The Morristown West Trojans gear up for their last game of the regular season against rival Jefferson County this Friday at Leroy Shannon Field.
Although the contest between the Patriots and the Trojans is not a region game anymore, there is still a lot to play for in a rivalry matchup that goes way back to 1975.
“We know this game will bring a great atmosphere,” West coach Alvin Sanders said. “This is a rivalry series that has a long history. For the past couple of years, us and Jeff County have been in a bit of a rebuilding mode.
“The most important thing about this game is the bragging rights of winning.”
Through the 45 years of battles, West (5-4) leads the series, 24-18, against Jefferson County (5-3). Sanders is 2-1 against the Patriots as West’s head coach.
West is coming off a 28-14 Region 1-5A victory over the Cherokee Chiefs in Week 9 that solidified a spot in the playoffs for the Trojans for the first time since 2016.
The win last week has fueled Sanders’s team moving forward.
“We feel good about who we are as a team,” Sanders said. “We have battled through adversity all season and have responded. I’m extremely proud of these guys. They are ready for any game at this point in the season.”
Jefferson County comes into Friday’s game looking to bounce back from their first loss in four games as the Patriots were defeated by Science Hill, 37-0, last week.
However, this Patriots team has shown they have no problem of bouncing back. Even though they will be without starting quarterback Izaiah Hall, the Trojans have plenty of other challenges ahead of them when the ball is kicked off.
Missing Hall will most likely have Jefferson County lean on its ground attack more than usual. But with running backs Dallas Williamson and Omarian Mills having breakout sophomore seasons, the rushing game has been one of the Patriots’ strengths.
“Jeff County does a great job playing to their strengths,” Sanders said. “They are finding different ways of keeping defenses off-balance. We are going to have to win the one-on-one battles with their backs. Their running backs run extremely hard and I haven’t seen just one guy bring them down yet.”
Wide receivers Collin Young and Kade Parker have been key contributors in opening up the run with what they have been able to do catching passes. Sanders would like to force Jefferson County into a one-dimensional offense to gain an advantage defensively.
The Patriots bring in fast and disciplined defense as well.
“They are an extremely fast group of kids defensively,” Sanders said. “They don’t miss tackles. The linebackers and secondary are a very disciplined group of guys. They won’t make it easy for our offense.”
The key for West on the offensive end is to simply keep the chains moving somehow, some way. It all starts with the offensive line; however, starting center Elijah Livesay will miss this week’s game due to injury.
Through the different faces that have rotated through the offensive line this season, Livesay has been one consistent piece for it. Javier Romero will fill in for Livesay.
“Romero has been a two-year starter on the line now so there is no drop off there,” Sanders said. “It goes back to that ‘plug-and-play’ mentality that we had to go to earlier in the year.”
The next focus Sanders emphasized was to take care of the ball. Over the last two weeks, the Trojans have combined for five interceptions.
“We want to take care of the football and we get first downs we will have a good chance at winning the game on Friday,” Sanders said.
West is focused on finishing a successful season with a win on the road as it looks for a second-straight win heading into the playoffs, as well as a second straight victory over Jefferson County.
The Trojans and Patriots kick off at 7 p.m. at Leroy Shannon Field.