The boss went to Signal Mountain and prep editor Stephen Hargis chose to go see Tyner and Ooltewah.
I went to Baylor. OK, right?
Well, an 8 o'clock start, 30 minutes later than normal. Even as a deadline-conscious writer, one can usually live with that, even though the demands seem to grow and the deadlines seem shrink by the year. But when you have two teams that are more excited than efficient and an officiating crew that calls everything it sees and some things they thought they saw, it makes for a long night.
There were 19 penalties for close to 200 yards and a visiting coach that kept asking for heat timeouts and kept his team along the sidelines on several occasions. Half of FRA's penalties, at least, were for delay of game or illegal participation.
Well, David Pack has a great reputation as a coach. Maybe this was just his welcome from Class 2A and 3A in the public school division where FRA was something of a power to Division II. His team will play in the A division, but his welcome came from a DII-AA member.
By the time this debacle was over, Baylor had scored 40 points, Franklin Road Academy none. It took just seven minutes shy of three hours, and that was without Comcast coming in to televise the game -- another deadline -- stretcher. I guess you could call me a veteran after 40 years, even a grizzled veteran. After walking sidelines, stadium steps, long airline flights in cramped economy class seats, lengthy drives, long days and longer nights over the years, and probably way too many Big Macs, I get tired. Shoot, to be honest I probably get bored, especially with a scoreless first half where the teams' efforts were fruitless rather than fruitful. I thought to myself, "Give me two running teams with quarterbacks totally unschooled in the passing game any day."
And I'm sure Jim Tanner, the fellow assistant sports editor who was running things in the office, was thinking, "Give me a gun."
Now for real first-night impressions:
* Jacob Huesman, the first-year quarterback who transferred from Richmond, Va., when Russ, his dad, took the UTC job, is for real. He is a legitimate dual threat quarterback who can slice through the line or thread the needle to find a receiver. He will definitely help take the pressure of Baylor running back Sam Williams.
* Speaking of Williams, after gaining 104 yards Friday night the senior has now put together 11 straight 100-yard rushing games and could get into the state's all-time top three in that category by mid-season if he keeps it up.
* The Red Raiders have folks who can run and who can catch, and Williams isn't spending all of his time in the backfield. He's splitting out on the occasions when the Red Raiders go to one of their spread sets. Surprisingly, Williams didn't start. Maybe it was because of the package they started with, but the backfield starter was sophomore Nelson Pinkstaff, one of at least four players who'll see time as the primary running back.
* Their win Friday night was Baylor's first shutout since coach Phil Massey's first year, a 32-0 victory at Montgomery Bell Academy.
* For those who had their doubts, Signal Mountain is for real. They have pretty good size, pretty good speed and definitely pretty good precision. What some folks don't know, even after that 42-21 victory over Hixson, the Eagles can throw the football quite efficiently.
* You have to feel for Hixson coach Houston White, who has spent the better part of his first two seasons looking forward to this year, especially with Zack McCarter at quarterback. McCarter is likely to sit again next week when the Wildcats play Soddy-Daisy and might still be out for their district opener against Tyner the following week.
And as much as you feel for White and McCarter, what about Randy Boyd, the guy who was supposed to be McCarter's replacement but instead found himself in Michigan attending his mother's funeral. And then there's Justin Mathieson, the sophomore who was expected to have another year to learn the system and get his feet on the ground. Mathieson was already playing in the secondary and kicking and punting so the youngster more than had his hands full last week.
* Apologies to Polk County and Wildcats coach Derrick Davis. Here you had a Class 3A team going against a bigger and stronger Class 6A Bradley Central. I knew Derrick had a good team coming back, but I felt Bradley would just have too much power and depth. Bradley rolled in the first quarter, going up 13-0 but Polk tied it by halftime, shut Bradley out and scored the winning TD with five minutes left.
I still think Bradley Central will have a good football team, but I know Polk will.
* Did you have any doubts about Ooltewah? For those who did, reference the score of Friday night's win over Tyner -- 36-0. Tyner is always a good, hard-hitting and physical football team and no one should think less of the Rams for their showing. It speaks well for Ooltewah and bodes ill for Ooltewah opponents.
* New coach Josh Sellers got his first win with throwback, run-oriented offense and a team-oriented defense as Notre Dame shut out Grace Academy 14-0. Well, fellas, there's a monster leap from last Friday night at Grace and this Friday at home against Howard, and you can bet Sellers started preaching it on the bus ride back to Notre Dame last Friday.
* Boyd-Buchanan had South Pittsburg-like numbers in its 62-7 win over Chattanooga Christian. I'd be willing to bet, though, that the kids who usually play in the Bucs' junior varsity games on Mondays got their share of work last Friday. I'd bet, too, that the only varsity Boyd-Buchanan starter on the field in the fourth quarter was versatile runner/receiver/defender Joey Glisson. And he was out there only to kick extra points.
* The aforementioned South Pittsburg opens its season at Grundy County Friday. ... Bledsoe County and new coach Jason Reel got their first win, 20-14 at Coalfield. ... Ooltewah's opponent this week, Austin-East, won its opener 26-21 over Morristown East. . . . Bradley Central looks to get its first win on the road at Coffee County, which lost 10-0 to Shelbyville. Coffee County's coach is Eddie Nunley, an assistant at Bradley during Bill Price's time as the Bears head coach.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...