Katari Donald, Rodney Ellison and Ty Wise are three first year head football coaches in three different parts of the state but going into the last week of the regular season, they had the same goal in mind. Win the last game of the season to stop a long losing streak and grab momentum for next season.
Donald’s Kingsbury team came into their week 11 contest against Oakhaven with the state’s longest losing streak which stood at 28 games. Ellison’s Powell Panthers had suffered 16 straight defeats heading into their game with fellow winless team South Doyle. Signal Mountain under the direction of Ty Wise had a 10 game losing streak in their game against Howard.
But all three schools picked up wins and with it all three coaches have a positive note to end the season on and that positive energy goes into the off season workouts where the players will want to get better for the upcoming season.
•Kingsbury 18, Oakhaven 12- In the Falcons win over Oakham the running back duo of sophomore John Ndayambaje and junior Jermaine Robinson combined for 140 yards and scored one touchdown each while senior defensive back Ellya Hisen returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown as well.
“It marks a new beginning for Kingsbury,” Donald said. “Everything starts from that win and a restructuring of the mentality at Kingsbury and my main focus is establishing Kingsbury as a top football program in Tennessee with productive student-athletes.”
•Powell 23, South Doyle 17- Powell running back Jamil Birden was definitely the Panther bell cow as he rushed for 203 yards and on 29 tough carries and scored three touchdowns including the game winner. Powell (2-8) defeated Lenoir City x-axis in the CareAfter Community Service game last night t at Grace Christian Academy and enter the 2016 season with a two game winning streak.
•Signal Mountain 28, Howard 13- First year Eagle coach Ty Wise has had to deal with injuries, lack of depth and a thin overall roster but the two touchdown win over Howard is a way to end the season. The win sets the tone for Signal Mountain next season.
So can a program use a win in the last regular season game and use it to get better and spring board them into a winning season the next season? The answer to that question is definitely yes and this year’s great example of that is East Ridge.
In 2014, the Pioneers led by head coach Tracy Malone were ravaged by injuries and missed the Class 4A playoffs as they finished 3-7. But East Ridge went out and shut out rival Howard 42-0 to end the year on a positive note heading into the offseason.
All the Pioneers have done this season is make history by having the first undefeated regular season in school history and are currently on an 11 game winning streak which is the third best current winning streak in the state behind Maryville (40) and Union City (38).
More impressive about the East Ridge winning streak is the fact, they have overcome the distraction of having their home stadium condemned and have to had to move their locker room and coaches offices.
“I don’t know if it really carries over into this year but it was good to finish on a high note last year,” Malone said. “It gave the young kids something to feel good about when we got back into the weight room and started the off season program, plus beating a rival like Howard was a big plus as well.”
East Ridge wasn’t the only program to make the playoffs in 2015 after winning their last game of the regular season in 2014 and missing the playoffs last year, that list includes 10 other programs.
The Red Devils improved four games going from 4-6 in 2014 to an 8-2 record this season as running back Mikey Chennault (1,038 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) has been the offensive star. Jo Byrns is back in the 1A playoffs after a years absence and the Red Devils are making the playoffs for the 15th time under long time coach Tom Adkins.
After missing the previous two seasons, the Purple Tigers have bounced back and won eight games this season after winning five games last year. Watertown’s offense is led by quarterback Seth Price who has passed for 2,025 yards and 26 touchdowns while Luke Turner leads the way on defense as he has 118 tackles.
The Spartan football program made a coaching change as former Pearl Cohn head coach Maurice Fitzgerald was tabbed as the new coach at Stratford. Quarterback Josh Trueheart has taken ownership of the offense as the Spartans are 7-3 and in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
The War Eagles are under the leadership of Al Pellegrino and have improved four games from 2-8 in 2014 to winning six games this season.
The Chargers had a rebuilding year last season winning only two games and are three years removed from playing in the 4A state title game where they got beat by Fulton in 2012. This season they have improved by five games in the win column as they finished the regular season 8-2.
The second year magic of head coach Jerry Cooper, a longtime coach from Ohio has worked in 2015. The Eagles improved greatly from 2-8 to 7-3 this year as Jeremy Bryant has scored 12 touchdowns and rushed for 891 yards while Reid Taylor leads the defense with 77 stops on the year.
The Indian offense is led by senior quarterback Peyton Delvendahl who has passed for 1,053 yards and rushed for 400 more yards. Senior free safety Hunter Harris leads the Montgomery Central defense as he has tallied 83 tackles and intercepted two passes on the year.
The Falcons barely missed the playoffs last season as they went 4-6 but have improved to 7-3 this year. Junior running back August Hill has been a key player on offense rushing for 1,184 yards and 15 touchdowns while Eli Eason has passed for 1,385 yards.
The Jaguars are back in the playoffs under first year coach Rahnmann Slocum and very dangerous as a four seed as they won eight games this season. Senior running back Trent Brewer has rushed for 1,356 yards and scored 13 touchdowns for Southwind.
25 teams didn’t make the playoffs but will enter the 2016 regular season on a winning streak of at least one game, David Crockett who is serving a year playoff ban for fighting last season leads the way with three consecutive wins to end the year. Five other programs head into the 2016 season with two game winning streaks while 18 teams have a one game winning streak.
David Crockett (finished 6-4 and go into 2016 with a three game winning streak but they have a chance for a four game winning streak. The Pioneers will play McMinn County (4-6) Saturday in the Care After game at Grace Christian Academy.
The following six programs in Dickson County (4-6), East Robertson (2-8), Gordonsville (3-7), McEwen (3-7), Midway (5-5) and Powell (2-8) have two game winning streaks to build on in 2016. Teams with one game winning streaks are Chuckey Doak (5-5), Clay County (2-8), Cornersville (3-7), Karns (3-7), Kingsbury (1-9), Lake County (5-5), Middleton (3-7), Mitchell (6-4), North Greene (3-7), Northwest (5-5), Oliver Springs (2-8), Sale Creek (2-8), Signal Mountain (1-9), Spring Hill (3-7), Sullivan South (5-5), Summit (4-6) and Wooddale (2-8).
Playoffs For First Time In a While
16 Teams made the 2015 playoffs for the first time in at least five years while five teams have made history by making the playoffs for the first time in the programs history. Here’s a look all 23 teams.
Hancock County (5-5, Never Qualified)- The season that the Indian program has had in 2015 is remarkable for a number of reasons. Hancock County has never won more than two games in any given season and never made the playoffs before this season. Head coach Phil Blevins lost his son Dakota in September as he died in a car accident but they have bounced back as Zack Seal has led Hancock County into the playoffs for the first time.
KIPP Academy (8-2, Never Qualified)- Second year head coach Tim Thompson is a winner as he won a state title at Melrose but he is also a lightning rod for controversy. Thompson has turned around the young program with the help of junior quarterback Dewayne Betts (1,503 passing yards, 24 touchdowns) while linebacker Eric Thomas leads the defense with 116 tackles.
Lausanne (7-3, Never Qualified)- The Lynx is a new program under the leadership of former Christian Brothers coach Kevin Locastro and he is making a difference. Junior quarterback Mario Nolan Dillard has passed for 1,518 yards and 16 touchdowns while Chris Witherspoon has scored 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Middle College (6-3, Never Qualified)- The Bulldog program is in its infancy as the 2015 season is their first varsity season and new coach Kendrick Wade has done a great job of making them competitive immediately. Running back Eric Barton (14 touchdowns) and quarterback Will Durrah (11 passing touchdowns) lead the offense.
The Kings Academy (5-5, Never Qualified)- Head coach Matt Lowe has been patient and it has paid off with the Lions first playoff appearance. Linebacker Chandler Viscardis (109 tackles) and Cole Lusby (116 tackles) lead the way while junior running back Phillip Sellers (1,080 rushing yards, 14 TDs) is the leader on offense.
Memphis Northside (3-7, 1991)- The Cougars are making their first playoff appearance since 1991 and coach Antwone Moore has turned around Northside’s fortunes. Quarterback Curtis Moore has passed for 867 yards and nine touchdowns while junior Lorenzo Ward has nine rushing touchdowns.
Heritage (3-7, 1999)- The Mountaineers have took advantage of dropping down in classification to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Quarterback Dustin Richardson and Colton Wright have been the main weapons on offense.
Cumberland County (5-5, 2002)- The Jets made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade under new head coach Ken Johnson. Linebacker Kobe Cox is the Jet to watch as he has a team high 136 tackles.
Hillwood (5-5, 2004)- The Hilltoppers under first year head coach Kurt Page are back in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Jamal Kirklen is the best weapon for the Hillwood offense.
Knoxville Halls (6-4, 2007)- J.D. Overton has done a masterful job at Halls in his second year as the Red Devils are back in the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Quarterback Andrew Davis and running back Cooper Cook has been the offensive stars all year.
Lebanon (3-7, 2007)- Third year head coach Sam Harp, a legend in Kentucky with over 300 career wins finally has seen improvement in Lebanon. Senior athlete Jarren Stewart is the best player for the Blue Devils this season.
William Blount (2-8, 2007)- The Governors under first year coach Phillip Shadowens are in the playoffs for the first time in nine years and excitement is prevalent at the Maryville. Junior quarterback Austin Myrick has adapted well to Shadowens offense and is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands.
Douglass (4-6, 2010)- The Red Devils are in the playoffs for the first time in five years as coach Preston Harris has Douglass playing well. Monterius Freeman (1,183 total yards, 17 touchdowns) and Jerico Lewis (13 touchdowns) lead the way on offense.
Austin East (8-2, 2011)- Old school Road runner football is back under AE alumnus Jeff Phillips as the Road runners is a dangerous 2A team with a eight win season. Junior quarterback Darius Harper is a very talented quarterback who can change games with his feet or his arm.
Coffee County (3-7, 2011)- The Red Raiders under second year coach Ryan Sulkowski have turned the corner and the future looks bright. Class of 2018 quarterback Alontae Taylor, a Vanderbilt commitment has 2,000 yards of total offense this year.
Playoffs in Year One
34 head football coaches got their new team into the playoffs in their first year at the school. The list is below.
*David Barker, Trousdale County
Brent Kilpatrick/Greg Ryan, Greenback
Vic Grider, South Pittsburg
*Kendrick Wade, Middle College
*Jason Jarrett, Happy Valley
*L.P. Jones, Westwood
*Josh Owensby, Bledsoe County
*Jerrell Stearns, Fairley
*Terrence Turner, Oakhaven
*Adam Caine, Sequatchie County
Maurice Fitzgerald, Stratford
Chester Ford, Melrose
*Eric Hatley, Cheatham County
*Al Pellegrino, Sycamore
*Tyler Turner, Liberty
*^Scott Blair, Giles County
Steve Hookfin, Haywood County
*Ken Johnson, Cumberland County
*James Counce Jr., Henry County
Ron Crawford, Brentwood
Scott Cummings, Cleveland
Jeff Harig, Knoxville West
Rahmann Slocum, Southwind
Eddie Woods, Cane Ridge
Kevin Creasy, Oakland
Calvin Hall, Antioch
Tom Moore, Warren County
Phillip Shadowens, William Blount
*Chris Smith, Germantown
*Adam Sykes, Arlington
*Alan Durham, ECS
Justin Geisinger, JPII
Thomas McDaniel, Christian Brothers
Scott Samsel, St. Benedict
MOST PLAYOFF GAMES
2. Brentwood Academy-122
5. Trousdale County-102
6. South Pittsburg-95
7. Oak Ridge-93
10. White House- 85
MOST PLAYOFF WINS
2. Brentwood Academy-93
5. Trousdale County-77
6. South Pittsburg-68
8. Oak Ridge- 64
9. Goodpasture- 62
10. Lipscomb Academy-56
11. White House- 53
13. Gallatin- 51
13. Marion County- 51
15. Fulton- 50
The Top 22 Active streaks are below:
LONGEST PLAYOFF STREAKS
Teams that have the most consecutive playoff appearances.
28-Trousdale Co. (1988)
24-Donelson Chrisian Academy (1992)
24-Lewis Co. (1992)
18-Brentwood Academy (1998)
18-Boyd Buchanan (1998)
16- Friendship Christian (2000)
16- MUS (2000)
15- Cookeville (2001)
15-Christian Brothers (2001)
15-South Pittsburg (2001)
15-Wayne County (2001)
13- Alcoa (2003)
13- Camden Central (2003)
13- Coalfield (2003)
13- Hampton (2003)
13- White Station (2003)
12- CAK (2004)
12- Henry County (2004)
11- Giles County (2005)
10- Fairview (2006)
Here’s an updated look at the longest winning streaks in the state.
Union City- 38
East Ridge- 11
Northpoint Christian- 10
Stone Memorial- 10
Boyd Buchanan- 10
Wayne County- 10
Columbia Academy- 9
Memphis East- 9
Here’s an updated look at the longest losing streaks in the state.
Polk County- 21
Cumberland Gap- 18
Union County- 16
Chattanooga Central- 13
Cannon County- 12
West Creek- 11
Jackson Central Merry- 11
MLK Prep- 11
South Doyle- 11
Booker T. Washington- 11
Lookout Valley- 10
Perry County- 10
Sullivan Central- 10
Concord Christian- 9
Chase Blevins, RB, South Pittsburg- Rushed for 230 yards and scored four touchdowns on just eight carries (28.7 average) in the Pirates 49-13 win over Chattanooga Grace.
Ty Chandler, RB, MBA- Ran for 221 yards and scored twice in a 23-21 win over Ensworth.
Jordan Mason, RB, Gallatin- Rushed for 258 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 40-34 loss to Cane Ridge.
D.J. Thorpe, QB, Cane Ridge- Passed for 374 yards on 23 of 32 passing with three total touchdowns in a 40-34 win over Gallatin.
Adrian Branch, RB, Kenwood- Rushed for 333 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 26-24 win over Lipscomb Academy.
Andrew Bunch, QB, Independence- Passed for 415 yards and had seven total touchdowns in a 56-14 win over LaVergne.
Jordan Tucker, RB, Giles County- Rushed for 287 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Tullahoma.
Josh Trueheart, QB, Stratford- Passed for 333 yards on just 12 completions and scored four touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Greenbrier.
Tyler Thackerson, QB, Clinton- Passed for 538 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-39 loss to Farragut.
J’Quan Thomas, WR, Clinton- Caught 18 passes for 271 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 45-39 loss to Clinton.
Tanner Thomas, RB, Farragut- Ran for 291 yards and scored twice in a 45-39 win over Clinton.
Noah Whaley, RB, Pigeon Forge- Ran for 213 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 50-13 win over Claiborne.
Kolten Gibson, QB, Walker Valley- Accounted for 428 total yards (319 passing, 109 rushing with five total touchdowns) in a 45-44 2 overtime loss to Ooltewah.
BY THE NUMBERS
11- Number of undefeated teams left heading into the playoffs.
20- Number of teams that finished the regular season winless.
27-25-1- Series Record between Christian Brothers and MUS with MUS leading.
43- Number of points scored in the third quarter alone in Nashville Christian’s 43-14 win over Trousdale County.
200- Career coaching wins for Cookeville go head football coach Jimmy Maynord.
629- Total points allowed by Union County over a ten game schedule (62.9 average).
1980- Last year that Cookeville defeated Riverdale before winning 42-21 on Friday, Riverdale leads the series 26-2.
1999- Last season that Houston County won eight games in a regular season.
Email Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at Examine_Stew