By Todd Lamberth for TN High School Football
After looking at last year’s results, returning depth, new districts, and this year’s schedules, here are eight teams that could surprise fans this season.
1) Siegel Stars (Last year’s record: 3-9)
Siegel went 3-9 last season despite a 3-4 record in the tough 2-6A. Things could have looked different for the Stars had they pulled out wins over Ravenwood, Riverdale, and Wilson Central, which they lost by a combined 13 points.
Head coach Mike Copley will return last year’s quarterback in senior Brendan Crowell, as well as experience on the defensive side of the ball as they look to make waves in 6A.
2) Rossview Hawks (Last year’s record: 5-6)
The Hawks will see all new opponents in their region this year as they move to 6A this year after going 5-2 in region 7-5A play last season and 5-6 overall, including a win over Brentwood and close loses to Centennial and East Nashville.
Todd Hood brings his spread offense to Rossview from Clarksville Academy and returns four seniors to his offensive line. He’ll also get junior Fred Orr (994 rushing yards) and senior Isaiah Phillips (809) returning in the backfield. Senior Gino Avros and junior Kole Monson both saw time at quarterback last season and could be asked to run the offense.
Seniors Jalen Baxter, Ryson Shepherd and Andrew Arias return 170 tackles to the Hawks defense.
3) Clarksville Northeast Eagles (Last Year’s record: 5-5)
Northeast missed the playoffs last season despite their 5-5 record. They’ll benefit from a new region this year, as they’ll no longer have to face Centennial and Brentwood out of Williamson County.
First year coach Chad Watson returns senior Gus Antoine Jr. to the offense, who racked up over 1,300 all-purpose yards a year ago. The Eagles return two starters across the offensive front and half of their defense from a year ago.
4) Clarksville Northwest Vikings (Last Year’s Record: 6-5)
The Vikings have steadily improved in each of their first two seasons under head coach Vernon Wright. They’ll look to take the next step in 2017. That step could be led by senior Hunter Silverstrim, who returns for his third season under center after he passed for over 1,000 yards and ran for another 300 last season. Silverstrim will also have his favorite target from a year ago as Shater McClay returns for his senior year.
While the Vikings lose leadership from last year’s defensive unit, they also return a lot of experience and will be senior heavy on that side of the ball. Northwest will look to rise to the top of the Clarksville heavy 7-5A.
5) Grace Christian Academy Lions (Last Year’s Record: 2-7)
Grace Christian was one of the few private schools to elect to remain in Division I and that decision could pay off for them in 2017. While they went 2-7 a year ago, 5 of those losses came by a combined 16 points.
Third-year coach Rusty Smith returns senior quarterback Austin Amor for his third season running the offense after passing for over 2,000 yards a year ago. Amor also gets his biggest target back in senior Kolby Alonzo. A lot of inexperience led to their 5-14 record over the last two years. Now, the Lions are poised to turn things around in 2017.
6) Eagleville Eagles (Last Year’s Record: 3-6)
The Eagles could benefit from the reclassification this season as two teams that finished with eight or more wins are in new regions. Second-year coach Floyd Walker returns seven players on each side of the ball, including senior quarterback Ethan Cobb, receiver Graham Hatcher, and offensive lineman Cody Lane.
Eagleville will look to the experience returning on both sides of the ball to get them back to the playoffs.
7) White House Blue Devils (Last Year’s Record: 0-10)
When looking for the next Goodpasture, White House would fit the mold. The Blue Devils are in the midst of their worst stretch in Jeff Porter’s 30 years at the helm, having lost their last 13 games.
Junior Austin Nixon was forced into the quarterback spot last year due to injury; they’ll look for him to build off his sophomore campaign. As is the case with many teams going through a losing streak, they Blue Devils have seen many inexperienced players forced into action. They’ll look for that playing time to help turn the White House program back around.
8) Page Patriots (Last Year’s Record: 7-4)
Page isn’t like the rest of the team’s on this list, as they finished three games over the .500 mark last year, but they could surprise as a team that makes a deeper run in 2017.
Senior Jacob van Landingham returns to lead the Patriot offense after accounting for nearly 2,000 total yeards last year as well as 18 touchdowns. Three seniors join him on offense across the offensive line and sophomore Donald Johnson at running back, who rushed for over 1,000 yards as a freshman. Defensively, they’ll be lead by junior Luke Bowers, who racked up 71 tackles from his linebacker spot a year ago.