Spencer Riley had one goal in Friday night’s jamboree at Burke-Toney Stadium, to get through it healthy. In that, he succeeded, but the Jefferson County High School football team also managed to look pretty good, and deep, in the process.
“We were just trying to make it through it healthy,” Riley said. “We didn’t play our starters but a series. Some of them didn’t play but three plays. It was a productive night for us. We wanted to come out here and get lined up and do the pregame stuff.”
It’s year four of Riley’s tenure with the Patriots and the team finally reflects its head coach, the former national champion offensive linemen for the University of Tennessee.
“This is the year you should get over the hump,” Riley said. “They’ve put in the time in the weight room. They don’t look like the average student anymore. They look like football players. We’re a physical group and they’re getting after it. They had a great camp and now we’re looking forward to game prep.”
Jeff County looked the part Friday night, taking their first offensive series to the house on a short pass from Tanner Atkins that running back Kadarrius Wright hauled in and sprinted the last 20 yards to the paint.
Atkins has been a bright spot for the Pats in their early work.
“I thought he (Atkins) could be special,” Riley said. “He had a great offseason. He’s thrown the ball really well this camp. He’s done some really good things for us.”
“He can execute our offense and he’s a guy we can count on to win football games.”
But for Jefferson County, it all starts up front with the offensive line. As a former Patriot himself, Riley knew what it would take to build the team he wanted and where he wanted it to start, in the trenches. Now, after four years of work and a veteran group, all with starting experience up front, it’s time to show Region 1-6A what they can do.
“We knew our offensive line should be pretty good and they’re doing what we want them to do,” Riley said. “The expectations of being an offensive lineman at Jefferson County is not like anywhere else in Tennessee. We’re looking for the most physical bunch we can put on the field at any given time. We’ve come a million miles.
“We’re bigger, faster and stronger and that’s why our running game is so much better. We’ve got a bunch of guys who’ve played a ton of football up front. All of them have started at least eight ballgames.”
With that push up front, the Patriots will use a platoon of talented backs. Wright got some work Friday night, along with Logan Brewer, but four running backs should platoon for Jefferson County, as they all play linebacker on defense as well.
“We’re going to play five running backs. They all play offense and defense, so it’s running back by committee. All of them are physical backs and that’s what we want to be known as.”
It will all be on display for the fans at Jefferson County to see in person on a brand new field.
The Patriots open the season with three consecutive home games against their biggest, historical rivals – Sevier County, Morristown East and Morristown West.