The 2015 season didn’t go exactly the way that first year First Assembly Christian School head coach Joey Lowe envisioned when he took over the program last season.
Although the Crusaders finished a respectable 5-5, they missed the Division II-A playoffs as they were winless in their region at 0-5.
With junior quarterback Jack Grissom returning at the controls of the “Air Raid” offense and some talented playmakers at wide receiver including 11 returning starters (six on offense, five on defense), Lowe felt that 2016 could be a breakout year for his team.
Grissom threw for 1,957 yards and 21 touchdowns last season and had a coming out party in the Crusaders 36-29 overtime win over University School of Jackson on Friday night, spoiling the coaching debut of Rusty Bradley at USJ.
Grissom passed for 380 yards on 31 of 61 passing hitting four different receivers for touchdowns as FACS overcame a 29-16 deficit to push the game to overtime.
FACS trailed 29-16 with a little over three left in regulation to tie the game as Grissom found a wide open Jordan Hall streaking down the middle of the field from 25 yards out with five seconds left to tie the score.
Hill, a junior caught five passes for 45 yards and also intercepted a pass for the Crusaders as well.
After FACS got the ball to start the overtime, Grissom found a wide open Joe Thaxton in the back right corner of the end zone for the game winner.
Thaxton, another junior led the Crusaders with 10 catches for 95 yards, while junior Matthew Priest caught seven passes for a team high 102 yards and a touchdown as well. Senior Tre Curtis caught three passes for 73 yards and added a touchdown as well.
Defensively, FACS harassed Bruin senior quarterback Jackson Buie into bad decisions all night long as they intercepted five passes and allowed just 167 yards through the air.
Senior linebacker Carson Penn led the way with 14 tackles while fellow senior linebacker Nathan Carter intercepted two passes including one in overtime to end the game. Sophomore defensive back Michael McCargo added an interception return for a touchdown as well.
The Crusaders win broke a five game losing streak to the Bruins with the last FACS win over USJ coming back in 1995 as FACS won 21-14.
“The thing that I am really proud of is the kids didn’t panic when we were down 29-16 and they continued to play hard and believe,” Lowe said. “Last year, it was hard to finish games but this year, the kids have truly bought in and as coaches that is very exciting.”
The win also is the biggest one in Lowe’s short head coaching career and could spring board FACS to a record breaking type season and a possible playoff appearance something they haven’t done since 2013 when they finished 9-2.
“I told the coaching staff last week that I felt like it was a must win game for us because if you win, your kids have a lot of confidence going into next week’s game against Sheffield and beyond,” Lowe said.
Although Sheffield is next week’s opponent, Lowe and wife Stacy has another date circled this week as they will welcome their third child on Thursday.
“To say this is a busy week is an understatement,” Lowe said.
Polk County breaks state’s longest losing streak
The last 21 games had really taken a toll on Polk County head football coach Derrick Davis both mentally and physically. But it also taught the Polk County alum a lesson in not to take anything for granted.
The Wildcats 35-28 win over East Ridge on Friday broke the state’s longest current losing streak (21) as fullback Logan Griswold rushed for 200 yards and scored four touchdowns in the win. The win also allowed Davis to do something he had never done before, he allowed himself to stop and smell the roses and take in the atmosphere.
“I’ve always been the type of coach to close the book on the last game win or lose and go focus on the next game,” Davis said. But after the losing streak, I allowed myself to let my guard and take everything in, I’m so proud of my kids, my coaches and the community that stuck with us through some bad football the last 21 games.”
Davis took over the Wildcat program in 2000 and went through a 2-8 record that season but rolled up his sleeves and went to work to built the program that became one of the best, respected and most feared programs in the Chattanooga area.
From 2001 to 2013, the Wildcats amassed a record of 108-41 and made 13 consecutive playoff appearances, becoming the bullies of their District winning five straight titles (2009-13) and 21 straight games inside the district.
Davis, 1990 Polk graduate built the program on toughness as they run the power I on offense being physical on the offensive line which became a problem for opposing teams.
Davis took all the winning for granted and that’s made the last 21 games unbearable for him, a man that cared so much for his program, all the losing made Davis go dark in some respects.
“I care so much that the losing actually sent me to a dark place, I was put on depression medication and I started to withdraw from a lot of things,” Davis said.
Davis became a hermit after games, would take the back roads to his house and he stayed home on the weekends and avoided people at all costs.
“No excuses, the last two years were my fault and I take the blame for that,” Davis said. “For me, I really hurt that we were losing every week after having so much success for a long period of time, I couldn’t fix the problem. I didn’t want to have to answer questions about how the team wasn’t getting it done.”
“Everyone close to me, my wife, my dad and my kids tried to pull me out of the depression but I had to fix it on my own.”
He took baby steps, getting back to doing simple things that he had enjoyed in the past and after the win on Friday, it makes Davis appreciate everything more now.
“It makes practice fun this week and the kids and the coaches have a big bounce in their step, I’m so proud of the six seniors that have suffered through so much the last two years, a lot of kids quit (went from 78 kids in 2013 to 43 this year) but the kids that stuck it out, all the reward goes to them.”
Speaking of losing streaks
13 other teams across the state started the season off right by breaking losing streaks in week one.
*Cannon County got two touchdown passes from quarterback Josh Walkup and two touchdowns from Quentin McMackins as the Lions broke a 12 game losing streak downing Community 26-22. McMackins caught a touchdown pass as well as a 23 yard game winning interception return for a touchdown.
*Gleason broke a nine game losing streak by shutting out Kentucky neighbor Fulton County (KY) 44-0 as Heath Keeling rushed for 99 yards and scored once in the win.
*Jackson County 42, Clay County 6- The Blue Devils got 188 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Colby Long as they broke an eight game losing streak in Sean Loftis first game back as head coach.
*Memphis Overton 32, KIPP Academy 0- The Wolverines started the Edgar Williams era the right way by shutting out KIPP Academy on Thursday night. With the win, Overton matched their 2015 win total and broke an eight game losing streak as Brandon Willis rushed for 191 yards in the win.
*Richland 50, Sale Creek 10- Running back Caleb Briggs had a monster game for 282 yards and three touchdowns as they broke an eight game losing streak.
*Bartlett 47, Sheffield 12– The Panthers got new coach Tim Haney a win as Marquavis Weaver ran for 163 yards and scored four times snapping a seven game losing streak.
*William Blount 28, Lenoir City 3– It wasn’t pretty offensively but second year Governors coach Phillip Shadowens will take it. The Governors broke a seven game slide as Tony Mejia scored two touchdowns one on a run and another on a fumble recovery in the win.
*Fayette Academy 60, Macon Road Baptist 0– The Vikings had eight different players score touchdowns in the lopsided win as Spencer Hayden and Will Rhea each scored twice in the win as they broke a six game losing streak.
*Dobyns Bennett 47, Tennessee High 0- Indian quarterback Cole Maupin rushed for 100 yards and the defense forced six Tennessee turnovers as Dobyns Bennett pitched the shut out and erased an six game losing streak.
*Jellico 38, Hancock County 6- Jellico quarterback Tony Smith had a career night throwing for 415 yards on 14 of 19 passing and four touchdowns while connecting with Sean Moses on two of those scores. Moses caught four passes for 188 yards as Jellico snapped a five game losing streak.
*Pope John Paul II 28, Melrose 22– The Knights got revenge for the loss last season to the Golden Wildcats as running back Jamaal Thompson rushed for 163 yards. He scored four touchdowns while Ben Brooks passed for 210 yards as well in the win as JPII broke a five game losing streak which was the longest losing streak in Division II-AA.
*Father Ryan 48, Hillwood 6- The Fighting Irish started Brian Rector’s tenure with an easy win as junior Jackson Byrd scored three touchdowns and 123 yards while quarterback Jay Shoop also rushed for two touchdowns as Ryan broke a four game losing streak.
*Harriman quarterback Joe Pace will go down as a Blue Devils legend after his heroics helped Harriman beat Roane County rival Kingston 27-13.
Pace collected 345 all purpose yards and scored three touchdowns as the Blue Devils beat the Yellow Jackets for the first time since 1992 as Kingston had won the last 21 games as the programs didn’t play in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s a big win for these kids and the community as a whole, it is nice to get the season started but there is a lot of football left to play and we have to get ready for the next one. It is very satisfying being a Harriman grad and seeing these kids make a memory its something you do not forget,” Harriman head coach Travis Tapp said.
Tapp should know about beating Kingston as he scored the only touchdown in the Blue Devils 7-3 win back in 1986 when he was a sophomore full back.
*Coffee County 49, Tullahoma 10– The Red Raiders behind Tennessee commitment Alontae Taylor was too much for the Wildcats to handle as they beat them for the second consecutive time and secured the Coffee Pot trophy for another year.
Taylor ran wild for 292 yards on just 10 carries and three touchdowns on the ground while also catching a touchdown pass. This was the first back to back victories for Coffee County in the series since winning back to back games in 1981 and 1982 but Tullahoma still leads the rivalry series 59-31.
“It’s a huge win for our kids and our community,” Coffee County Ryan Sulkowski said.
Knoxville Catholic self reports ineligible player, forfeits win over Morristown West
Knoxville Catholic got the 2016 off to a bang with a dominating performance beating Class 5A Morristown West 63-30.
The Fighting Irish are the defending Class 4A state champions and won their 10th consecutive game against the Trojans, but after the game it was discovered that Catholic played an freshman ineligible player in the win.
Catholic self reported the violation to the TSSAA and the state association fined the school $50 and the player in question is ineligible for the 2016-17 school year.
Their record goes to 0-1 while Morristown West goes to 1-0. The Fighting Irish will play 3A runner up Christ Presbyterian Academy while West will play Greeneville this week.
Turns out the freshman in question had repeated the eighth grade at Grace Christian Academy and under Article II, Section 7 of the TSSAA Bylaws can’t compete in athletics as a freshman.
Grace Christian also received punishment as the player competed on the track and field tewm before transferring of over to Catholic.
Grace Christian will have to pay a $100 fine for every varsity contest in which the player played and $50 for every junior varsity game as well.
Blue Raiders Get Two More In state Commitments
Middle Tennessee State have been busy on the recruiting trail last week gaining six commitments from four different states to up their Class of 2017 commitment total to nine.
The Blue Raiders got a commitment from Fulton line backer Chaton Mobley and finished off the week by getting two Mid-state offensive line commitments from Mt. Juliet’s D.J. Delfendahl and Oakland’s Elijah Dobbins.
Delfendahl (6-6, 280) chose the Blue Raiders over Arkansas State, Southern Mississippi and Western Kentucky among others.
“D.J. embodies everything we strive for in our Gold Standard,” Mt. Juliet head coach Trey Perry said. “He dominates on the field, in the classroom and is a great older brother at home as well as a humble teammate. He fits Coach Stockstill’s mold of player and will fit in great with their system, strength program, and character demands and we’re very proud of him.”
Dobbins (6-4, 275) becomes the third Oakland player to commit so far joining JaCoby Stevens (LSU) and Kaleb Oliver (Mississippi State) and chose MTSU over Arkansas State, Mercer, UT-Martin and Austin Peay.
“Elijah will bring a lot to the table at MTSU,” Oakland Coach Kevin Creasy said. He’s a tireless worker with a good attitude that continues to improve every week and we are happy for him.”
MTSU also got commitments from out of state players in athlete Reed Blankenship (Lester, AL), wide receiver Jimmy Marshall III (Macon, GA) and defensive back Cody Smith (Stuart, FL).
There were over 60 head coaching changes this offseason and 59 new coaches made their coaching debut in week one with 25 of them posting wins, so here’s the breakdown:
The following 13 got their first career coaching win:
Joey Mathis, Marion County
Spencer Riley, Jefferson County
Chris Shillings, Sunbright
Brent Johns, Forrest
Travis Mozingo, CAK
Richie Wessman, Ravenwood
Jay Emmons, Spring Hill
Jerry Lowery, White County
Hunter Hicks, White House Heritage
Edgar Williams, Memphis Overton
Nathan Adams, Rossville Christian
Michael Lunsford, Hampton
Will Kriesky, Riverdale
12 coaches got their first win with their new school
Mark Mariakis, Chattanooga Christian
Tracy Malone, Whitwell
Sean Loftis, Jackson County
Chuck Daniel, Creek wood
Matt Kriesky, Centennial
David O’Connor, Giles County
Brian Rector, Centennial
Johnnie Frost, Riverside
Justin Palmer, Shelbyville
Tim Haney, Bartlett
Cody Finley, Gibson County
Johnny Allen, Harding Academy
Krieskys and football, a family affair
Twin brothers Matt and Will basically do everything together as their families live in the same subdivision in Murfreesboro and football and family are always a topic.
Both brothers are in charge of their own programs now as Matt was hired at Centennial in late January and three weeks later Will was put in charge of the Riverdale program.
On Friday, Matt’s new squad came back from a ten point deficit to beat Williamson County rival Franklin 28-24 with little brother Will (Matt is older by five minutes) on his brother’s sideline cheering on the Cougars.
A day later, Matt returned the favor as Will made his head coaching debut as the Warriors hammered Ooltewah 47-14 in the first game of the Middle Tennessee Football Classic held at MTSU.
“Now that we have our own programs, we won’t get a lot of chances to see each other play so you have to take advantage of it when we can,” Matt said.
Pick up these Football previews
You don’t have to be a Northeast Tennessee High school football fan to appreciate the new Northeast Tennessee Football Yearbook that is out now by writers Trey Williams and Collin Brooks.
Any high school football fan that wants to know about football in the Northeast part of the state, this magazine has you covered.
The full color magazine covers every team in region 1 in every Classification (1A through 6A) which is 44 total teams overall.
All 44 team previews were written by Williams and Brooks handled the layout of the publication as well as all the photography in the magazine.
Each school has a team preview, roster, 2015 results and a 2016 schedule as well as a list of alumni currently playing in college.
Besides high school stories, it also has feature stories on East Tennessee State, Carson Newman Head football coach Ken Sparks and several more.
Another terrific story by Brooks was on the health of Cherokee quarterback J.T. Brooks who is in Atlanta recovering at the Shepherd Center after being paralyzed in the Cherokee spring game.
The magazine is $15 and can be picked up at locations throughout the Northeast corner of the state, a full list of places are listed on the magazine’s Facebook page, Northeast Tennessee Football Yearbook.
Anyone else in the state can also get a magazine by contacting the magazines Facebook page or buying it off their eBay page at http://www.ebay.com/itm/Northeast-Tennessee-Football-Yearbook-2016-/222211793690
*Another Prep preview magazine not to be missed is the Independent’s “Gridiron Guide” which is being sold now in the communities of Marion County.
The Independent is a weekly newspaper serving not only the small communities of Jasper, South Pittsburg and Whitwell in Marion County but the entire Sequatchie Valley as well.
The full color magazine previews the football programs of Marion County, South Pittsburg and Whitwell as well as looking at the players at Richard Hardy who are getting to play football this year at Lookout Valley as Richard Hardy doesn’t have a football program.
Besides the coverage of the county teams, the magazine also previews the SEC which includes great write ups on every SEC program.
Anyone in Marion County can get a “Gridiron Guide” by going to the Independent’s office at 3565 Main Street in Jasper. The cost is $5 with a dollar going to each high school, while anyone outside the County wanting a copy can contact the paper at (423) 939-5115 or visiting their website at www.svindependent.com.
Winning Streaks Going Into 2016
Brentwood Academy- 12
St. George’s- 12
Nashville Christian- 9
East Robertson- 3
Losing Streaks Going into 2016
Goodpasture – 22
Cumberland Gap- 18
Union County- 17
Chattanooga Central- 14
MLK Prep- 13
Booker T. Washington- 12
South Doyle- 12
Sullivan Central- 11
Lookout Valley- 11
Perry County- 11
Longest Coaching Tenures going into 2016
Benny Hammonds, Gatlinburg Pittman, 45 years
David Meske, Knoxville Webb, 32
Jeff Porter, White House, 29
Bobby Sharp, Lewis County, 28
Wayne Turner, Tyner, 28
John McNeal, Friendship Christian, 24
Graham Clark, Dobyns Bennett, 23
Dennis Goodwin, DCA, 23
John Olive, Tullahoma, 23
Tom Adkins, Jo Byrns, 22
Eddie Courtney, Farragut, 20
Jeff Morris, Milan, 20
John Webb, Rockwood, 20
Tony Smith, QB, Jellico- Passed for 415 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-6 win over Hancock County.
McCain Marrow, QB, Ravenwood- Passed for 416 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-19 win over Siegel.
Kolten Gibson, QB, Walker Valley- Passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-28 loss to Bradley Central.
Cody Carter, QB, Scotts Hill- Threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 win over McNairy Central.
Zayveon Johnson, RB, Bruceton- Rushed for 274 yards and scored twice in a 26-22 win over West Carroll.
Caleb Briggs, RB, Richland- Ran for 282 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 50-10 win over Sale Creek.
Quinton Poole, RB, Creek wood- Rushed for 202 yards and scored three times in a 30-26 win over Dickson County.
Seth Price, QB, Watertown- Passed for 352 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-15 win over Gordonsville.
Chase Hayden, RB, St. George’s- Ran just eight times but for 246 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-28 win over Trinity Christian.
Tyler Davidson, RB, Cocke County- Ran for 214 yards and one touchdown in a 42-38 loss to Volunteer.
Jacob Salyer, RB, Volunteer- Rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-38 win over Cocke County.
Austin Brewster, RB, Seymour- Rushed for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-27 win over The Kings Academy.
Jordan Mason, RB, Gallatin- Rushed for 250 yards and scored the Green Wave’s only touchdown in a 26-6 loss to Mt. Juliet.
Ty Chandler, RB, MBA- Rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-24 loss to Hewitt Trussville (AL).
Keytavious Bradley, RB, LaVergne- Rushed for 224 yards and scored three times in a 38-20 loss to rival Smyrna.
Edwin Hendrix, RB, Ridgeway- Rushed for 233 yards and scored twice in a 46-10 win over Houston.
Logan Griswold, FB, Polk County- Rushed for 200 yards and scored once as the Wildcats broke a 21 game losing streak beating East Ridge 35-28.
Zach Rutherford, QB, Campbell County- Passed for 312 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-14 win over Gibbs.
Alontae Taylor, QB, Coffee County- Scored total four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) and had 292 yards rushing on just 10 carries in a 49-10 win over Tullahoma.
Mikey Chennault, RB, Jo Byrns- Rushed for 206 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-20 loss to Cheatham County.
Antwuan Branch, RB, Kenwood- Ran for 204 yards and scored a touchdown in a 18-7 win over West Creek.
Stone Norton, QB, Davidson Academy- The sophomore passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-29 win over Friendship Christian.
Jack Grissom, QB, FACS- Passed for 380 yards and four touchdowns including the game winner in overtime as the Crusaders beat USJ 36-29.
Zach Hamlet, LB, Christian Brothers- Intercepted three passes as CBHS downed White Station 22-14.
John Douglass Wiggins, QB, Sequoyah- Passed for 401 yards on 23 of 29 passing and five touchdowns in 59-19 win over Tellico Plains.
Lazzarus Scribner, QB, Union City- Rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns on just eight carries in a 68-14 thrashing of South Fulton.
Kendrick Williams, QB, Unicoi County- Passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-0 win over South Greene.
BY THE NUMBERS
30.75- Rushing average for Arkansas commitment Chase Hayden as he rushed for 246 yards on just eight carries with four going for touchdowns.
68-6- Combined losses for KIPP Academy who lost to Memphis Overton 32-0 on Thursday and 36-6 to Trezevant on Saturday.
648- Total combined rushing yards in Volunteer’s 42-38 win over Cocke County.
1992- Last time that Harriman beat Kingston, a string of 21 straight Losses before Harriman’s 27-13 win on Friday.
1994- Last winning season for Memphis Overton.
Contact Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at Examine_Stew