News Examiner: Eagles battle Devils for playoff positioning (Preview)

8O1A0812By Craig Harris for The News Examiner

The Westmoreland and White House prep football programs have played for the District 9-AA championship the last two seasons.

On Friday night, they may be playing for second place when they clash at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium.

White House Heritage currently sits in the driver’s seat in 9-AA, unbeaten in league play and with wins over the Blue Devils and Eagles. White House and Westmoreland are the only 9-AA teams with one district loss.

However, a second-place finish could be key in terms of playoff seeding as each district’s champion and runner-up not only earn automatic playoffs berths but are also seeded better than at-large qualifiers.

“It could end up being critical as far as that goes,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “There’s only one team you can control. That’s yourself.”

White House will go to the Class 4A playoffs, while the Eagles will be a 3A playoff team.

“We told our kids that we need to win the Greenbrier game to have a chance to be at home for the first (playoff) game,” Westmoreland head coach Steve Harris said. “That’s going to carry over for White House.”

The Eagles rolled to a 21-0 victory at Greenbrier last Friday.

“It was our best game of the year,” Harris said. “There were several reasons. We had two weeks to prepare, and the team did a great job with that. We were mentally fresh from the bye week (which came the week prior to the Greenbrier game), and we were able to come out and play with good intensity.”

Westmoreland (5-2 overall, 2-1 in 9-AA) limited the Bobcats – who had won four consecutive games entering last Friday’s contest – to 145 total yards and forced six turnovers. Eagle senior defensive back Jake Perry intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble. Westmoreland senior defensive end Jordan James also recovered a fumble, and senior defensive lineman Luke Hall had six solo tackles and also blocked a Greenbrier punt that was recovered by classmate Michael Evans.

“You have (senior wingback/linebacker Brad) Evans,” Porter said. “He’s a great football player. The quarterback (senior Justice Graves) is very impressive. He’s been a multi-year starter. No. 48, their fullback (junior Dylan Todd) has really developed into a hard-nosed runner. You have the free safety, Perry, who has a lot of interceptions as of late. Their offensive line is very impressive too, and No. 50 (Hall) had a big game last week against Greenbrier. They have playmakers all over the field

“They’re just fundamentally-sound. They play extremely hard. They’re well-coached. They’re a good football team. They’re a good football program.”

The Blue Devils (5-2, 3-1) were equally impressive last Friday in a 35-0 victory over visiting Harpeth. White House outgained the Indians in total yardage, 396-164.

“Harpeth was committed to what they were going to do (via its passing attack),” Porter said. “I think the bad weather worked in our favor.

“As far as our kids, coming off two straight losses, we just kept everything like we always do. You just move on. You can’t go backwards. You have to move forward. We have to take our effort to a high level this Friday night in order to compete with a really good football team … but this is a great game. This is the type of atmosphere you’ll see if you are fortunate enough to make the playoffs. You’ll always have a quality opponent who will be playing you at the highest level. That’s what we’ll get this week.”

Blue Devil junior quarterback Steven Rankin completed 9 of 13 passes for 175 yards last Friday, including touchdown passes to juniors Trey Hyde and Logan Trimmer. Hyde actually scored three touchdowns (including runs of 11 and 9 yards), and sophomore tailback Ronald Honeycutt carried the football 21 times for 146 yards.

Rankin went over the 1,000-yard mark last Friday. He is completing 58 percent of his passes, having thrown seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Honeycutt is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, compiling 812 yards and eight touchdowns.

“They’re typical White House,” Harris said. “They have a large offensive line. It’s the best passing quarterback we’ve seen. He has several receivers who can make plays for them.

“Defensively, they are just sound. They play hard, and they play the technique they’ve been coached.”

Despite last week’s success, both coaches feel that there are improvements still needed.

“As well as we played, there’s still a lot of areas for improvement,” Harris – whose squad failed to reach the end zone twice from inside the Bobcat 5 yard line – said.

Porter added, “We have to improve in the kicking game. The last couple of weeks were not what we’re typically used to. We have to recommit ourselves to that area. This is a very, very important football game for our program. It’s up to our kids to focus in.”

The Eagles played for the second consecutive contest without junior linebacker Brandon Green, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Hunter Crowson saw his most extensive action at linebacker last Friday, and classmate Lucas James continued to see action there at the linebacker spot alongside Brad Evans in Westmoreland’s 50 defensive front (consisting of five down linemen and two linebackers).

White House senior split end/defensive back Josh Mullins remains sidelined after suffering a dislocated elbow in the team’s 38-18 win at Sycamore on Sept. 19. His brother – Brian Mullins – has been starting in his place at cornerback.

The Blue Devils have won the last six meetings between the two programs – including victories of 28-14, 19-7 and 28-13 the last three seasons – and lead the all-time series 21-6.

Westmoreland’s last win over White House came in 1991, a 19-6 victory (resulting in the only time that the Blue Devils have not made the playoffs since failing to reach the postseason in 1983).

Kickoff for tonight’s contest is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Gallatin (4-3 overall, 2-2 in District 9-AAA) at Portland (1-6, 1-3)

Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Edgar Johnson Stadium

Last week: Gallatin claimed a 42-14 victory over visiting Station Camp. Portland captured a 20-14 win at Lebanon.

Last meeting between the two programs: The Green Wave earned a 35-9 victory over the visiting Panthers last season.

Both teams enter the contest following district wins a week ago.

Gallatin won its third consecutive game, having outscored its opponents 104-23 over that stretch.

Portland snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 20-14 victory at Lebanon.

The Panthers outgained the host squad, but it took two punt returns for touchdowns by senior Devontae House – covering 62 and 50 yards – to give Portland the victory.

Panther junior quarterback Ethan Brummett rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries.

Brummett has taken over the quarterback duties over the last two weeks, replacing senior Chris Greer. Greer has moved to split end.

Portland likely could not earn a playoff berth even by winning its final three games, but the Green Wave will likely reach the postseason with one more victory, which would be Gallatin’s fifth win.

Senior quarterback Julian Meador seems to have gotten the Green Wave offense on track since his return from a back injury that sidelined him for the team’s first two contests. Meador rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown last week, and he completed 10 of 16 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns.

Gallatin senior Dedarius Redding, junior Dorian Banks and sophomore Dezmond Chambers all caught touchdown passes last Friday, and sophomore tailback Jordan Mason rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries.

The Green Wave have won four of the five meetings between the two programs since they have been in District 9-AAA together, beginning in 2009. The Panthers’ lone win over that stretch came in 2012, a 16-13 victory at Gallatin.

Brighton (2-5) at Station Camp (3-4)

Kickoff at 7 p.m.

Last week: Brighton suffered a 28-20 loss to visiting Bolton. Station Camp dropped a 45-17 contest at Gallatin.

Last meeting between the two teams: The Bison claimed a 34-22 win at Brighton last season.

Friday’s meeting will be the second-ever matchup for the two programs as the Bison and Cardinals got together for the first time last year.

Station Camp had to endure a 75-minute lightning delay in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s game at Gallatin, surrendering two late touchdowns to the Green Wave after play resumed.

Bison senior tailback/linebacker Tre Malone returned from an ankle injury and rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown after missing the previous three contests.

The Bison will close the regular season with three consecutive home games, likely needing to win two of them to remain in playoff contention in Class 6A.

Stalled drives cost the Bison against the Green Wave. Station Camp failed on fourth-down attempts twice to end possessions deep in Gallatin territory.

Senior quarterback Kyle Anderton hit classmate Jace Alford for a 65-yard touchdown pass on Alford’s only catch of the night. Alford has four receptions this season, and three have resulted in touchdowns.

Brighton has lost four consecutive games and is on a season-ending, three-game road stretch. The Cardinals reached the Class 6A playoffs last season, falling 54-48 to Memphis Central in the first round.

The Cardinals have made the postseason the last six years, but 2014 hasn’t been kind, with Brighton falling by 14 points or less in all five of their losses. Brighton likely needs to win all of its remaining games to qualify for the playoffs.

Should the Cardinals fail to reach the playoffs, it would mark only the fourth time in Brighton’s 18-year history that they would not make a postseason appearance.

Pope John Paul II (2-5 overall, 0-4 in Division II-AA East/Middle Region) at Father Ryan (4-3, 0-3)

Kickoff at 7 p.m.

Last week: Father Ryan suffered a 21-17 loss at Montgomery Bell Academy. Pope John Paul II had an open date following a 50-10 loss at Brentwood Academy two weeks ago.

Last meeting between the two teams: The Irish claimed a 47-7 win at Pope John Paul II last season.

The Knights are coming off a bye week and are still searching for their first region victory since the 2012 season, when they left Father Ryan with a 10-6 victory.

The Knights were limited to 99 rushing yards at Brentwood Academy two weeks ago and gave up 303 yards on the ground to the Eagles.

Junior tailback Quer’Darius Hunter scored the lone Knight touchdown, getting into the end zone for the ninth time this season.

Father Ryan had to wait out a weather delay last Friday, sitting for nearly two hours before falling at Montgomery Bell Academy.

Irish senior safety Andrew Rector – a Wake Forest University commit – blocked an MBA punt and returned it for a touchdown to open the scoring.

The Irish have alternated wins and losses since winning their first two games, with all three losses coming against region opponents.

Friday’s game is the third of four straight road contests for the Knights, who will visit MBA next week before closing the regular season at home against White House.

Westmoreland-White House Series History

1946 Westmoreland N/A

1961 Westmoreland 8-6

1962 White House 7-0

1963 White House 19-0

1964 White House 21-0

1965 White House 13-7

1966 White House 33-0

1967 White House 21-12

1968 Westmoreland 20-7

1969 White House 22-6

1970 White House 44-8

1971 White House 20-6

1972 White House 24-0

1973 Westmoreland 6-0

1974 White House 28-0

1975 White House 49-14

1983 Westmoreland 32-6

1984 White House 21-6

1987 White House 26-24

1988 White House 14-6

1991 Westmoreland 19-6

1992 White House 29-0

2009 White House 41-7

2010 White House 41-6

2011 White House 28-14

2012 White House 19-7

2013 White House 28-13

White House leads series 21-6.

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