The Victory Formation column is in its fourth full season and is the most complete weekly column about high school football in the state of Tennessee so the Victory Formation is here in week one with a 3,500 column and coming hard at you like Ralphie the Buffalo as he snorts running on the field as he sees the Sooner Schooner and sees red.
The best time of the year is upon us as high school football season starts with week one as 20 teams will get their seasons started last night and a full schedule will get underway tonight as excited as coaches, players and fans are for the new season, some coaches across the state are excited for another reason that the season starts and they can finally put how hard it was to get a full schedule behind them.
For most football coaches every football scheduling cycle which happens every two years has gotten progressively worse to the point that both public and private schools are finding themselves going across state lines and scheduling out of state opponents out of necessity.
“I definitely think finding a full schedule has gotten harder every scheduling cycle,” MBA head coach Marty Euverard said. “We started working on the schedule early and the last game was finally official and the contract was signed in April, it was stressful because I didn’t want to just have nine regular season games so we were forced to go out of state.”
“I think that scheduling has gotten worse the last 15 to 20 years because when I was at Oakland and Jefferson County it was tough filling a schedule it’s just not tough because MBA is a private school, I think every school has trouble finding games.”
The 2015 season is the first year in the current scheduling cycle so I researched back three scheduling cycles to 2009 to see how tough it has been for the Division II-AA teams to find games in state and they have had to settle out of state.
MBA will open the season tonight as they travel down to Hewitt-Trussville (AL) and since 2009, the Big Red have played three games against two out of state teams (Trinity, KY in 2011 and 2012 and Hewitt-Trussville in 2015) and 10 of the 11 Division II-AA teams have played out of state competition since 2009, only Father Ryan has avoided playing out of state.
Five time state champion MUS leads the way by playing 17 out of state games since 2009 which have featured seven different opponents from three different states (Arkansas, Mississippi and Ohio) including 14 games against four different Mississippi schools (Grenada, Lafayette, Olive Branch and South Panola).
“I am wondering when Mississippi plans to send me a bill for their association dues,” longtime Owl head coach Bobby Alston joked. “Being able to play some of those schools has helped out and then we have been fortunate to find some attractive out of state games that the kids have enjoyed and due to our region size we have to find seven games which is not easy but we have managed to make it work.”
Christian Brothers is second with 13 games involving seven different opponents from four different states (Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio), while Brentwood Academy has played nine games against four different opponents from four different states (Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio).
The Eagles a preseason Division II-AA favorite will play three out of state games this season against Olive Branch (MS), Trinity (KY) and University Christian (FL) and since 2009 the 11 Division II-AA teams have a 25-23 record in 48 games against out of state teams.
“Trust me if we didn’t have to travel out of state, I wouldn’t but it’s out of necessity,” Brentwood Academy coach Cody White said. “We called everybody in the state for a game without any luck so that’s we had to schedule out of state.”
Sometimes the out of state games are not a guaranteed two year deal either as BA is paying for University School to come to Brentwood this year but the Eagles will not be making the return trip but Olive Branch and Trinity are both two year deals.
“I’ll have to find another team in that spot next year because I wasn’t interested in making the trip to Florida,” White said. “It comes down to this philosophy are you willing to travel or paying teams to come to you?”
But filling a schedule with out of state teams in just not a private school issue, some public schools are also having trouble getting a complete schedule as well as traditional powerhouse public schools are scrambling for games.
“The scheduling issue has gotten worse every cycle,” new Oakland head coach Kevin Creasy said. “I think tradition rich good successful programs will always have trouble finding games, but unfortunately that’s the climate that we live in these days.”
In fact having to schedule out of state competition has become a necessary evil to fill a full schedule that 107 regular season games this year are scheduled against out of state teams as 70 different Tennessee schools are playing at least one non-Tennessee team.
The 107 games and 70 teams figure is up dramatically from the 81 regular season games and 68 teams involved with out of state teams in 2014, of the 70 schools that are playing out of state teams only 17 are private schools, so for 53 public schools scheduling out of state teams was a plan B that coaches didn’t want to face but had to deal with kicking and screaming.
Teams from 13 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia) will be on schedules through the state and Union City head football coach Darren Bowling has seen what being successful (winning the last two Class 1A titles) will do for finding a full schedule as the Tornadoes will travel to Pennsylvania in week five to take on Delone Catholic.
Delone Catholic is in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania and it will be according to Google Maps a 817 mile trip which will take 12 to 13 hours for the Golden Tornadoes to make by bus which makes for a long trip indeed.
“It has become increasingly harder to fill a schedule locally,” Bowling said. “This past scheduling period we were having a hard time finding anything local so I called several schools in Kentucky, Missouri, and even Mississippi without any luck.”
Bowling then approached his principal Wes Kennedy and suggested a trip for not only football but for educational trip as well, so he called coaches in Washington D.C. without any success but on D.C. coach did help him out with the schedule.
“Principal Kennedy agreed so I began looking around the Washington D.C. area without much luck, but one of the schools I contacted emailed us about a school right outside of Gettysburg (Delone Catholic) that was having a hard time filling their schedule as well. I contacted them and they were happy to accommodate us as they had not filled that date.”
Rhea County head football coach Mark Pemberton ran into the same brick wall that Bowling did as local schools would not play the Golden Eagles who have went 23-3 in Pemberton’s two seasons in Evensvilleso out of state he went to find a game.
“It has gotten a lot harder to schedule. I think the Z plan caused most of the problem, most schools needed wins rather than tough games that prepared your team for the playoffs,” Pemberton said. “When I was at Brentwood and now at Rhea County a lot of coaches didn’t want to prepare for a wing-t team.”
Pemberton called over 75 schools trying to fill the Week six, September 25 date without any luck before he got lucky on a Kentucky website seeing that Indianapolis Cathedral (IN) needed a game in week six as well so Pemberton was able to complete his schedule even as hard as it was.
“I was looking on a Kentucky high school website for a game and noticed Cathedral was looking on that date so I gave them a call and we scheduled. It will give our kids a chance to play in Lucas Oil Stadium so we thought it would be a good trip,” Pemberton said.
Although it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a Mid- state team in say Murfreesboro or Nashville to willingly schedule an out of state team, if you look at a map of Tennessee it does make sense for teams in counties on the border of another state to dip over and play a team across the state line.
When a look at a map of Tennessee you see that the Volunteer state borders eight states in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia and Tennessee schools are having to take advantage of these borders.
Shelby County borders two states in Arkansas and Mississippi and it makes sense that 48 of the 107 out of state games involve Mississippi teams while three games involve schools from Arkansas in fact the breakdown statewide goes like this:
State Games Against Tennessee teams in 2015
N. Carolina 8
Not every coach in the Memphis area have been forced to play out of state teams but have done so because its for the good of the football program as Fayette Academy head coach Vic Shivers done this year as he believed his team needed a scheduling shot in the arm.
The Vikings are coming off an 0-10 season and have lost 11 straight games and are 1-19 the past two seasons so Shivers got creative when making his schedule in 2015 as he scheduled five small Mississippi schools that he feels Fayette Academy can compete with.
“It was not a scheduling issue for us, I just felt that many of the north Mississippi private schools were very similar to us in size and resources,” Shivers said. “We have a good young group coming up and I wanted to give them the best opportunity to compete and grow as players.”
Week Number of games vs. out of state teams Number of States involved
Week 1 20 5
2 20 5
3 6 2
4 17 5
5 10 5
6 13 4
7 2 2
8 8 5
9 2 2
10 7 4
11 2 2
Total 107 13 different states total
Head Coaches Turned Assistant Coaches?
After getting over the initial shock of being let go as head coach at Cane Ridge back before Christmas last year, Jonathan Parks knew he wasn’t done coaching football his only question was whether or not it would be as a head coach or an assistant.
While at Cane Ridge, Parks complied a 19-14 record and led the Ravens to the Class 6A playoffs all three seasons he led the program but the one thing that bugged Parks was he wasn’t given a reason for his dismissal only the “school wanted to go in a different direction”
So he looked around and found his perfect situation as he is now the running backs coach at Mt. Juliet and loving every second of his new job as he doesn’t have the pressure of having to take care of everything that a head coach has to.
“I love everything about coaching at Mt. Juliet, the staff is a very good and everyone of them are Christian men and coach (Trey) Perry is great to work for because he lets you do your job and coach and I feel no stress and feel better then I have in years,” Parks said.
Parks isn’t the only former head coach that is enjoying just coaching and not having to deal with all the headache that a head coach has to put up with which ranges from everything football field such as offense, defense and special teams issues to getting buses for road games and getting the field mowed and painted.
“There is something to be said for not having to do all the tasks and have all the responsibilities that the Head Coach has,” new Lake County defensive coordinator Kevin Goltra said. From my perspective, I’m fortunate enough to be working for a Head Coach that has given me full reigns of the defense which gives me a sense of worth that you may lose from the head coaching position to an assistant position.”
“I’m really enjoying it. Of course it makes it a lot better working for a great guy like Coach Stewart,” new Briarcrest Offensive Coordinator Robby Donaldson said. “I feel like I get to do a lot more coaching and teaching since I don’t have to worry about everything you do as a head coach. My mind is a lot more free to focus in on the offense, since there is not all those distractions you have running through your mind as the head coach.”
“I would love to be head coach again one day if that is what the Lord wants, but I’m going to enjoy being an assistant while I’m doing it.”
Before coming to Briarcrest to coordinate the Saint offense, Donaldson was the head football coach at First Assembly Christian School which is a small Division II-A school in Cordova.
Carey Craig has been a head coach previously at Ripley, Humboldt and Jackson South side but this season will find himself patrolling the sidelines as an assistant coach at Dyersburg high school after years of being a head coach.
“I’m really enjoying coaching at Dyersburg, less responsibility and headaches,” Craig said. “First of all, Coach Stowe is great to work for and everything here is first class. I don’t see myself wanting to head coach again. But things change and I have learned to never say never but my wife will probably kill me, if I take another head job.”
In all 27 head coaches in 2014 are position coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and are relatively stress free going into the 2015 season, below is a list of all 27 coaches and where they are coaching.
Coach New School Old School
Johnny Allen Christian Brothers DC FACS
Daniel Bechman Grace Christian Academy Franklin DC Grace Christian Academy Franklin
Wiley Brackett Cherokee Middle Oliver Springs
Taylor Burks Oakland AC Hillwood
Carey Craig Dyersburg AC Ripley
Mike David Brighton OC St. Benedict
John Denton Marshall Co. AC Cornersville
Robby Donaldson Briarcrest OC FACS
Jason Driggers Peabody DC Jackson Southside
Josh Fronabarger Crockett Co. OC West Carroll
Kevin Goltra Lake County DC Obion Co.
Jerome Griffin Ridgeway AC Hamilton
Ernie Jackson Obion Co. OC Haywood Co.
Earl Lester Southwind AC Kingsbury
Bart Littrell Collinwood DC Collinwood
Sean Loftis Gallatin AC Jackson Co.
Ted McCaslin Liberty DC Cumberland Co.
Tim Moore LaVergne AC South Pittsburg
Craig Moser Rhea County AC Sweetwater
Jeremy Orsagh Green Oaks (LA) OC Kirby
Jonathan Parks Mt. Juliet AC Cane Ridge
Brad Peden Stewarts Creek AC Antioch
Jay Pierce Blackman Middle East Robertson
Scott Vogel St. George’s AC CBHS
Tyler Williams Seymour AC Sycamore
Mike Woodward N. Overton OC Brentwood
Attractive Doubleheaders Scheduled For Week 1
Middle Tennessee State University, Whitehaven high school and Burke Toney Stadium will host some very good football on Saturday to get the prep football season off to a flying start.
Rutherford County powers Blackman and Oakland will take on Alabama powerhouses Clay Chalkville and Hoover at MTSU as Blackman will play Clay Chalkville at 4 pm while Oakland will tangle with Hoover at 7 pm in the augural Venture Express Middle Tennessee Classic.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us but I think it’s a great way to open the season,” first year Oakland coach Kevin Creasy said. “I think it will also be fun for the kids to not represent Oakland high school but Rutherford county and Middle Tennessee as well against the very best teams from Alabama.”
Blackman head coach David Watson agrees with his Rutherford County coaching counter part.
“I think its exciting for the community to be involved in such a big event. Hosting two of the premier teams from Alabama, both coming off of State Championship wins, is a unique deal and to top it all off in a great venue like Middle Tennessee State University is fun,” Watson said. It should be a great night for football in Middle Tennessee and a chance for people to see some great players from all four schools.”
According to the USA Today’s South regional rankings Top 25, all four schools are ranked as Hoover (No. 8), Clay Chalkville (No. 9), Oakland (No. 14) and Blackman is No. 23.
Oakland coming off a 6A semifinal playoff berth and Blackman is coming off making the 6A quarterfinals should both be underdogs as Clay Chalkville is coming off an undefeated season and is the defending 6A state champion and nationally ranked in several national polls and has Alabama’s longest winning streak at 15.
Hoover on the other hand is the 11-time state champion as the Buccaneers are the defending 7A state champion and have won three consecutive state titles and four under coach Josh Niblett since he took over in 2008.
The Buccaneers are coming off a 13-2 record as they won the inaugural 7A state title and Hoover is 96-8 in Niblett’s seven years at the helm.
Over at Whitehaven, the Tigers will be playing host to a triple header for the ninth consecutive year on Saturday as Hamilton will play Hillcrest at 3 pm to get the triple header started then Southwind will play Westwood at 5:30 and Whitehaven will play Mitchell in the finale at 8.
“We also have great games and the communities and fans seem to really enjoy the games,” Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry said. “It’s a great way to get the season underway.”
Morristown East and Morristown West who both call Burke Toney Stadium home will host a doubleheader on Saturday as the Hurricanes will play Knoxville Catholic led by college commitments Cade Mays (Tennessee) and Amari Rodgers (USC) at 4:30 while Morristown West locks horns with three time defending 4A state champion Fulton who has the state’s longest winning streak at 36.
And although it’s not in state, defending 3A champion CPA and Division II-AA McCallie are headed to Georgia to participate in the Georgia-Tennessee Border Wars as CPA will play 6A school Peachtree Ridge at 5 pm (EST) and the Blue Tornado will play Parkview in the nightcap at 8.
TV Schedules Announced For Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville
The High school football television schedules have been released for Knoxville TV station WVLT-8 Rivalry Thursday, Chattanooga’s Fox 61 High School Rivalries and Nashville’s My TV 30 Friday Night Lights and the full schedule is below.
WVLT Rivalry Thursday
Date Participating Teams
August 20 Knoxville West at Hardin Valley
August 27 Sevier Co. at Knox. West
August 29 Fulton at Maryville
September 3 Northview Academy at Pigeon Forge
September 10 Campbell County at Grace Christian Academy
September 17 Carter at Knox. Central
September 24 Oak Ridge at Sevier Co.
October 1 Dobyns Bennett at Maryville
October 8 Clinton at CAK
October 15 TBA
October 22 Farragut at South Doyle
October 29 TBA
CW Chattanooga WFLI-53 High School Rivalries
August 22 NW Whitfield (GA) at Ringgold (GA)
August 28 Walker Valley at Hixson
September 4 Signal Mountain at East Ridge
September 11 South Pittsburg at Marion County
September 18 Rhea County at Ooltewah
September 25 Chattanooga Central at Red Bank
October 2 McCallie at Baylor
October 9 Rome (GA) at Dalton (GA)
October 16 Notre Dame at Signal Mountain
October 23 South Pittsburg at Boyd Buchanan
My TV 30 Friday Night Lights
August 21 Smyrna at LaVergne
August 28 Kenwood at Clarksville
September 3 Page at Spring Hill
September 11 Ravenwood at Centennial
September 18 Hendersonville at Hillsboro
September 25 Wilson Central at Mt. Juliet
October 2 Brentwood Academy at Ensworth
October 9 Station Camp at Beech
October 16 Blackman at Siegel
October 23 Shelbyville at Columbia
October 30 TBA
Winning and Losing Streaks
Going into the 2015 season teams are on a winning streak but a ton of others are coming into the season with at a one game losing streak and below is a list of the top winning and losing streaks in the state going into Week one.
School Winning Streak
Union City 27
Knoxville West 14
Knoxville Webb 4
School Losing Streak
Memphis Northside 47
Whites Creek 25
Sale Creek 20
Cheatham Co. 12
Fayette Academy 11
Polk County 11
Unicoi County 11
Cumberland Co. 10
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