Monday's Prep Football Tour

15 Schools in 14 Hours

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - by B.B. Branton

High school football players and coaches were on the field Monday across Tennessee signaling the official start of the prep gridiron season.

Starting at Notre Dame at 6 a.m. and leaving the Chattanooga Central parking lot after 9 p.m. the fourth annual prep football tour visited 15 schools covering 268 miles in nearly 14 hours with coaches acknowledging team speed as the predominant strength and every coach looking for more depth.

The Chattanooga Jamboree is Aug. 16--17 and the season opener is Thurs. Aug. 22 with Soddy Daisy at Red Bank and all other games on Aug. 23.

 6:07 a.m.  -  NOTRE DAME … 7-AA ... Players and coaches arrived at Hotel Irish (new athletic facility) Sunday night and are up (6 a.m.) when I arrive before the dawns early light ... breakfast follows weight training and then three practices await the players. 

"This is our second year of living on campus for a few days and it seems to work for everyone in the program," said Notre Dame coach Charle Fant who has 14 starters back.

The Irish were 9-3 so Fants' system seems to have work last year as the Irish had their best season since a 13-1 mark in 2005.

94% of the offensive production is back and was produced largely by freshmen and sophomores ...  

Sophomore Alex Darras is the quarterback, but Kareem Orr is the best all-around athlete playing various positions in including QB ... Joe Dossett (6-3, 285) as district defensive player of the year and Keeley Green led the team in tackles.

 Irish are in the weight room before the dawn's early lights and then on the field at 9 a.m.

 second year coach Charlie Fant looks for ways to improve on a great first season as the Irish  were 9-3 and won a playoff game.

Thurs Aug 9 Scrimmage:  Green and Gold game on campus at 6:30 p.m.

Season Opener: Aug. 23 at Knox. Catholic 

Home Opener: Aug. 30, East Ridge

Murphy Fair Pick: 1st in 7-AA 

First Light - 6:30 a.m - CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 7-AA ... The Chargers lead the way with four practices today and then will have three on Wed ... players and coaches have quick breakfast in school cafeteria, classroom meetings and then full speed full gear at 7:30 on the old varsity field which is a couple of hundred yards away from their new stadium which will be ready for the home opener on Aug 30 vs. Lookout Valley

"When I arrived this morning at 5:30, the stadium lights were on as work on the 2,400 seat bleachers continued," said coach Barry Loyal. 

Top players are seniors Austin Mansell (WR) and safety Tucker Youngblood (LB)

The starting quarterback job will go to either Jared Miller or Zach Mercer.

Roster: 51

Season Opener - Aug. 23 at Grace Baptist

Home Opener - Aug. 30, Lookout Valley (lost 24-14 in 2012)

Murphy Fair Pick: 6th in 7-AA

6:55 ...the sun greets me as it rises above White Oak Mountain as I drive north on Corridor J on the way to Sale Creek practice

7:16 a.m. at SALE CREEK ... 6-A ... 30-35 players don the pads for the first time in Sale Creek's first season of football under coach Ron Cox

SC will play four home games at Finley Stadium ...

Top players are Cody Heard (QB), Cody Daniels (Linebacker, running back), Chris Huffman (running back/linebacker), Vince Roddy (fullback/Nose Guard), Dylan Johnson (running back, linebacker)

Season Opener: Aug. 23 at Oakdale

Home Opener: Sept. 6, South Pittsburg (at Finley Stadium)

Homecoming:  Oct. 18, Whitwell (at Finley Stadium) 

Murphy Fair Pick: 5th in 6-A

8:05 a.m - BAYLOR ... D-II AA ... when I arrived a few minutes after 8, workers were applying a fresh coat of red paint to the locker rooms adjacent to Heywood Stadium ... the Coach Phil Massey starts his eighth season at Baylor with two state runner-up finishes

"Our strength is our kicking game  - Ian Jump (punter), Colin Brewer (kicker) and Rafael Gaglianone (kicker) - and we have seven returning starters on offensive," said Massey. 

Names From the Past: names of current track and field record holders are displayed outside the locker rooms at Heywood Stadium... notable are Ellis Goodloe from the 50s who holds the school record in the 100 meters(10.65) and 200 meters (20.80) ... John Hannah leads in the shot put (60'8.5") and discus (171') while Rob Healy is part of the record setting 800 meter relay team.

Roster: 75

Season Opener (home) Aug. 23 vs. Howard

Rivalry Game (home): Oct 4 - McCallie  Reunion Weekend ... oldest rivalry in Chattanooga area dating back to 1905

Quick Fact Last time Baylor played Howard (Aug.23) and Brainerd (Sept. 13) in the same year was 1996 ...  

 8:50 a.m.– BRAINERD … 6-AA ... first year coach Brian Gwyn was passing out football gear in preparation for the first of three practices as "A New Era at Brainerd" has begun  ... discipline and dedication and hard work are the keys to this Brainerd team

tight end Tevin Walker has good hands while Latony Word and Kaylen Steward are good returners ... twins are sophomore wide receivers Jarvis and Kenneth Sawyer. 

Roster: 35

 Season Opener (home) – Aug. 23, Ooltewah (lost 32-0 in 2012) 

Rival Game: at Howard (Oct. 4)  (lost 14-13 in 2012 ... series started in 1966)


9:10 a.m. - McCALLIE  -  D-II AA . oldest program in Hamilton County with first game played in 1905 ...

Coach Ralph Potter starts his 20th season as London Elrod and Isaac Kay will battle for the starting QB spot ... 

"We have talented kids with good team speed ... are young on defense but have potential to be good 

Top Players -  junior running back AlexTrotter (five TDs in 2012), senior linebacker Andrew Busby and senior receiver Spencer Morgan

Roster: 60 

Season Opener: Thurs. Aug. 29 at Cleveland

Home Opener: Aug. 30 McMinn  County (lost 20-14 in 2012)

Rivalry Game: Oct. 4 at Baylor... oldest rivalry in the area ... first game played in 1905   

9:45 a.m. - RED BANK ... 6-AA ... coach E.K. Slaughter has 45 on the roster

"Mental toughness and team chemistry are our strengths," said Slaughter 

A couple of tough guys to lead the defense are linemen Courtney Stamper and senior Brandon Wright

The QB is senior Mike Robinson and the kicking game is solid with junior Christian Velasquez

Roster: 45

Season Opener (home): Aug. 23,  Boyd-Buchanan ... 

Thurs Nite: Aug. 29 at Soddy Daisy ...  Trojan coach Justin Barnes played for Red Bank in late 1990s 

 Murphy Fair Pick: 3rd 7-AA 

10:15 a.m. - SODDY DAISY  ... 5-AAA  continuing up Hwy 27, a stop at Dogwood Lodge on Old Possum Creek as the Trojans get off campus or a few days under first year coach Justin Barnes

"The kids left cell phones at home and this is a good place to come and get away for a few days ...yet not to far in case we really need some things," said coach Barnes 

Team strength is the O-Line with three seniors and two juniors ... led by Gavin Moody, Caleb Ooten and Tyler Gamble

Junior Hunter Maynor is the starting QB now that Brett Standifer has transferred to Bradley Central ... Senior running backs are senior C.J. Blue  and Caleb Watson 

Season Opener: Aug. 23 at Hixson (won 26-0 in 2010)

Home Opener: Thurs Aug 29, Red Bank ... SD coach Barnes played at Red Bank 1995-98

Murphy Fair Pick: 7th in 5-AAA

 2:15 p.m. - EAST HAMILTON ... 5-AAA ... players start making their way to the practice field for the 2:45 start time .. 

Now in his fourth season with EH, coach Ted Gatewood is glad to have all football facilities completed ..

"It's refreshing not to have all the start up things you have to go through with a new program and it allows us to focus on football."

 And they are focused ... 

The Hurricanes shocked the prep world in 2012 with a big season-opening win against Signal Mountain and held eight opponents to under 10 points on the way to an 11-2 season.

But success creates a target as the local media and coaches picked EH to win 5-AAA.

Coach Gatewood has the talent to support that pre-season prediction ... Talented seniors are Hunter Moore (QB), Tre Herndon (WR/DB), Austin Gatewood (WR/LB), Hunter Parker (Safety), Cordell Sands (O-Line/Nose Guard).a strong defense with Herndon, Gatewood and Sands 

Best Football Names: Jack "The Assassin" Tatum (Sr. safety/FB) and Tyler Fly a junior wide receiver 

Season Opener: Aug. 23 at Signal Mountain (won 55-14 in 2012)

Home Opener: Aug. 30, Dobyns-Bennett 

Murphy Fair Pick: 4th (tie) in 5-AAA

3:34 p.m. -  EAST RIDGE ... 6-AA ...  

just call them the "Special K Kids" ... this quartet of senior receivers could have a breakout year in 2013 ... Kolbe King, Keion Jones, Nakota Culver and Mike Knox ...

coach Tracy Malone is hoping the Special K Kids and the rest of the Pioneers can keep the momentum going from the end of 2012 as East Ridge won three of its final four games ... 

someone has to get the ball to the receivers and three year starting QB Jo Jo Tillery is that man

Coach Malone also has a strong offensive line with the return of four starters

"Basic coaching philosophy is to put your best 11 players on defense and then play as many kids as possible on defense to give your defensive starters a rest," said Malone. 

Season Opener (home) Aug 23, Walker Valley (lost 20-10 in 2012)

Murphy Fair Pick: 4th in 5-AAA


3:50 p.m.  -  HOWARD ... 6-AA ... third year coach Michael Calloway has 30 players for 2013 with senior leadership coming from  QB Terrance Brooks, wide receiver Lorenzo McCauley running back Kentarius Hampton, lineman Chevelle Gladden and linebacker Darius Harris.

Freshman McKenzie Williams is expected to see plenty of playing time at linebacker and running back.

Season Opener: Aug. 23 at Baylor (last meeting, lost 31-8 in 1996)

Home Opener: Aug. 30 Stratford

Rival Game: Oct. 4 at Brainerd   (won 14-13 in 2012; series started in 1966)

Murphy Fair Pick: 6th in 6-AA

5:08 - OOLTEWAH ...   5-AAA

first year coach Mac Bryan and his staff were in meetings and players were lifting weights ... they were scheduled to practice from 6-9 p.m. 

Coach Bryan plays strickly a no-huddle, fast-paced game .. senior QB Brody Binder is the guy to led the Owls down the field ...

running back Desmond Pittman has 1,500 rushing and should be the main back again this fall 

Roster: 85 

Season Opener: Aug 23 at Brainerd (won 32-0 in 2012)

Home Opener: Aug 30, Siegel

Murphy Fair Pick:  First in 5-AAA

5:40 p.m. - TYNER ... 6-AA

Coach Wayne Turner has good leadership, blessed with skill position players and needs to develop the offensive and defensive lines

"We have the potential to be one of our better teams," said Turner

Quarterback is senior and all district choice Haason Miller who can throw and run ... Jarrett Watson and Rodney Watson are receivers as well as play on defense ..

running backs are Kalan Hardley and Willie Stewart ... key linemen are Jared Leslie, Jalen Grimes and Arthur Coefield ... and Sadik Spence can play receiver running back and defensive back.

Roster: 48 

Season Opener -  Aug. 30 at Signal Mtn (won 33-24 in 2012)

Home Opener: Sept. 13, Ooltewah. 

6:52 p.m  -  HIXSON ... 6-AA

Second year coach Jason Fitzgerald has 22 seniors with a good deal of game experience among the 72 man roster .... Senior QB is Gill Brown (1,300 passing, 200 rushing yards) ... Tank Twitty-Humphrey is the third back in the depth cart and will see some action ... junior Marshall Cooper and senior Isaiah Robinson are running backs.

The Wildcat defense is led by Allen Diaz (safety), Kedrick Bradley (linebacker) and Austin Gilkey (D-Line)

 Roster: 72 

Season Opener (home): Aug. 23, Soddy Daisy

Season opening tough four-game stretch - SD, South Pitt (away), Tyner, Bradley Central ...all but South Pitt at home 

They are all big .. but ...

Four key district games 

Sept 6  Tyner at home

Oct. 4 East Ridge at home 

Oct. 18 Red Bank at home (after bye week)

Oct. 25 at Chattanooga Central 

Murphy Fair Pick: 1st (tie with Tyner)  6-AA

And The Last Stop ... (on Monday)

7:47 p.m. -  CHATTANOOGA CENTRAL  ... 6-AA    oldest public school program in Hamilton Co., first playing football in 1907

Third year coach John Allen has speed and good size ... good junior QB in Scout Morgan who has a talented receiving corps including Terry Tiller (WR and Corner Back), Brian Billinglsey (WR and Linebacker), Kevin McKenzie (WR and running back) and Ja'Quarus Cole (WR and running back) ... Morgan and all four receivers were working on a variety of plays Monday night as the Pounders practiced 7-9 ... 

Tiller will be effective in the Wild Pounder formation ... Defense is led by 'backers Jamal Metcalf and Sean Montgomery ... Coach Allen starts only three seniors with large, solid junior (26) and sophomore (25) classes

kicking game is solid with Tarik Faleh ... 

Pounders scrimmage Grace Friday at 6 p.m. and will play Meigs Co. in the McMinn Central Jamboree Aug. 16.

Central has district foes East Ridge, Tyner, Brainerd and Hixson all at home

Roster: 61 

Season Opener: Aug 23 at Franklin County

Home Opener: Aug 30, Polk Co

Murphy Fair Pick: 5th in 6-AA 

 *** Tuesday Morning on Dayton Mountain... ride up to Camp Fort Bluff as Boyd Buchanan is there for a week.

10 a.m. - Boyd Buchanan ... 5-A ... The Bucs of coach Grant Reynolds have only two starters back on defense and four on offense, but has good depth and talent at the skill positions ...

led by senior QB Jim Cardwell who accounted for more than 3,000 all-purpose yards ... top running back is senior Cameron Pope ... Bucs need to have a cohesive O-Line after losing three starters to graduation, including Malik Brewer who is now playing at Tusculum College

wide receivers are Skylar Anderson and Damaris Macon ...  while Anderson and Jack Keebler are defensive ends...

starting linebackers are E.J. Matthews and Austin Jackson who also will see action at running back ...

Honoring the Past: Thurs. Sept. 12 ... Notre Dame at home ... Bucs will honor the coaches and players from the 2003 state championship team with a reception at 6 p.m. and introduction at halftime ... 

2003 Bucs head coach Robert Akins is now the head coach at Ringgold HS ... assistant coach Grant Reynolds is now the Bucs head coach and assistant coach Charles Fant is now the Notre Dame head coach ...

some of the players from 2003 are Drew Akins (now offensive coordinator at Ooltewah), running back Matt Peardon, Dan Moore, Jeremy Davis, Matt Henley ..


 contact B.B. Branton at


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