Morristown football preview-August 22
Trojans open with West Greene in KO Classic
It’s been 295 days since the Morristown West football team took a snap in a meaningful game, and a lot has gone on in that time for the Trojans program.
In that 295-day span, West did not get to participate in the TSSAA playoffs for the first time since 1996. There was staff turnover as well and reshuffling among the remaining coaches.
But the one constant in those 295 days has been persistence. The Trojans have worked hard each of those days, looking to atone for a 4-6 record a season ago.
Those 295 days have now dwindled to less than 24 hours, and West is out to prove last season was an aberration. The dawn of a new season has arrived, and the Trojans and seventh-year coach Lamar Brown are anxious to get started.
The 2014 campaign begins Saturday afternoon with a date against West Greene in the sixth annual Citizen Tribune Kickoff Classic at Burke-Toney Stadium. West will open the annual doubleheader against Joe Case’s Buffaloes, and Brown said his team has put together their finest week of preparation during game week.
“We’ve had our best week of practice up to this point,” Brown said. “Our kids have really focused and listened to every detail we have put in front of them. This group is ready to go play a football game.”
The Trojans will have plenty of fresh faces take the field in hopes of giving Brown his fifth straight season-opening win, and the head coach said he is excited to see how his young team responds when the games finally count.
“The guys are excited,” Brown said. “You can tell by the look in their eyes and their attention to detail this week that they are ready to go. The flip side of that is we have a young football team in front of a large crowd, just like the jamboree. We hadn’t had a bad snap all fall, but our first snap at the jamboree was off target. I think we learned from that experience and the kids are ready to play.”
Brown attributed the focused attitude of his team this week to the fact the players are aware of how big the game on Saturday is towards building momentum for the season, especially after a sub-.500 season last year.
“The kids know this time the scoreboard will be on and it’s going to count,” Brown said. “I think that’s had a lot to do with our focus. We’ve had really high, up-tempo practices all week, and we’ve had a lot of energy. I’m hopeful that will carry over into Saturday afternoon.”
With projected highs near 90 in the forecast for Saturday, the depth and conditioning of the Trojans could be a big factor over the smaller in numbers Buffaloes squad.
“It helps us, but it really evens out because it helps West Greene also,” Brown said. “We both know what the other is going to do. I know Joe Case will have his team really prepared to go to work on Saturday. Joe will have the team prepared, and I know they will be well-coached. They will play really hard. Joe has expressed to me how excited his kids are to play in this environment again, and I expect them to play well.”
If the forecast holds true, Brown said it plays to his team’s advantage because they have been preparing for the hot Friday nights at the beginning of the season all summer long.
“We’ve prepared for this kind of scenario all summer,” Brown said. “Our last day of summer conditioning, our kids ran 28 100-yard sprints, and we have been outside in what little bit of heat we’ve had this summer for practice. It’s been warm this week, but our kids have not been affected at all by any kind of heat we have been in.
“I feel like the hotter it is Saturday, the more it will favor us with the numbers we have and the physical conditioning we have put in.”
Brown said his team has built a quiet confidence heading into the opener, and he expects his team to play at a high level against West Greene.
“I expect our team to be prepared and to play with a lot of confidence,” Brown said. “They have worked really hard, and I expect us to perform at a high level. It’s something we have talked about all week. We get one chance a week to show everybody how much we have prepared, and the kids have taken that to heart.”
The Trojans and Buffaloes will meet for the first time Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the Kickoff Classic. Kickoff from Burke-Toney Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m.
-By Matt Daniels, Tribune Sports Editor
East set for opener vs. Alcoa in KO Classic
Last season the Morristown East Hurricanes put together one of the most successful seasons in school history. It all started with a big win in the first game of the season and the ‘Canes are hoping to duplicate that success in 2014 but the opening game presents more of a challenge than the one 12 months ago.
The Hurricanes will face what will probably be their biggest challenge of the season right off the bat as they host Alcoa in the second game of the sixth annual Citizen Tribune Kickoff Classic at Burke-Toney Stadium Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
Anyone who knows anything about high school football in Tennessee knows the tradition of excellence that surrounds the Tornadoes program. But the ‘Canes are ready to face the challenge according to their first year head coach Dewayne Wells.
“We are excited about starting the new season and our players realize the challenge that lies before us in playing a team with the tradition of Alcoa. We are looking forward to playing Saturday night and our kids are excited to see where they stand,” Well stated.
The Hurricanes started the season with a 52-7 win over West Greene in the Kickoff Classic last year and that was a good springboard to a 10-2 overall record and 6-1 showing in the IMAC.
East will have an advantage in the fact the Tornadoes will have already played a game by the time Saturday night rolls around. Alcoa defeated Smith County 52-13 Thursday night to begin a nine-day tilt where they will play three games, which includes road games at East and the traditional showdown at cross-county rival Maryville.
Smith County, East and Maryville all made the playoffs last season with the Rebels bringing yet another state title back to Blount County to go along with the one Alcoa won.
Wells said that whether or not the Tornadoes are winded as they roll into Morristown Saturday night has a lot to do with how things go Thursday.
“Playing two games in three nights as far as managing the game for them depends on how tight of a game they play on Thursday night. If Alcoa is able to jump out to a lead against Smith County, they will put their younger kids in to save the starters. They have a lot of depth and that will help them during these two games.”
Wells said the play of the offensive line showed marked improvement as pre-season drills progressed and that is doubly important as the ‘Canes are going to have a new quarterback under center as the 2014 campaign begins.
“The offensive line started to get better as the preseason went along. The week before the jamboree, you could really see an improvement in our offensive line,” Wells stated. “Devon Young continues to progress and will get better as he grows as a quarterback. Devon has never had the spotlight on him like he does right now. It has been a transition for him as he has gone from a position where there are three or four players to a position where there is only one. He handles the ball every snap so he has grown in that role and will continue to as time goes along.”
Wells said one area of concern as the season starts may be with the health of some of his players in certain positions. “Hopefully our defensive line will remain consistent during the course of the year. We have had some injuries and are missing people on both sides of the ball.”
East is ready to capitalize on the success they enjoyed last year with another run at the postseason in 2014. Wells said he believes his team’s athleticism will be a major factor in how well they do this year.
“The thing about our football team is we have good speed but we don’t have size on the defensive side of the ball and that is a concern when you are playing a team like Alcoa who lines up two tight ends and come right at you. But we feel like we have athletic people on the defensive side of the ball and we feel like we have athletic kids who can play in space on offense. We just have to maximize that,” Wells said.
-By Marlin Curnutt, Tribune Correspondent