By Craig Harris for The Gallatin News Examiner and The Tennessean
WHITE HOUSE – A coaching friendship essentially led to the White House and Adamsville prep football programs playing a home-and-home scrimmage the past two seasons, a near three-hour round trip for the road squad.
The visiting Cardinals weren’t overly friendly to the Blue Devils on Friday evening as the perennial powers clashed at the White House practice field.
“We can get there if our kids want to get better,” said Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter, whose squad traveled to Adamsville last season. “This can be a positive experience. It has to start with our players.”
Porter and Adamsville head coach Brandon Gray were on the same coaching staff for the seventh annual Toyota East/West Tennessee All-Star Classic in 2013.
“I coached with Coach Porter in the All-Star Game a few years ago, and I learned from him,” Gray said. “I knew his kids would play hard and be well-coached.
“We want to play people who will get us ready for the playoffs. In our division, we’re not going to see many teams like (White House).”
Gray’s program has advanced to at least the state-semifinal round in each of the last four seasons, compiling a 45-9 mark over that span. The Cardinals were the Class 2A runner-up in both 2012 and 2013 and lost to eventual state champion Peabody in the state semifinals last November. Adamsville reached the quarterfinal round for the fifth consecutive season in 2014 before falling at Pearl-Cohn.
“We always try to scrimmage people we feel like are going to be better than us,” Porter said. “I think they are pretty good. Their backs ran extremely hard and break tackles.
“They are fundamentally-sound and well-coached. Brandon does a great job.”
White House struck first on Friday, scoring on the first play of its second possession.
Blue Devil senior quarterback Steven Rankin threw deep over the middle to classmate Luke Hopkins, who caught the ball and broke an open-field tackle on the 65-yard touchdown.
Senior Logan Trimmer followed that with a successful point-after touchdown.
However, White House managed just five first downs over its final five varsity possessions.
“We score on a big play, but we didn’t have a sustained drive,” Porter said. “That’s who we are.”
Adamsville responded with a touchdown six plays later as tailback Laderrick Means had a tackle-breaking, 34-yard scoring run.
“Give credit to them,” Porter said. “They answered the bell. When you get a lead, that next possession on defense is important.”
The Blue Devils committed three turnovers, with Dylan Lott stripping the ball away from White House junior wide receiver Malik Morgan at the end of a 20-yard pass play.
Means ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Blue Devil senior defensive back Gavin Herrell intercepted a Cardinal pass, but six plays later, Rankin’s pass slipped through Trimmer’s hands and was intercepted by Austin Cotner.
The Cardinals’ final scoring drive was their most extensive, a 10-play march that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Cotner to tight end Kyle Moore.
Adamsville’s Ryan Nixon intercepted another pass inside the 5 yard line on the Blue Devils’ final varsity possession.
“We’re going to get better,” Porter said. “We’re going to work at it.”
Cardinal back-up quarterback Ben Chrestman tossed a 19-yard scoring pass to Chauncey Elder, and Adamsville defensive lineman Braden Austin recovered a late fumble as the reserves saw action.
A safety ended the Cardinals’ final possession.
White House also had some problems in the kicking game, with a snap sailing over the head of Trimmer (the team’s punter).
“We set a goal that we didn’t want to take any (early) timeouts, and we had to take two in the kicking game,” Porter said. “I didn’t like our demeanor getting on and off the field. We have to get better at our body language.
“Every play isn’t going to be perfect, but we have to go out and play the next play.”
The Blue Devils have just one more scrimmage, hosting Hendersonville on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
“(This) week is the urgent week,” Porter said. “Scrimmages are scrimmages. Our attitude and demeanor in practice are far more important than any one scrimmage.”
White House opens the season one week earlier than the program is accustomed to, hosting cross-town rival White House Heritage on Friday, Aug. 21.
Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.