published Monday, October 8th, 2012

Gossett blog: Two young teams pick up first wins

Two more teams took their names off the area's football winless list Friday.

East Ridge and Meigs County, both fairly young teams, surprised Howard (21-6) and Meigs County (12-6) respectively.

"You take your lumps — and we're covered with 'em — but for us it's a two-edged sword," Meigs coach Ricky Holliday said. "We're you're starting a bunch of 15-year-old kids against basically grown men, you're going to take some lumps. But they kids haven't quit. They're a really good group."

Though they have been banged and bruised, the Tigers are feeling better.

"Yep, we're taking our lumps, but it's a two-edged sword," Holliday said.

He lost two senior offensive linemen early in the year but Meigs now has a non-senior starting offense and the Tigers start just three seniors on defense."

• It looks, too, like the Tigers may be dropping from Class 3A and out of district 5-AA and moving into District 5-A with Copper Basin, Silverdale Baptist, Grace Baptist and possibly Notre Dame and Boyd-Buchanan.

Both the Irish and the Buccaneers, saddled with the state's 1.8 multiplier because they're private schools playing in Division I, were right on the border.

• After seeing Central's Pounders twice this season, I'm surprised that they have but one win. They looked much better, at last for three quarters, Thursday in a loss to Tyner, holding the Rams to a 21-all tie before falling 39-18 after a momentum-swinging blocked punt.

While John Allen bemoans could-have-won games, the Central coach is building steadily with the likes of junior Mike Ray and sophomore running back/defensive back Kevin McKenzie. The offensive line still looks a little soft, and many would against Tyner, but the majority, if not all, are back for 2013.

• While not clicking on all cylinders -- at least to their coach's expectations -- Red Bank's Lions remained quite strong in the District 6-AA race with a 36-15 win over Brainerd. Quarterback Hagen Wilkey had one of his better nights, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback throwing three TD passes while running for two more scores and two two-point conversions. Can't figure out why the offers aren't pouring in, but rest assured the senior will have the opportunity at the next level even if it's Division III because he is a quality student with those schools' kind of grades.

That district will likely go to the final minute of the final game -- East Hamilton might be extended that long -- with the Hurricanes' game Friday against Tyner looming as the season's largest to date. It's possible that at least four teams will get into the playoffs: East Hamilton, Hixson, Tyner and Red Bank.

Tyner has a tough task, playing its final three games on the road with Howard in two weeks and Red Bank the final game of the year.

• Polk County has a tough game at home next week in Sequoyah, the biggest challenger to their District 5-AA championship aspirations. If that wasn't enough along with his starting quarterback out for at least four weeks with a broken collarbone, Derrick Davis' Wildcats host explosive South Pittsburg next week.

Of course, South Pittsburg has Boyd-Buchanan this week.

It could be interesting to see if the TSSAA realigns 5-AA, perhaps sending Polk County south toward Chattanooga (and District 6-AA) and McMinn Central north.

• One of the most intriguing races is in 5-AAA. Cleveland, Bradley, McMinn County, Ooltewah and perhaps Walker Valley remain the playoff picture. McMinn's Cherokees took a big step Friday by beating Cleveland, but the Cherokees still have a gain with Bradley Central. Ooltewah also remained in the picture by knocking off Bradley Central, setting up a three-way tie for second place between the Owls, Cleveland's Blue Raiders and Bradley's Bears.

• And finally, I don't often hold with high school seniors committing to one school and then visiting other college programs. I have always said that players need to understand the word commitment before they knuckle under to the pressure of college recruiting and give their word.

However, in the case of Signal Mountain quarterback Reese Phillips, I have to go against my own beliefs. Reese, who has committed to Kentucky, entered the summer with no college offers despite throwing for more than 1,800 yards as a junior.

As late spring progressed, MTSU and Memphis offered and both recruiters said he was the best they had seen. No Georgia, no Auburn or Alabama or South Carolina. Tennessee wouldn't even return Signal coach Bill Price's calls and not much more than a sniff from an ACC school.

Then Kentucky showed up to watch him work and came through shortly thereafter with the kid's first Southeastern Conference offer.

He understandably loved the recruiter, quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, and really thought a lot of UK head coach Joker Phillips during an unofficial visit to Lexington.

He decided to have a bird in his hand.

An Auburn coach reportedly called a couple of weeks ago to see if Reese was still committed to UK, but then Alabama came along last week and extended the opportunity for an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa.

As one might expect, Phillips said he was honored that Alabama would extend such an invitation.

It might amount to nothing more than watching the Crimson Tide slap around Mississippi State, but with rumors rampant that UK will replace Joker and the defending national champions extending an invite, why not?

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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