Tyner, East Ridge, Hixson Picks In 6-AA Football

Annual Media Gathering Held At Finley Stadium

Thursday, July 10, 2014 - by John Hunt

It's been less than a week since Independence Day passed and more than a month before the first game will be played, but it's never too early to start talking about football in the Chattanooga area.

Such was the case on Thursday at noon when coaches and players from District 6-AA gathered at Finley Stadium's Stadium Club to discuss the upcoming season and to share hopes and dreams for the coming months.

Thursday's gathering was a chance for three of the district's four new coaches to introduce themselves, including Central's Ryan Mallory, Hixson's Dan Duff and Howard's Mark Teague.  Red Bank's Chad Grabowski, who is in the process of moving from Nashville to Chattanooga, was not present for the gathering.

Tyner's Wayne Turner is the veteran coach of this group with more than 20 years at the helm for the Rams, but neither Turner or any of his players were there.

Despite that fact, Tyner was picked to finish first in the Media poll while East Ridge and Hixson finished in a tie for first in the Coaches poll.

These gatherings are always fun because it gives coaches and sports writers a chance to rekindle friendships and to generally catch up on the latest news on both sides. 

It's always interesting to hear what the coaches say, but the message is most often the same from year to year, namely staying healthy and having  chance to be pretty good and liking the attitude of the players and just how hard they've been working in the off-season.

They all have aspirations of going undefeated and winning a state title, but we all know what the likelihood of that will be.

Coaches and players from every team got a chance to present themselves with their outlook for the season and to introduce players who will be counted on in game-deciding situations.

Here in alphabetical order are those schools and what their coaches had to say.

BRAINERD: Second-year head coach Brian Gwyn wasn't present, but assistant coach Tyrus Ward was.

"We got a little momentum toward the end of last season and we've tried to carry that over to this year," Ward said, noting that the Panthers have been averaging about 26 players during the summer workouts.

"We have a great group of seniors and we always want to make the playoffs.  We have six returning starters on defense and that will carry us early while we have seven young men who will play both ways.

"With such small numbers, we have to stay healthy and we want to stay focused and disciplined and consistent.  It's a new year and we're hoping for a good season," Ward concluded.

CENTRAL: Ryan Mallory was on the faculty at Central last year and served as an assistant  wrestling coach, but he jumped at the chance when the head football job came open.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity.  We were close in a lot of games last year, so we need to learn how to finish.  We have plenty of outstanding athletes, but we're putting the emphasis on being good people.

"The kids believe in what we're doing and we have about 60 out so far.  This is a very tough district with a lot of parity, but every football coach has the dream of being the head guy and I have that chance now," Mallory nodded.

EAST RIDGE: Coach Tracy Malone enters his third year as the leader of the Pioneers and he's cautiously optimistic that he has the ingredients of a fine football team.

He has 64  on his early roster, but will probably add a few more when school starts.  One things that he gets excited about is the fact that he has 15 returning starters, including nine on defense and six on offense.

Perhaps the key player among those returnees is JoJo Tillery, who will be entering his third year as the starting quarterback.

"JoJo knows what I'm looking for and I know what he's capable of doing and that's a huge improvement from our first year together," Malone said with a smile.

"We had to replace a very good punter and kicker in Tad Whitaker, but we have a good group of experienced players who have been in the battles before.  We have a bunch who are hungry and our goal is to be better than last year.

"We opened a few eyes a year ago and we're just hoping that trend continues.  I'm personally excited about the coming season, but it seems like every team is gunning for each other.  Any team in this district is capable of beating anyone else on any given Friday night," Malone concluded.

HIXSON: Coach Dan Duff returns to the Wildcat sideline after spending the past 12 years in Georgia.  Duff was the Hixson coach for six seasons in the late 90s and led the team to a region title in his third season.

Hixson advanced to the third round of the playoffs a year ago, but some 20 seniors have since moved on to bigger and better things.

The popular coach has another big challenge in front of him.

"I have a lot of wonderful memories from my time at Hixson and I'm glad to be back," Duff began.

"We've had great participation in summer workouts and we have about 60 on the roster.  We've got to replace some good ones, but our goals are to stop the other team on defense and to score on offense.

"I'm really optimistic about the coming season, although we have some work to do.  We lost everyone from our defensive secondary.  But we'll compete and I expect us to be physical.  We have pretty good size up front.

"Football has changed since I was last at Hixson, but whatever the other team gives us is what we'll take," he added.

HOWARD: Mark Teague is now the head coach for the Hustlin' Tigers after serving as the defensive coordinator at East Ridge a year ago.

"It's been a good experience so far, but I hit the ground running when I got here.  We have a lot of tradition at Howard and I'm looking forward to getting them back on the map," he suggested.

"We have to take pride in our program, but we have a really nice weight room.  We had about 30 out in the spring and that's not counting freshmen, but it all starts with defense.  We have seven or eight young men who will play both ways and we don't have anybody less than 315 on the line.

"Everything starts up front, but our players must be disciplined.  We'll see what happens," Teague nodded.

RED BANK: Assistant coach Matt Bowman represented the Lions in Grabowski's absence.

"Our motto for the year is 'Restore The Roar,'" he began.

"We're hungry to win and we've had a great attitude so far.  We have 50-60 out so far, but we just want to do things the right way.  We've tried to make it fun while at the same time create competition among ourselves.

"We aren't huge, but we won't be undersized on the line.  Our skill guys are coming along while the linemen aren't far behind.  We have some pretty good athletes and our goal is to use them to our advantage," Bowman nodded.

MONDAY, JULY 28 is the first official day of practice while all of these teams will be in action at the annual jamboree, which will be held at Finley Stadiuim on Friday and Saturday, August 15-16.

TYNER TOPPED THE media poll while East Ridge was second and Hixson third.  Red Bank, Central, Brainerd and Howard followed.

EAST RIDGE AND HIXSON tied for the top spot among the Coaches poll.  Tyner was selected third, followed by Howard, Red Bank, Central and Brainerd.

(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)



Heights Blasts Covenant Behind Six Double-Figure Scorers

Six of 12 Hamilton Heights players scored in double figures Tuesday night as the Hawks defeated Covenant Christian, 92-70. The Hawks are now 8-2 on the season. Tre Edwards scored 16 points to lead the Hawks, who enjoyed a 42-29 halftime advantage. Kevaughn Ellis and Wheza Panzo each had 15 points, Jordan Rawls added 13 points, Sampson Ruzhentsev 11 and Uros Plavsic 10. ... (click for more)

Majors, Ex-Tennessee Player, Coach Sugar Bowl Hall Of Fame Inductee

NEW ORLEANS -- Legendary former Tennessee football player and head coach Johnny Majors has been named to the inaugural class of the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame, as announced on Monday by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Majors is one of 16 legends who starred in the annual New Orleans football classic. The first class of Hall of Famers spans seven decades of Sugar Bowl action ... (click for more)

Man Barges Into Woman's Home In MLK Neighborhood; Tries To Rape Her; Photos Of Suspect Released

Chattanooga Police said a man barged into a woman's home in the MLK Neighborhood around noon on Tuesday and tried to rape the woman.   Police said, "The victim was followed by the suspect into her residence where the victim was then attacked. The suspect at that time attempted to rape the victim and then fled the scene."   The victim then called the Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Moccasin Bend Resident Asks City To Move Police Firing Range So He Can Open Bed And Breakfast Inn

A Moccasin Bend resident is asking the city to move a police firing range from off the historic Bend so he can open a bed and breakfast inn. Steve Holmes also said the move needs to take place because the new Moccasin Bend National Park is set to begin implementing its management plan early next year. He said the park should bring 250,000 visitors to Chattanooga each year with ... (click for more)

Current Republican Tax Plan Will Add To The National Debt

Independent tax experts agree that the Republican tax plan will add over $1 trillion to the national debt, even accounting for economic growth.  Adding to the national debt during good economic times doesn’t seem smart to me. The time for adding anything to the national debt is during a major war or when the economy needs more government spending to stimulate it during a ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Let’s Focus On ‘Better’

As I stepped away from the overflow crowd at Monday night’s Town Council meeting on Signal Mountain, I leaned in to tell Jean Trohanis how sorry I was to hear of the loss of her dearest friend. But in that millisecond before I could speak, the former but still-loved elementary school principal gave me her best hallway hiss and, with a pointed finger, she ordered, “You be nice!” ... (click for more)