Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Jul 22, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Taking pictures at Lebanon’s football practice a couple of days ago, I saw a player complain of pain to coach Chuck Gentry, who referred him to the trainer while telling him, in essence, it’s football, it’s going to hurt.

It reminded me of another first-year Lebanon coach 30 years ago making a similar statement to a player. There is pain and there are injuries - those are two different things. That long-ago coach was Mark Medley, who coached the Blue Devils through their last extended glory in the game.

While that player was being checked out, I wandered over to another station where defensive coordinator Sean Corbitt told the dozen troops waiting for the next drill to the effect of, ‘Yes, it’s hot. But it’s hot in Mt. Juliet, in Gladeville and even in Hartsville (from where the Blue Devils’ first opponent of the season hails from). It’s football.’

It’s the pep talk I need when it’s time to get my push mower out or when I have to go somewhere in a truck whose air conditioning has seen it’s best days - sort of like myself.

The players who have endured the year’s hottest week surely love the game, the competition, the camaraderie. It’s easier to bask in front of the air conditioner. But the physical training and other lessons learned in the July-August sun will endure during the autumn months of cool glory and well beyond.

What a feel-good story we saw this week on ESPN about Mt. Juliet senior Jalan Sowell, who had to give up playing football due to a medical condition which causes blood clotting.

His story is inspirational enough, but the feature on ESPN’s “My Wish” series was actually produced by the player himself. It looked like it was put together by someone with a college degree in TV production.

Sowell plans to go into coaching, and his condition speeded up that timetable. But as he told me, he may have found a backup plan. With his personality, he may have as much a future in front of the camera as behind it, or on the sideline. Will we see him and Wilson Central’s budding broadcaster Christian Kaposy as an ESPN play-by-play/color analyst team in the future?

On the flip side was the sudden, if not altogether unexpected, resignation of Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze on Thursday afternoon.

Though he had been embattled as the Rebels are going through an NCAA investigation, the resignation had nothing to do with the NCAA, school officials said. He allegedly made a call to an escort service on his school-issued cell phone. It was an egregious enough violation for Ole Miss to owe Freeze nothing, sort of like when Arkansas cut ties with Bobby Petrino following his ill-fated motorcycle ride with a female employee.

But while it appears Freeze’s coaching career is in shambles, just hold it right there. Petrino has been back coaching for a while now. Other coaches who appeared to be over the cliff survived the fall following a period of penance.

Freeze can coach. Years ago, I saw him coach Briarcrest’s girls to a couple of Tennessee Division II basketball championships.

He coached “Blind Side” Michael Oher at Briarcrest, even though the coach in the movie (under a fictitious name) was portrayed as something of a doofus, which Freeze is not.

He rode Oher’s coattails to break into college coaching and worked his way up the ladder to Ole Miss, where he led the Rebels to a top-5 ranking and back-to-back wins over Alabama.

Along the ladder, he stopped on the rung which was Lambuth University in Jackson. A few years before that school closed, Freeze brought the Eagles to Lebanon to face Cumberland on a raw, wet and muddy November afternoon at Lindsey Donnell Stadium.

The Bulldogs won a classic 27-24 win on a game-ending field goal, earning them a share of the Mid-South Conference West Division championship.

Freeze lost that day, but it’s a much better memory than what he’s going through today.

This is the worst story as far as timeliness. But I found myself looking at a list of Watertown’s basketball coaches and history submitted by WHS public address announcer Ken Fountain last fall. I added last year’s hoops records and found that while Seth Price was becoming Wilson County’s first boys’ 2,000-point scorer, his coach, Matt Bradshaw, was becoming the Purple Tigers’ all-time wins leader, finishing the season with 146 (against 74 losses) in seven seasons. Clint Dennison had the previous mark of 135 victories from 1981-93.

Next time you see Bradshaw on the golf course where he’s coaching the Watertown golfers, give him your congratulations.

Also, Seth’s father, girls’ coach Lane Price, is 123-89 in the same seven seasons, 15 wins short of Ryan Vanatta’s total accumulated from 1979-92.

Long a football community, Watertown has become a hoops hotbed as well.

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