in a conference that features traditional powers such as Maryville, Farragut, and Catholic.
David Gregory, head coach: "They know what they are up against. They know what it takes and they have pushed themselves to try to get to that level. If we can have some success early, I think we can really surprise alot of people."
Zach Witt, quarterback: "You kinda have a fear going into those (tough) games when you are younger. Now that I'm a senior and most of the guys that are playing are seniors, we're not gonna be scared of anybody and we'll be ready for them this year."
William Blount opens up the season at home against Sevier County August 20th.
South-Doyle went winless in Clark Duncan's first year as head coach, but as Duncan will tell you, the Cherokees are building for the future.
One positive the 'Kees have heading into 2010 is experience. South-Doyle returns all eleven offensive starters, as well as eight on defense.
It's an experienced group, which is ready to take the next step in the rebuilding process.
Clark Duncan, head coach: "It's a program, not a team, it's not a one-year thing. It's a process. These kids I hope have bought into that and I feel like they have. They understand we're building for something ten years down the road."
Taylor Mason, quarterback: "We're very positive. Practices are positive. Coaches are positive. Players have a much more positive attitude compared to last year. We're just looking at having a great season this year."
Danny Satterfield is entering his first year as Union County's head coach, but he's quick to tell you it's not his first year at Union County.
After nine yeas as an assistant, it's now Satterfield's turn to run the show. And Patriot fans won't have to worry about a lack of pride with their new head coach, Satterfield's roots are in Union County.
With a lack of a winning tradition, one of Satterfield's first jobs will be to turn non-believers into believers.
Danny Satterfield, Union Co. head coach: "Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing, Vince Lombardi said. We're trying to change the culture in general. Bringing in community service, bringing in tutoring programs, to help us not only on the field, but off the field, to help make us more successful."
Jonathan Ooten, Union Co. lineman: "Our senior leadership is alot better than what it's been in the past. We're more dedicated and more people are showing up to summer workouts and stuff and it's just looking a whole lot better."
Union County opens up the season at home August 27th against Cumberland Gap.
There's lots of optimism in coalfield this Fall. The yellow jackets went
3-8 last year, but they return a solid group of veterans who now know what it takes to compete at a high level. They also welcome several talented youngsters to the field. Including several members of the middle school state championship team. It's a hard-working group, with something to prove in district 4-single-A.
Head Coach Keith Henry: "...We've got 4 seniors this year and they're doing a good job this year leadership-wise. We've got some freshmen and a couple 8th-graders who are getting a lot of playing time. They all do a super job, we've got great team unity, great oneness... we keep building on that, we've got something special going on."
Our countdown also takes us to Morgan county, home of the Wartburg Bulldogs. The men in blue won four games last year, bouncing back from a losing streak. and this season, several key players return to lead an exciting spread offense. Folks are excited in Wartburg about fielding one of the best teams they've had in years.
Head Coach Dan Shoemaker:"...we've been in a slump for a while, when I took over we were on a 33 game losing streak, we've progressed every year, we hope this is the breakout year, we've picked it up in the weight room coming from the summer to the winter, so I see improvement."
Loudon returns 17 lettermEn off a team that went 10-3 last season, 4-2 in region play. All-Region quarterback Wade Plemons is back to lead a multiple offense.
Linebacker Luke Newman and his 85 tackles last season will run Loudon's 4-2-5 defense.
Coach Jeff Harig has done a teriffic job with the program, 46-16 over the last five years, including three appearances in the state quarterfinals.
Mike Zeller enters his third season as head coach of the Panthers, who return six starters on offense and four on defense. The coach says what his squad lacks in overall speed, they make up with team unity.
It's a group looking to build on last years 2-9 record.
The men in black and gold made their first-ever playoff trip last year after a 3-7 regular season.
This year, several key contributors return, and they're ready to guide the Panthers through the gauntlet that is District 4-2A, as Stone goes up against powerhouses like Alcoa, CAK and Loudon.
The focus is on taking the next step, and going even deeper in the playoffs.
As certain as the sun rises in the East, you can bank that Benny Hammonds will be on th Gatlinburg-Pittman sidelines.
Hammonds is entering his 39th season with the Highlanders. 2010 should be like many of his other seasons--a success. G-P has no shortage of talent at the skill positions.
Benny Hammonds, head coach: " We have playmakers. They made alot of big plays last year. With a year's experience we expect them to be better this year if we can just stay injury free, if we can do that, we think we have a good opportunity to put points on the board."
Pigeon Forge has never had a winning season in its short existence, but head coach Lee Hammonds hopes a youth, but experienced, group of Tigers will be able to develop a winning attitude. And in the process, make history at the school.
Lee Hammonds, head coach: "Thats the goal (make the playoffs), but we are in a tough district with teams that have tradition and won state championships, like Fulton and Austin-East. The tradition that G-P has and Carter is always tough. Coach Conley at Gibbs is doing a great job down there. It is tough. I don't like to lose and I hope these kids are understanding that now."
Back for his third season as head coach is Mark Briscoe, who says youth will be served in 2010, but he's got enough senior leadership to help bring the youngsters along. Skylar McBee's Grizzlies are looking to improve on a 2-8 seaosn in 2009:
Briscoe:".... our nunbers are down but that's not such a bad thing, the kids that are out are motivated to getting accomplished what you're trying to do."
Coach Bill Satterfield's team opens up play Friday August 20th against Scott returning seven starters on both offense and defense.
Quarterback Trey Dyer returns to lead a strong group of skill position players, players desparate to get on track after going winless in '09:
Satterfield:"...We didn't have a a very good year last year, but that's the wonderful thing about sports and high school sports,
there's always the next year to come around and hopefully we can have a good year this year."
Neil Pucciarelli returns for his 4th season on the Cumberland Gap sideline. His team made it to the playoffs last year bowing out in the first round. He's hoping a good running game and solid offensive line will help push the Panthers further:
Pucciarelli:'...last year we had to play a lot of freshman and it's fortunate for us because we only have four seniors and we have like 17 juniors and 13 sophomores."
Cody Webb:"...We have three or four experienced receivers coming back, we have a pretty good running back coming back this year, I think we'll do pretty good.'