McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES
Coach: Bo Cagle (25-19 here and career)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 9/5/2
Remember these names: Quarterback Nathan Simbeck (Sr., 6-4, 180) gained a lot of experience last season after starting the final six games of the season. He will have a couple of playmakers in receivers Cedric Edwards (Sr., 6-1, 210) and Dorian Simpson (Sr., 5-8, 165), who also has shutdown ability at the cornerback position.
Will be a memorable year if: The Cherokees finish games. Winning the close battles has been coach Bo Cagle’s mantra over his coaching career, but that’s exactly where the team failed last year. The Cherokees weren’t many points from an 8-2 season, but failure to make crucial offensive plays or big stops made them 2-8 instead. Don’t expect that again this year.
Aug. 19 McMinn Central
Aug. 26 at McCallie
Sept. 2 at Rhea County*
Sept. 9 Farragut
Sept. 16 Ooltewah*
Sept. 30 at Walker Valley*
Oct. 7 Cleveland*
Oct. 14 Meigs County*
Oct. 21 Soddy-Daisy*
Oct. 28 at Bradley Central*
* District 5-AAA game
McMinn County coach Bo Cagle knew that eventually the good luck was going to run out for his football team.
The 2010 season became that time.
The Cherokees, who won the District 5-AAA championship in 2009, suffered through a seven-game losing streak last year and finished 2-8, uncommon for the proud program. McMinn lost four games decided by 10 points or less and had chances late in two other contests only to falter.
"Last season was bad," Cagle said. "We had so many opportunities to win, and we had so many games that came down to the end. The guys tried our best, but it just wasn't our time."
Losing a large senior class from the year before didn't help the team, which came into the season somewhat unfamiliar with the rigors of district play.
"I think the guys that were there last year saw that 2009 bunch and thought that was how things were going to be," Cagle said. "They spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do."
Quarterback Nathan Simbeck, who started the final six games of the season after starter Drew Masingale was injured, said the season was frustrating but educational.
"It was a learning year for me," he said. "It was disappointing at the same time, but I was able to learn the speed of the game."
He added that a year studying under former McMinn quarterback Cy Ables helped him more than anything.
The 2010 season has caused the Cherokees to approach this one with a chip on their shoulder. It's been evident in their workouts as well as in added intensity in scrimmages. McMinn is hungry, and receivers Cedric Nevins and Dorian Simpson give Simbeck two dangerous targets.
The quarterback said the Cherokees feel they have some scores to settle.
"We want to work harder than anybody else that we're going to play against," Simbeck said. "We feel like we've got a lot of stuff to prove on the field."
Said Cagle: "The guys definitely have a chip on their shoulder because they had opportunities in a lot of games. The most disappointing thing to me is that the kids weren't able to realize the fruits of their labor."
It was one of the biggest wins in the history of the program, and it came at the opportune time. The Cherokees defeated Ooltewah 20-17 in overtime the final week of the 2009 regular season to claim their first district championship since 2001. Then-junior running back Drew Masingale scored on an 11-yard run to clinch the win, bowling over a defender for the final 2 yards.
The win was doubly sweet because it was McMinn’s first win over a Benny Monroe-coached team in the school’s history. Monroe both played and coached at the Athens school before going to Cleveland and tormenting the Tribe for years. After a brief retirement, he came back and coached at Ooltewah for five seasons.