CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS
Coach: John Allen (1st year here; 65-53 overall)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 7/9/0
Remember these names: Quarterback Ladarrius Jackson (Jr., 6-2, 180), running back Taquan Johnson (Jr., 5-9, 190), linebackers Sam Sledge (Jr., 5-8, 210) and Nick Timochuck (Sr., 6-1, 220) and offensive lineman Zack Calhoun (Sr., 6-3, 265) should be Purple Pounders leaders.
Will be a memorable year if: The Pounders improve on last year’s fifth-place District 6-AA finish. They’ve made back-to-back playoff appearances (under David Barger and then Sam Montgomery), and a return this year under Allen would mark the first such three-year streak in the school’s once-storied history.
Aug. 26 Polk County
Sept. 2 at East Hamilton*
Sept. 9 at Cleveland
Sept. 16 at Howard*
Sept. 23 Soddy-Daisy
Sept. 30 at Red Bank*
Oct. 7 Tyner*
Oct. 14 Brainerd*
Oct. 21 East Ridge*
Oct. 28 Hixson*
* District 6-AA game
Now in his fourth head coaching position in the area, John Allen still invokes a strict set of rules that revolve around living a proper life and doing all things to the best of one's ability.
And they better be done with a little snap, crackle and pop, as Central players have discovered.
An anonymous one brought a bar-type stool into a locker room that has just been refurbished. Allen walked in and headed toward his office when the out-of-place furniture caught his eye.
"Whose is it? Nobody knows? Whoever it belongs to better get it out of here or I'm throwing it out the door in two minutes," he barked.
Somehow in those next two minutes the chair was slipped out the door -- point made and accepted.
Allen is the third head coach for Central's seniors and juniors, and he has been welcomed, even by LaDarrius Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound quarterback who had been known to bristle at correction and discipline.
Jackson has been one of Allen's primary targets -- or "projects," in the coach's term.
"He's tough, but I love it," Jackson said. "Yeah, he's in my face but he has taught me to be a better person, and he is going to make us better people and a better team."
It could be an interesting fall for Allen, whose team numbers close to 90 but who was warned before he took the job that many of the Purple Pounders had disdain for discipline.
Allen has not found that, especially after each player heard his rules and a handful were dismissed for disregarding them.
"Everyone has to work. There are no prima donnas. If we do everything on the hop and as a unit, we can make him happy," said the soft-spoken Jackson. "He plays no games but he has been good for me, for everybody."
In Allen's hybrid wing-T offense, a variation of a veer, the quarterback is the trigger man and the leader because of the decisions he has to make.
"He won't let me slack up, and I'm getting coached only by him," Jackson said of the seemingly eternal evening practice sessions. "He's on me all the time about my bad habits -- showboating, carrying the ball with one hand -- and if I don't take what the defense gives me it's big-time."
The Pounders have a blend of experience -- 16 starters returning -- size and speed and could be a dark horse for the District 6-AA championship. The size includes lineman Zack Calhoun (6-3, 265) and the speed includes Jackson with a 4.4 40 and running backs Robert Cobb (4.5) and newcomer Taquan Johnson (4.4). Calhoun is a senior and Cobb, Johnson and Jackson are juniors.
Jackson believes the team is grabbing on to Allen's keys to success, which he paraphrased: "Be as one, be on time, practice hard and play like you practice; be focused, do well in school. Be Central and don't settle for being like anybody else. Be yourself and have fun."
As good as he was as a coach and as good a staff as he had (Jack Archer, Stan Farmer, Jake Seaton), legendary Red Etter didn’t get his first undefeated season until 1962 when the Purple Pounders went 11-0, including a 28-7 December victory over Jacksonville in the Meninak Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
“That was a really good team,” recalled Scott Campbell, the slight two-way end (6-0, 150) who was a unanimous selection as team captain. “I think all of the first-team guys and even some of the guys on second team had college offers.”
That list included Campbell, who declined football offers to pursue an engineering degree at Tennessee.
Among the other notable players were quarterbacks Harry Phillips and Buzz Kelley, high school All-American lineman Dickie Phillips, running backs Steve Bevil and Terry Parks, kicker Bobby Etter, linebacker Glenn Jones and lineman Charlie Glenn. The Phillips brothers and Etter went to Georgia, Bevil to Vanderbilt, Parks to Tennessee Tech, Jones to Ole Miss and Glenn to Auburn.
“The things I remember most were practicing till we puked every day and that playing a game was a break because of the way we practiced and who we practiced against,” Campbell said.
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 ...