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Road to playoffs crosses Cumberland River
Oct 19, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
With crunch time here for playoff positioning, most of the Week 9 action, as far as Wilson County is concerned, is north of the Cumberland River.
Wilson Central will host Mt. Juliet next Thursday in the season finale of MyTV30's Thursday Night Lights series with probably second place in District 9-AAA, and a higher seed, on the line. But both must win at Station Camp and Hendersonville, respectively, to make the Week 10 showdown the most it can be.
One county over, Watertown will face Trousdale County in what has shaped up to be a key Region 4-A game for Class 2A playoff positioning.
Beech at Lebanon
This game south of the river affects the playoffs only for 8-0 Beech, which can formally clinch a postseason spot with a win over the winless Blue Devils.
The Buccaneers are led by junior running back Jalen Hurd, who has 1,967 yards and 26 touchdowns. But he was injured in the shoulder area during Beech's 17-14 win at Wilson Central in the Bucs' last game before taking last week off.
"He's a human-highlight reel, that's for sure," Lebanon coach Troy Crane said of Hurd. "But Beech really doesn't, a lot of times, get the credit it deserves because of Jalen Hurd. They are a very talented football team without. They're still up in the air if he'll play or how much he'll play.
"I feel like they have the best tight end in the league [senior Demetris Watson has a team-leading 16 catches for 326 yards and four scores]. Their quarterback [senior Lincoln Kenitzer has completed 49 of 69 passes for 857 yards and seven touchdowns] is a veteran. He really does a good job running the offense. He's a big, physical kid. He sprints out, bootlegs well.
"With about everybody they've played, they've won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the football. They're really a power football, a sprint-out, bootleg and they find a way to throw the screen on you. They're definitely a handful to prepare for you. There's a reason they're 8-0."
Lebanon, on the other end of the spectrum, is celebrating its first homecoming at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium.
"Homecoming is homecoming," Crane said. "For our seniors, it's the last homecoming experience they'll get to have so we're trying to make it as memorable as we can."
Injuries and suspensions continue to plague the Blue Devils. Running back Taye Davis underwent knee surgery last for an OCD lesion and a meniscus tear and will be out 12 weeks, Crane said. Quarterback Bryce Suber will undergo ACL surgery Friday after having fought to come back from a labrum injury. Both were injured in their last game two weeks ago at Portland.
In addition, starters Julien Crutchfield and Daniel Kemp will miss this week after being ejected from the Portland contest.
Wilson Central at Station Camp
The Wildcats [7-1 season, 4-1 district] need not look ahead to the Golden Bears. Station Camp [4-4, 2-3] is taking aim at a Class 5A playoff berth, which would be the Bison's first since moving into District 9-AAA three years ago.
"We're definitely looking to Station Camp," Wildcats coach Brad Dedman said. "We're not worried about Mt. Juliet until next week."
Station Camp poses enough problems. The Bison had a four-game winning streak snapped by a Mt. Juliet goal-line stand two weeks ago before they and Central took last Friday off. SCHS's offense strongly resembles a pro-style with a strong running game setting up a drop-back passer and Division I-bound wide receiver.
"Everything revolves around their running game right now," said Dedman, noting Bison running backs JaQuel Fitts and Austin Janco. "They run the ball to throw it.
"They have a huge offensive line."
Junior receiver Josh Malone is expected to play on Saturdays two years from now.
"He can do some things with the football when he gets it in his hands," Dedman said of Malone.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Anderton was compared earlier this season to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger by Lebanon coach Troy Crane and Mt. Juliet's Roger Perry - a 6-4 drop-back passer who's not likely to scramble but can move within the pocket.
"Definitely going to be hard to bring down if we can get to him," Dedman said. "He does a good job of avoiding rushes and getting the ball out of there."
By contrast, Station Camp's defense isn't as flashy, but still solid.
"There are not that many stars, but they play well as a unit," Dedman said of the Bison D.
The off week helped the Wildcats to heal their bumps and bruises. Running back Tim Fitzgerald will be back after undergoing wrist surgery.
Watertown at Trousdale County
On paper, this looks like the most winnable game in the series for the Purple Tigers since they beat the Yellow Jackets in back-to-back seasons to end legendary coach Clint Satterfield's tenure. Satterfield's successor, Kevin Creasy, has a young unit this season, but the Yellow Jackets still enjoy the mystique of playing on the Creekbank, the unofficial name for John Kerr Field.
"Offensively, he hasn't changed any there," Watertown coach Gavin Webster said of Creasy's wing-T offense. "He's going to run multiple formations out of the wing, try to outnumber you at the point of attack.
"Defensively, we've seen various things. Multiple fronts. They get after it on defense, try to disrupt what you do, trying to confuse you on offense."
Both teams are 4-2 in Region 4-A and chasing Gordonsville and Friendship Christian. Watertown is 6-2, which was enough wins for the Purple Tigers to advance to the playoffs last year, while Trousdale County is trying to build on a 5-3 worksheet.
"He's had some injuries early in the year," Webster said. "They're going to be very-well coached. They're going to be as prepared as anybody you'll play. You can count on it."
The top two finishers in each district/region will get the higher playoff seeds before the remaining slots go to wild card teams with the most overall wins in the state, meaning it's obvious this game is big, but just how big may not be clear until after next week's schedule is complete.
"We feel like we're in the playoffs, but where at in the playoffs is hard to tell," Webster said. "It's up to us to take care of Watertown and whatever happens happens. There's a whole lot to play for.
"The possibility, you win out, we could host a first-round playoff game [for the first time since 1985]. If we don't, we probably won't."
On the injury front, Watertown will get right tackle/middle linebacker Robert Davenport back from a knee injury. Receivers Jake Belcher [knee] and Dakota Self [back] are day-to-day. Self had been ruled out of last week's game at Gordonsville, but felt good enough to play and caught a couple of passes for 26 yards before shutting it down at halftime.
Friendship Christian at Red Boiling Springs
This game is also north of the river. But with Friendship a heavy favorite, it'll be big only if the Commanders are upset.
While Friendship is trying to finish 9-1 and at least in second place in Region 4-A, Red Boiling Springs had been in the top 24 for a 1A playoff berth before losing 31-20 to Jackson County last Friday to fall to 3-5. But the Bulldogs' scores have looked more competitive this season than they have over the last couple of decades.
"Coach [Kyle] Shoulders has done a good job, he and his staff," Commander coach John McNeal said. "He and I talked early on when he took over and I think he's made the dedication. The players have made the dedication to be a good football team. He's got some athletes and they do a good job of coaching them up."
Red Boiling Springs runs a wing-T offense and a 5-3 stack on defense.
"They really have improved over the years on their technique," McNeal said. "They look like they're stronger. He's got them in the weight room. They got some speed, too."
Friendship is coming off an open date and is beginning a closing two-week sprint to the playoffs. The Commanders will host Monterey next Friday.
"It was a good week off," McNeal said. "I told our kids Monday it was time to get back to work. Now, it's unbelievable it's toward the end of the regular season and look to the playoffs; it's flown by really fast. It's now time for second wind and get our feet under us and see what we can do in the playoffs."
Mt. Juliet at Hendersonville
At 4-4, the Commandos have been an enigma in 2012. They have a win over Riverdale and a touchdown loss to undefeated Beech. But they're coming off a 24-20 upset loss to rebuilding Gallatin two weeks ago before last Friday's open date.
"I've researched some of the questions," Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry said of the Commandos. "The injury bug hit them the week they played Gallatin. They had key starters out of the game.
"But we will be facing their best. We'll face the group that played Riverdale."
Otherwise, Hendersonville is the same every year under longtime coach Bruce Hatfield - a strong wing-T offense, 50 defense and a kicker who routinely starts opposing offenses on their 20-yard line.
"They're going to have a balanced attack, a good halfback, good wingback, strong fullback and a quarterback who can run and throw," Perry said. "They have another strong kicker who's going to put a huge percentage of his kickoffs in the end zone. It will be a field-position game."
As for the defense, Hendersonville will line up a 6-foot-7 defensive end and two inside linebackers over 200 pounds.
"He's got the big physical people to run [the 50]," Perry said.
Mt. Juliet and Wilson Central enter this week with identical 7-1 marks, 4-1 in District 9-AAA and will meet next Thursday night for what could be second place [and an automatic playoff berth] in the league. But wins are needed this week to make next week's MyTV30 Thursday Night Lights season finale the matchup it can be.
"I haven't thought of anything past this wee," Perry said. "We feel like we're in a good position right now. But to keep that position, that means win."
Mt. Juliet is getting healthier at inside linebacker where Brigham Powell will return after missing two games. But his partner, Josh Belhu, will miss his fourth game this week. The Bears lost backup offensive tackle Jared Caperton to an injury on Tuesday.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org