By Zach Womble for The Gallatin News
Well, fans, we are here. The first week of the high school season officially kicks off this week as every team in Sumner County is set to square off Friday.
The 2020 season is sure to be filled with fireworks, highlight touchdowns, game-winning pick-6s, and victories so thrilling you will utter the phrase, ‘maybe this is our year’.
Regardless of how your team finishes this season, we will be there every step of the way.
So, fans, grab your popcorn, your masks, and get ready to play football.
Beech (0-0) at Powell (0-0)
The Beech Buccaneers were scheduled to start the season at home against Jackson Northside, but with Jackson-Madison Schools electing to not allow contact sports through Labor Day, that left the Bucs with only a few days to find a new opponent.
The three-hour bus ride isn’t an ideal way to open your season, but then again, nothing about 2020 has been ideal.
The Powell Panthers are coming off a 12-1 season that saw the Region 3-5A school get to the quarterfinal round.
Offensively the Panthers averaged 36 points-per-game and yielded just 14 points-per-game defensively.
Beech welcomes back a good nucleus from last year’s 11-1 playoff team, but the long bus ride, coupled with Powell returning over half their starters on both sides of the ball, has me leaning towards the hometown Panthers.
Pick: Powell 35, Beech 14
Gallatin (0-0) at Lebanon (0-0)
The Gallatin Green Wave open their season on the road at Lebanon as the Blue Devils are looking for revenge.
A 28-7 victory at the Wave Yard in 2019 catapulted Chad Watson’s crew to a special 9-1 regular season, and the Blue Devils are hoping a win in 2020 would do the same for their team.
Dequantay Shannon, the Blue Devils lead running back, is only 800 yards away from 3,000 career rushing yards, and I expect him to have a field day Friday night.
The Blue Devils welcome three of their five offensive line starters from last year, while the Green Wave are struggling to find playmakers on the defensive front.
It isn’t just the defense that will go through early bumps in the road, as Gallatin ushers in a new quarterback, running back, receiver core and critical pieces to their offensive line.
Expecting the same product, or close to the same product, that was on the field in 2019 for the Wave would be misguided, but then again, it is 2020.
Still, give me the Blue Devils in a victory at home.
Pick: Lebanon 28, Gallatin 14
Hendersonville (0-0) at Oakland (0-0)
The Hendersonville Commandos may have the toughest week one contest of all the Sumner County teams playing Friday night.
2020 marks the fourth consecutive season the Commandos have opened with a Rutherford County product (Blackman 2017-18, Oakland 2019-20).
It’s hard to argue with opening against some of the state’s top competition as the Commandos usually end up with either Blackman or Oakland in the first or second round of the playoffs. Getting an early look at their playoff matchups has done well for the Commandos once in the post-season, but they have yet to capitalize.
As for this year’s game, I expect it to be Oakland’s game to lose.
Last year’s 59-0 loss left a bad taste in the player’s and coaching staff’s mouth, but sometimes you are just outmatched.
The Patriots are a yearly contender to play in Cookeville, and I expect that to be the case again in 2020.
The Commandos will play the Patriots better than they did in 2019, but I still expect Kevin Creasey’s crew to come out on top.
Pick: Oakland 42, Hendersonville 21
Pope John Paul II (0-0) at Smyrna (0-0)
JPII opens with one of the more intriguing matchups in Sumner County this week as they travel to Rutherford County to play the Smyrna Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 6-5 season and are usually in the playoff discussion every year in 6A.
The Knights welcome back a great core to their football team as all five offensive linemen, their quarterback, and their running back from last year’s team.
Defensively the Knights have a few returning pieces, but speed on that side of the football has head coach Justin Geisinger feeling good about his squad.
JPII missed the playoffs last year but managed victories in their final two games of the season. I expect that momentum to carry over and the Knights to have a huge game on the ground.
Led by the University of Wisconsin commit Antwan Roberts, I believe the Knights leave Smyrna 1-0.
Pick: JPII 24, Smyrna 17
Portland (0-0) vs. Westview (0-0)
The first week of the high school season officially kicks off this week as your Portland Panthers play host to the Westview Chargers out of Martin, TN.
The Panthers were initially scheduled to play Warren East (KY) in the concrete bowl, but due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panthers were forced to find an in-state game.
So, what do we know about the Chargers? Well, not much if we are honest, but then again, we don’t know a whole lot about many teams across the state.
But, here is what we do know:
Lead by Head Coach Jarod Neal; the Chargers are coming off a 6-5 season that saw a trip to the Class 3A playoffs where they fell to Wooddale 54-14.
Most notably, the Chargers boast one of the top kickers in the state as JT Carver recently committed to continue his career at the University of Tennessee as a preferred walk-on.
He was named a semifinalist for the Kicker of the Year Award in 2019. He finished last season 57-of-57 on extra points and was 5-of-8 on field goals.
Offensively, the Chargers averaged 38 points-per-game last season, but defensively they gave up 35 points-per-game.
A three-hour bus ride is not how you want to start your season, usually, but in these circumstances, I’m sure teams are happy to get a game.
With that being said, I still like the Panthers to open the season with a victory. Yes, they will break in a bunch of new players, but I like what they have in their skill slots.
Give me the Panthers in Week 1.
Portland 35, Westview 24
Station Camp (0-0) vs. White House (0-0)
The Bison open their season at home against Sumner County foe White House Friday night. The big news this offseason for the Bison has been Brent Alexander and the new energy and life he has brought to the Bison program.
While the team may not be anywhere close to what Alexander envisions, I expect the Bison to be a better football team in 2020.
Led by running back Ranen Blackburn, the Blue Devils are looking for bragging rights and back to back victories over the Class 6A school.
I am looking forward to seeing what the Bison offer in person Friday night for this game; I believe it will tell us a lot about the 2020 season.
A new attitude, a new mentality, a new scheme and a winning spirit flows through the East Bank and that will show Friday night. I expect domination from the Bison from the opening kickoff.
PICK: Station Camp 35, White House 14
Westmoreland (0-0) vs. Livingston Academy (0-0)
The Westmoreland Eagles welcome in a familiar foe in the Livingston Academy Wildcats Friday night.
2019 saw the Wildcats dominate the Eagles 35-2, en route to an 11-1 season, and a birth in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Westmoreland has only a handful of seniors and a sizable freshman and sophomore class.
2020 may be the year of multiple bumps in the Eagles road, and that could start as early as week one.
Without anything to evaluate before the game, head coach Chad Perry is hopeful his team can line up correctly and not beat themselves mentally.
Even if the Eagles play a great game, I cannot see them taking down the Wildcats.
PICK: Livingston Academy 35, Westmoreland 7