Main Street Preps: Vannozzi Takes Devils over Bison

By Russell Vannozzi for Main Street Preps

2019 record: 41-19 (Robertson County only)

2020 record: 0-0

After months of uncertainty, high school football kicks off in Middle Tennessee tonight and tomorrow.

That means my weekly predictions are back for another season with one major change: I will be picking games from around the area instead of just in Robertson County.

Scrimmages and jamborees weren’t permitted during what was a condensed preseason, so there could be some sloppy play and odd-looking final scores. Oh well, we’ll take football any way we can get it.

Like last year, please save your torches and pitchforks until after Friday’s games are completed. Here are my picks for 10 intriguing Week 1 Midstate matchups (2019 records in parentheses):

Main Street Preps Game of the Week

Lipscomb Academy (7-6) at Brentwood Academy (6-4) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Brentwood Academy missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997 last season. Don’t expect that to happen again this fall.

The Eagles are anchored by one of the best offensive lines in the state that includes North Carolina commit Eli Sutton (6-foot-7, 285 pounds), Power 5 prospect Noah Josey (6-foot-5, 280 pounds) and Memphis commitment James Stewart (6-foot-3, 260 pounds). That group will create space for sophomore running back Casen Calmus and provide time for senior quarterback Taylor Montiel.

The Mustangs, meanwhile, open their second season under NFL veteran Trent Dilfer. Quarterback Luther Richesson (2,290 passing yards, 23 TDs) and tailback Jaden Lyles (1,263 rushing yards, 20 TDs) highlight what could be an explosive offense.

Lipscomb Academy is talented at the skill positions but can’t match Brentwood Academy’s size up front. That will be in the difference in this one.

PICK: Brentwood Academy 28, Lipscomb Academy 14

CPA (7-7) at Riverdale (7-4) – Friday 7 p.m.

This battle of heavyweights will feature two improved teams.

CPA got off to a disastrous 1-5 start in 2019, only to rebound and win five straight to finish as the DII-AA state runner-up. The Lions, led by quarterback Cade Law and linebacker Langston Patterson, are looking to be better out of the gate.

Riverdale allowed just 13.5 points per game last season and returns a talented defense. Junior Jameson Holcomb, son of 11-year NFL veteran Kelly Holcomb, is set to take over for Taylor Yancey at quarterback after leading the Warriors to a 42-0 win over Rockvale in his lone 2019 start.

If Patterson and company can put pressure on Holcomb, the Lions will emerge with a road victory.

PICK: CPA 30, Riverdale 28

Fairview (8-3) at Page (10-2) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Page blew out Fairview 38-6 to win the Battle of 840 in 2019, but both teams are breaking in new QBs and look drastically different this season.

For the Patriots, junior Lipscomb transfer Jake McNamara is expected to take over behind center for the departed Cade Walker. Sophomore Collin Hurd has also been in the mix.

Fairview will start junior Riley Bennett at QB, though the presence of 2019 Mr. Football Finalist Logan Nardozzi (1,778 rushing yards, 16 TDs) should take some pressure off him.

That still won’t be enough. Class 5A Page gets it done here.

PICK: Page 21, Fairview 17

Brentwood (10-3) at Nolensville (11-3) – Friday at 7 p.m.

The Bruins are loaded with talent and could be heading for Cookeville in December if all goes according to plan. Quarterback Cade Granzow, receiver Walker Merrill and defensive back John Howse might all play at Power 5 schools. Merrill committed to Tennessee in March, and the other two have plenty of options.

Nolensville fell to eventual Class 4A champion Elizabethton in the state semifinals last season. The Knights return senior quarterback Ryder Galardi, who threw for 26 touchdowns in 2019 and holds six FCS offers. 

While the Knights are primed for another deep playoff run, they won’t be able to overpower 6A Brentwood.

PICK: Brentwood 38, Nolensville 10

Wilson Central (6-5) at Springfield (11-4) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Springfield shook off a season-opening, 37-7 loss at Wilson Central last season to go 11-4 and finish as the Class 4A runner-up to Elizabethton. Ironically, the Wildcats went the opposite direction, losing five out of their final seven games to finish 6-5.

Springfield coach Dustin Wilson has made it clear that his team is focused on the finish. While the Yellow Jackets will likely get better as the season goes on, they may not have answers at key positions – including running back and linebacker – by Friday.

Wilson Central returns nearly all its offensive starters and will be eager to forget its rough 2019 ending. I have to go with the 6A school here.

PICK: Wilson Central 24, Springfield 17

Pope John Paul II (6-4) at Smyrna (6-5) – Friday at 7 p.m.

The Knights find themselves in a good spot on offense with a returning QB (senior Sawyer Watts), a Wisconsin commit at RB (Antwan Roberts) and an experienced offensive line.

Smyrna counters by returning nearly 70 percent of its starting lineup. Senior defensive tackle Zion Rucker, who has offers from Illinois, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, will test JPII’s big men.

If Roberts can get around Rucker and have a big night, JPII will win.

PICK: JPII 28, Smyrna 20

Gallatin (9-2) at Lebanon (5-6) – Friday at 7 p.m.

The Green Wave are a senior-heavy team yet lack experience at several positions – the price of graduating 11 seniors that signed to play college football. Second-year coach Chad Watson must find replacements, including at QB, and that may take a few weeks.

Lebanon will lean on senior Dequantay Shannon (1,152 rushing yards, 15 TDs) to carry the offense. Shannon was limited to 90 yards and a touchdown in last year’s 28-7 loss at Gallatin, so look for him to have a better outing this time.

PICK: Lebanon 14, Gallatin 13

Summit (12-3) at Independence (7-5) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Summit twins Destin and Keaten Wade led the Spartans to a banner 2019 season that ended with a loss to Knoxville Central in the Class 5A state title game. Summit opened with a 34-15 win over Independence, and a similar result could be coming on Friday.

Independence must replace a three-year starter at QB (Ethan Cash) and fill several holes on the offensive line. Limiting the Wade twins is a tall Week 1 task.

PICK: Summit 35, Independence 17

Stewarts Creek (8-3) at Mt. Juliet (7-5) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Mt. Juliet sputtered through the start of 2019 after a 19-14 loss to Stewarts Creek in Week 1. The Golden Bears, led by running back Jamari Sowell, can live up their billing as the Region 4-6A favorite by getting off to a better start this year.

After going 8-3 and falling to Ravenwood in the first round of the 6A playoffs, Stewarts Creek must adapt to new head coach Ben Caudill, who previously served as defensive coordinator for the Red Hawks.

PICK: Mt. Juliet 21, Stewarts Creek 7

White House (5-5) at Station Camp (0-10) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Station Camp is undergoing a rebuild with first-year coach Brent Alexander, a Gallatin native who played 12 seasons in the NFL, and a staff of recent alumni and experienced assistants trying to turn the program around.

On the other hand, White House coach Ryan Hamilton is a year ahead after taking over for longtime coach Jeff Porter in 2019. The Blue Devils also have a bona fide star in junior tailback Ranen Blackburn, who rushed for 1,310 yards and 18 touchdowns on 223 carries as a sophomore.

PICK: White House 14, Station Camp 10

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