Trojans close first half at No. 5 Sevier County
Adversity is defined as a state, condition or instance of serious or continued difficulty. That’s what the Morristown West Trojans have faced the past three weeks in their tough opening stretch of the season.
That stretch gets no easier this week when the Trojans (1-3, 0-1 Inter Mountain Conference) travel to Sevierville to take on the fifth ranked team in Class 6A, undefeated Sevier County.
The Smoky Bears (3-0, 1-0 IMAC) are off to a fast start with wins over Bearden, Morristown East and Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett, with the last two being on the road. Now they return home to a place they have put more than 40 points on the board in each of their last two meetings with West.
Typically, Sevier County is not the team to face when trying to break a three-game losing streak, but Trojans coach Lamar Brown sees a silver lining in the play of his team.
Most of the offensive problems from a week ago were due to penalties and breakdowns that can be fixed, and this week, West faces a defense that has been vulnerable against the run so far this season.
“Adversity is when bad things happen, and a lot of that we are bringing on ourselves right now,” Brown said. “If we can get those things fixed, we feel like we will be OK. Science Hill didn’t do a whole lot to stop us (last week) offensively; we just stopped ourselves with penalties and a couple missed assignments.
“Early on, we were playing better on defense, but when we gave them an interception on offense, the defense kind of took a step back. When you face adversity, the only thing to do is get back up and get to work, and this team has done that.”
Brown said fixing the problems comes down to discipline and doing the right things in practice and on the game field.
“We worked hard to get things fixed, but one of the biggest problems right now is discipline,” Brown said. “We’ve worked on that and hopefully will make strides this week. We have to hold the kids accountable every second in practice, and I feel like we have.
“Obviously, some things haven’t worked. The biggest thing is we have to communicate with the players and they with us, and we worked on that Monday in practice and feel like we have that fixed.”
The Smoky Bears are a pass-first offense led by senior Luke Manning, who has thrown for 780 yards in three games this season. He has two capable running backs in Kody Paul and Dorian Banks, and several receivers to throw to. They could be short handed on the perimeter however, as leading receiver Jacob Whaley is injured and sat out last week against Dobyns-Bennett.
“It’s a typical Sevier County team with a quarterback that can throw it all over the place,” Brown said. “The big difference is they have a speedy guy at tailback that you really have to account for. Their wide receivers make plays, and defensively they are really aggressive and chase the football and played hard.”
The biggest difference in this year’s Sevier County team as opposed to the last couple seasons is their ability to line up in the I-formation and run the ball down the field. The Smoky Bears will be in multiple formations throughout the game.
“They have run some things out of the I-formation in every game they have played, and they can be very multiple,” Brown said. “It all starts with Manning and goes from there.”
Brown said the Trojans will have to play with intensity and be aggressive on defense in order to have a chance to win Friday night.
“We have to get to the point where we make plays on defense when we have the chance, but we aren’t there yet,” Brown said. “We’re working hard to get there, and we have to be really aggressive in this game.
“I think we will come ready to play. This team has taken a look in the mirror this week, and this program isn’t used to being 1-3. The last time we were 1-3, we played for a state championship, so maybe the hard work will pay off this time around.”
West owns an 11-6 edge in the all-time series between the two schools on the gridiron, but Sevier County has won the last five meetings, including last year’s 48-27 win in Sevierville. Kickoff at Lon Burchfield Stadium Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m.
- By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor