‘Canes progress under Slover on display at jamboree

Morristown East running back Ethan Ledford, left, attempts to get past Jefferson County’s Devin Jackson (88) during Friday’s IMAC jamboree at Burke-Toney Stadium.

For a program that has just six wins in the last two seasons, Morristown East sure doesn’t carry itself like a team needing to rebound.

The Hurricanes have a certain swagger these days, and first-year head coach Caleb Slover has changed the culture inside the program in the four short months he has been with his new team.

Now instead of a team going into a work week preparing for a game wondering what will happen on Friday nights, East is in the mode of the hunters instead to the hunted. They will enter each week this season, and every week under Slover, expecting to win.

That first week is now. It’s less than a week until the 2019 season begins, and the ‘Canes will look across the field at Burke-Toney Stadium on Friday night and see a familiar foe, one they have had limited success against in the past 20 years, one filled with friends and maybe even some family on the other side.

As Slover put it, it’s West week. Morristown West that is. And the coach is excited to see his team perform in the 11th annual Citizen Tribune Kickoff Classic presented by East Tennessee OB/GYN and Dr. Frank Ellis and the 48th City Championship game. After a long offseason of work and facing quality competition in scrimmages, East is finally ready to see the Friday night lights.

“I’m excited about where we’re at,” Slover said. “Obviously tonight, we still made a bunch of mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot, but we moved the ball really well and had a chance to score a couple of touchdowns. We had some chances, and I was extremely proud of how we changed it up and got physical in the run game. We were able to run the ball effectively tonight, which opens up the passing game.

“Defensively, we came in and said we were going to run one defense and we did. We held a good team to seven points. They got inside the red zone a couple of times, but we bowed our backs and got a few stops. I thought we played well across the board and I’m excited about that, but we have a long way to go before Friday night.”

East put together two drives against Jefferson County in the annual IMAC jamboree on Friday, but the biggest enemy for the ‘Canes on the night was the yellow flag from the officials. One penalty stalled a promising drive, while another, well behind the play, negated a 90-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Braxton Dalton.

Slover entered the jamboree wanting to not show much of his hand offensively, and behind a physical offensive line, it was the East running game that turned some heads, especially with freshman Ethan Ledford carrying most of the load.

Now just five days from facing West in his first City Championship game, Slover is excited to experience it while letting his team showcase the hard work they have put in to prepare.

“It’s a big game, and I’m excited about the opportunity and our kids are excited also,” Slover said. “I think everyone saw that we have a little bit of a different attitude right now. We have a little more pep in our step, our kids are rejuvenated, our coaches are rejuvenated. It just feels like a really energetic program. We’re all excited and buying in. We know the first game is a big one, but we have to look at it like any other game, except it’s the first one.

“We didn’t come over here to go 2-8 and 4-6. That’s not our goal. The goal was to get East back to playing football the way it was used to playing football and bringing it back. It’s the 50th anniversary of the state championship team. We have a lot of chips on our shoulders. We have a lot of reasons to rebound and play hard and physical and show people we are a better football team.”