From Staff Reports for The News Examiner
The stadium will seem significantly more full the third time around.
In fact, an overflow crowd is expected at Dewey H. Whitson Stadium when the cross-town rivals White House and White House Heritage prep football teams open the season on Friday evening, with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m.
The two teams played at Vanderbilt University the last two seasons, the first meetings between the two football programs.
“The kids should be excited to have that type of opportunity,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “I hope that we’ve prepared well. The biggest thing is we may not have as much (of the playbook installed) as we normally would, and we’re just going to have to be comfortable with what we get in and try to do well.”
White House rolled to a 26-7 victory in the 2013 contest, but the Patriots turned the tables last season, claiming a 15-6 victory. That win propelled White House Heritage on to the District 9-AA championship.
“I think they’ll bring the same team they brought last year,” Porter said. “They’ve got nine people back on both sides of the ball. They had a great year last year, and I look for them to continue what they started last year.”
The Patriots finished 10-2 last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before suffering a 20-10 loss to visiting Lipscomb Academy.
White House made its fifth consecutive quarterfinal appearance a year ago.
It’s a non-region game this year as the two teams are no longer in a league together, though each remained in the same classification that they were in last season.
The Blue Devils are familiar with beginning the season against a rival, having opened against Portland for the last eight seasons. White House won seven of those eight openers, including the last two.
White House Heritage opened last season with a 42-7 victory at East Hickman.
Mt. Juliet at Gallatin
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Green Wave Stadium
Last meeting between the two teams: The Green Wave captured a 29-28 victory over the visiting Golden Bears a year ago.
The two teams are meeting for the ninth consecutive season.
For the previous six years, they were in District 9-AA together.
“It’s always a tough test,” Gallatin head coach Mark Williams said of facing the Golden Bears. “We took it down to the wire last year with them. We came out with a win, but I know they’re thinking about that in the back of their mind that they could’ve got a win last year. It was anybody’s ballgame.
“They’re a good football team, well-coached and disciplined, so we’re definitely going to have to improve and prepare (well) this week.”
Over those last eight meetings, each team has won four games. The home team has won six of those contests, though last season was an exception as the Green Wave captured a 29-28, come-from-behind win in Mt. Juliet. Gallatin senior quarterback Julian Meador threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Nick Tuck with 42 seconds remaining and then scored on two-point conversion run to ultimately give his squad the win.
Gallatin has actually won the last two contests between the two programs.
The Green Wave have prepared for the season with scrimmages against Shelbyville, Wilson Central and Cookeville.
“I feel we’re where we need to be right now,” Williams said. “It’s all about growth and understanding and correcting mistakes. If we can go back and correct our mistakes (from last Friday’s scrimmage against Cookeville), I think we’ll be ready.”
Though the two programs remained in the same classification from last season (Gallatin in Class 5A and the Golden Bears in 6A), a restructuring by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association has them no longer in the same league.
Mt. Juliet finished with a 5-6 record last season, suffering a 53-0 loss at Oakland in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Green Wave also fell in their playoff opener, a 34-21 setback at Springfield in the opening round of the 5A playoffs. Gallatin won seven games last season.
The Golden Bears have won six consecutive season openers. The Green Wave suffered a 17-14 loss at Springfield in its opener a year ago.
Trousdale County at Westmoreland
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Eagle Stadium
Last meeting between the two programs: The Eagles captured a 28-14 victory in 2000.
It’s the first meeting between the two programs in 15 years.
While Westmoreland won the most recent contest between the two programs, Trousdale County won the four previous games against the Eagles, after Westmoreland won three consecutive contests from 1993-95.
The Yellow Jackets have won nine state championships, lastly winning the Class 2A title to cap an unbeaten 2013 campaign.
Trousdale County is under the direction of first-year head coach David Barker, who was previously the offensive coordinator at Crockett County. Barker succeeds Kevin Creasy, who compiled a 79-12 record and three state championships over the previous seven seasons.
“They are going to be typical Trousdale County,” Eagle head coach Steve Harris said. “They will have very large offensive and defensive lines. They will have good quickness with their skill people. They will be a physical football team.”
Both teams are coming off of nine-win campaigns, and both move down in classification this season, with the Yellow Jackets going back to Class 1A and Westmoreland currently in 2A.
Westmoreland has won its last three season openers. Trousdale County suffered a 27-21, overtime loss to Macon County in last year’s opener.
Franklin-Simpson at Portland
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Edgar Johnson Stadium
Last meeting between the two programs: The Wildcats captured a 43-40 victory over the visiting Panthers in 2002.
The neighboring schools haven’t played on the gridiron in 13 years.
The Wildcats held off a late rally to win a scorefest then, after the Panthers rolled to a 57-14 victory when the two teams met in Portland one year earlier.
The Panthers lead the series, 22-14-1.
“The older guys who played here years ago when (playing) Franklin was a big deal … it’s cool to renew it my senior year,” Portland offensive guard/linebacker Hunter Felts said. “I’m excited about it.
“There’s a hype about this team I haven’t seen the whole four years I’ve been here. We’re ready.”
Franklin-Simpson is coming off of a nine-win season that included a playoff victory.
The Wildcats return their leading tackler, senior Cody Uhls. Uhls was an Associated Press Second Team All-State selection a year ago after making 85 tackles (59 solo) and recovering three fumbles as a junior.
Franklin-Simpson senior Nick Groves rushed for more than 900 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
“They’re a veteran ball club with a lot of experience,” Panther head coach Greg Cavanah said. “They’re big. They have speed.
“They’ll come in with a chip on their shoulder after getting kicked out of the playoffs last year and should not have been (losing a late lead in a 35-21 loss to Madisonville-North Hopkins).”
Portland has been playing without senior fullback Kemper Dixon, who suffered an ankle injury in the preseason.
The Panthers are looking to improve on the last two seasons, in which they have won just one game over that span.
“We can always make more progress,” Felts said. “We came out and started slow against Hillsboro (in the team’s first preseason scrimmage). Toward the end (of that scrimmage), we started clicking. Against Goodpasture, we had a good scrimmage. We’ve come together and talked. We know what we can do.
“We’re not worrying about the past. We want to try to bring pride back to Portland.”
Portland has lost its last eight season openers. The Wildcats captured a 28-26 victory over Graves County (Ky.) in their season opener last season.
Franklin-Simpson finished as the Class 4A state runner-up in 2011.
Beech at Wilson Central
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium
Last meeting between the two programs: The Wildcats claimed a 42-35 victory at Beech last season.
Despite being in a new region, Beech’s prep football team will see a familiar opponent to open the new season on Friday evening as the Buccaneers visit Wildcat Stadium to face former District 9-AAA foe Wilson Central.
The Wildcats won last season’s meeting, but it didn’t help them make the playoffs as they finished with a 4-6 record.
However, they do return some experience up front with a pair of three-year starters – seniors Alex Comer and Brandon Bennett – on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We’ve seen (Wilson Central) for the past six years, so we know what they’re capable of,” Beech head coach Anthony Crabtree said. “We’ve got to focus on ourselves, especially being in the right places defensively and keeping our mistakes to a minimum.”
Junior tailback Tyler Bowes – who took over the starting role in week 7 last year – is expected to be the primary ballcarrier for the Wildcats.
The Buccaneers will be without two of their key players as senior tailback Auston Vanzant will have to serve a one-game suspension after being ejected from the Buccaneers’ jamboree at Mt. Juliet last Saturday. Senior tailback Rodrick Napper will also miss Friday’s game as he is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason.
Sophomore Jahmal Robinson is expected to start for the Buccaneers against the Wildcats.
Beech has won four consecutive season openers. The Buccaneers began last season with a 26-14 victory over visiting Station Camp.
Wilson Central has lost its last two openers, both to Hendersonville (including a 45-7 setback at home last season).
McGavock at Hendersonville
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium
Last meeting between the two programs: Hendersonville claimed a 10-6 win at McGavock in 2008.
The Commandos open with a bit of an unknown to begin the 2015 season as McGavock is Hendersonville’s opponent. The two teams haven’t played since 2008 when both were members of Region 5-5A.
The Commandos were already dealt a loss when Joejuan Williams’ request for a hardship waiver was denied, keeping him ineligible to play at Hendersonville for his senior season after transferring from Father Ryan.
However, the Commandos will lean on their ground game regardless, with seniors Jack Towe and Terrell Carter leading the rushing attack.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Towe said. “We needed to tackle better (in the Commandos’ final scrimmage against White House), but we were flying around pretty well.”
McGavock senior quarterback Demontez Carlton ran for and passed for close to 1,000 yards each last season, with classmate Shedrick Kirk serving as one of Carlton’s top targets. Senior running back Kendall Johnson ran for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns last season, while junior linebacker Lokuawn Wigfall is expected to be a leader on the Raider defense.
Hendersonville has won its last four season openers, while McGavock has secured victories in each of its last three opening contests.
Station Camp at Clarksville
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Hilda J. Richardson Field
Last meeting between the two programs: First meeting between the two teams.
Station Camp begins the 2015 season with a new opponent as the Bison have never faced the Wildcats.
The Bison will have to contend with senior quarterback J.J. Jones and junior tailback/linebacker Brevon Johnson (606 yards and five touchdowns last season), along with senior safety D’Vaughn Whitt (36 tackles, 31 assists, two interceptions in 2014).
Station Camp junior quarterback Tyler Thompson will get the chance to show his ability as a starting signal-caller, while the Bison defense will be called upon to contain Clarksville’s skill players.
“I feel good about where Tyler’s come since last year,” Hollinsworth said. “He’s excited, and we’re looking forward to having him out there for us.”
Both teams are coming off 5-6 seasons and first-round playoff losses, with Clarksville falling to Shelbyville in the Class 5A playoffs and Station Camp suffering a 66-14 loss at Ravenwood in the opening round of the Class 6A bracket.
Station Camp will be looking to turn around an unfortunate trend as the Bison have lost their last seven season openers. Station Camp’s last season-opening triumph came in a 19-17 victory over Hendersonville in 2007.
Clarksville defeated visiting Goodpasture 42-17 in last season’s opener.
Melrose at Pope John Paul II
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at the Jim Carell Athletic Complex
Last meeting between the two programs: First meeting between the two teams.
Pope John Paul II High opens the season with a new opponent as Melrose travels from Memphis to face the Knights.
The teams have never faced each other, and it will be Knight first-year head coach Justin Geisinger’s first test at the helm of the PJP II program.
“We do not know a whole lot about them other than that they are very talented,” Geisinger said. “They have a solid winning tradition in that program on the west end of the state. They have great team speed and are a threat for big plays all the time. It will certainly be a big challenge for our football team.”
The Knights have won their season-opening game in each of the last three seasons and have started 2-0 the previous two years.
Melrose has won its season opener the last two seasons.