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Region races hit Round 2 in Week 5

Andy Reed • Sep 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM

The TSSAA’s one-week-on, one-week-off method of determining its playoff field is on this week as teams return to region play.

But the highlight game of the week, though a region contest, is one in which the playoffs will be the furthest thing on the minds of most who attend the event. Mt. Juliet vs. Wilson Central will determine West Wilson bragging rights for another calendar year.

Donelson Christian at Friendship Christian is another rivalry game in which many players from both schools know each other.

Mt. Juliet at Wilson Central

The Golden Bears are 4-0 and, as might be expected, have few weaknesses in the eyes of Wilson Central’s coach. In fact, they play at a whole different level

“They’re physical,” Brad Dedman said of the Bears. “They play a lot of people. They do a lot of things and they make a lot of things happen for themselves.

“There’re not a whole lot of weaknesses. They’re a college football team.”

And with their depth, Mt. Juliet looks like a FBS team with a full complement of 85 scholarships. Coaches shuttle in players like hockey coaches make line changes.

“There’s not much drop off, they’re all good,” Dedman said. “They run three backs on, three backs off. There’s not any type of drop off.

“We got to be able to defend all three of their backs. All three can go to the house at any time.”

Those backs run behind a big line which also protects quarterback Alvin Mixon.

“They do a lot of good things, offense-wise,” Dedman said. “They do a good job staying with their blocks and opening holes for the running backs.

“(Mixon) is very good at what he does. The receivers go up and get it.”

It’s not just the receivers who go get the ball, so do the defenders on a unit which has posted nine shutouts in 15 games since the start of last season.

“They play with really good leverage,” Dedman said of the Bear defenders. “They do the right things. They swarm to the ball. When the ball goes up, there’s usually someone there to get it. They play really good as a unit and they understand their roles in the defense.”

For Mt. Juliet, Central is the third straight rivalry game following Lebanon and Gallatin.

“We’re going to have to be very focused,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said, admitting having rivalry games consecutively can be mentally draining on a team. “We ask them to pour it out on Friday night, and that includes emotions. I think it drains you out more on practice time, so we tried to guard against that a little bit this week, change things with our schedule and keep them on their toes.”

Perry said the Wildcats have changed their offense since their 1-3 season began.

“It’s been a little rough on us because they started the year in the spread and last week, or even the week prior, they made the transition more to the wing-T,” Perry said. “We’re kind of preparing for both. Obviously, that makes you a little bit more vanilla. But obviously it was a good win on their part because they got a win last week.”

The Wildcats run a 4-3 defense.

“They’re getting good play out of their linebackers,” Perry said. “They can make pretty good adjustments by being in that base 4-3, make adjustments in their secondary.”

Being undefeated, Mt. Juliet is one of three 1-0 teams in Region 4-6A while Central is one of three at 0-1.

“The goal is always to play from in front as far as the race is concerned so that you don’t have to worry about tie-breakers and things like that,” Perry said. “But it’s too early to for that. As far as Wilson Central is concerned, if they knock us off, they’re right back in the region title hunt.”

Lebanon at Hendersonville

After two decades at Hendersonville, coach Bruce Hatfield is on Dewayne Alexander’s staff at Tennessee Tech. James Beasley is now in Hatfield’s old chair. But he appears to be using most of his predecessor’s playbook.

“They are a tradition-rich program,” Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry said of the Commandos. “They have big, strong, physical kids, kids who can run. Good fundamentally.”

Hendersonville still runs the wing-T offense, the 50 defense and has a kicker who can boom the ball.

“They’re doing a little bit more spread stuff, maybe throwing it a little bit more than before,” Gentry said.

The Commandos are 3-1 for the season and coming off a 35-27 win over arch-rival Beech. They dominated last year’s Class 5A state runner up more than the score shows as the Buccaneers scored late to make the score respectable.

“Hendersonville’s playing well right now,” Gentry said. “They’re scoring over 40 points in their last three games.”

Lebanon is also 3-1, which has made this an especially intriguing matchup, especially since Hendersonville is 1-0 in Region 4-A and the Blue Devils 0-1.

“We definitely don’t want to start 0-2 in the region and face an uphill battle,” Gentry said.

A strong defense throughout the season, the Blue Devils’ offense came alive in a 30-7 win at LaVergne last week.

“Defense played well again, came up with some turnovers,” Gentry said. “Offensively, in turn, we were able to run it better. We had over 100 yards in the air. Came away with the win and got a chance to play some young kids at the end and come away pretty healthy, also. Can’t complain.”

And this was without cornerback/receiver Jeremiah Hastings, who is still recovering from a separated shoulder sustained at Mt. Juliet two weeks ago. Gentry said he was hopeful the junior would be able to play this week.

Cascade at Watertown

The Champions are 0-3 while the Purple Tigers are rolling into their homecoming at 4-0. But Cascade is coming off an open date, which may have given the Bedford County team a chance to regroup.

“Anytime a team has an extra week to work on an opponent, or work on themselves, it does give them an advantage,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said.

Cascade runs a wing-I offense (an I formation with a wing, Webster said) and a 3-4 defense.

This will be Watertown’s first Region 4-2A game since edging Trousdale County two weeks ago, and as such, the Purple Tigers need to keep winning to stay ahead of the Yellow Jackets.

“We got to take care of ourselves each week. They’re all important,” Webster said. “Just because you beat Trousdale, it doesn’t mean all the other opponents are going to roll over.

“We got to prepare for them all the same.”

While Watertown has been cruising on the scoreboard, trainer Carl Newton has been busier than usual.

Running back/receiver Zack Hill will return from a concussion, Webster said. Cornerback/receiver Brandon Allison has been banged up and will miss his second straight game while quarterback Bryce Webster will remain out with a broken collarbone.

Donelson Christian at Friendship Christian

DCA hasn’t won since last year’s state semifinals. Friendship beat the Wildcats in the BlueCross Bowl and the Wildcats haven’t found the win column in 2018 under veteran coach Paul Wade, who won a couple of state championships at Davidson Academy, who took over for longtime coach Dennis Goodwin during the offseason.

In addition to Goodwin, a large senior class also departed the premises during the offseason.

“They had a lot of seniors last year, probably three-fourths of their starters,” Commander coach John McNeal said of the Wildcats. “Coach Wade will do a good job. He has them playing hard. Losing all those seniors, it’s tough.”

McNeal said DCA will spread the offense and utilize the zone-read. The Wildcats are multiple on defense with a 40 and a 50 look.

Amazingly, this will be Friendship’s Senior Night as the Commanders, wrapping up a four-game homestand, will play their final four regular-season games on the road in what will likely be a nine-game season.

“Hope we’ll get a playoff in there,” McNeal said of a future appearance at Pirtle Field.

If the Commanders, currently 2-2 for the season, finish third or fourth in the East Region, they would play at home in a first-round playoff game. They are 1-0 in the region and if they can maintain that pace and finish first or second, they would draw a first-round bye and play at home in the second round.

Fortunately, last week’s 38-28 homecoming loss to Goodpasture won’t factor in the playoff seeding. The Commanders led 28-14 at halftime before the Cougars dominated the second half.

“In the first half, we got breaks that benefitted us,” McNeal said. “In the second half, they had breaks that benefitted them.”

McNeal said linemen Ryan Jackson and Mitchell Bare, whose snaps were limited last week by injuries, should be at full go this time around.

Mt. Juliet Christian at King’s Academy

After showing improvement in recent seasons, the Lions are rebuilding and off to an 0-4 start under new coach Les Greer.

“(They) play a slightly different style, but still a spread team,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said of the Lions, who will line up in a 3-4 defense. “They’ve been pretty scrappy in most of the games, though they haven’t won this season. They’re definitely going to fight.

“This is definitely a younger team than they had last year, not even close.”

The game is King’s homecoming, thus the unusually 6:15 p.m. CDT kickoff time. It’s also Mt. Juliet Christian’s East Region opener due to Concord Christian, the Saints’ original Week 3 opponent, dropped football this season, leaving MJCA with an open date two weeks ago while everyone else was playing.

This is also the Saints’ second straight long road trip. This one is much longer than last Friday’s journey to Celina, though this time it’s mostly interstate to Seymour, just south of Knoxville. Davis said where the game’s played is irrelevant.

“It’s football time in Tennessee,” Davis said. “The kids get to play the sport they love, whether it’s at home or on the road. They got that opportunity, and that’s what matters most.”

Davis said the Saints are healthy for the game.

Week 5

FRIDAY

MT. JULIET at WILSON CENTRAL

LEBANON at Hendersonville

Cascade at WATERTOWN

Donelson Christian at FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN, 7:30 p.m.

MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN at King’s Academy, 6:15 p.m. CDT

Kickoffs at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

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