published Monday, September 17th, 2012

Look for Tyrus Ward coaching again next year

Tyrus Ward, the ex-Brainerd quarterback who has been a key offensive assistant for a number of high school football programs, isn't helping coach this season, and it's killing him.

He goes to school each morning, does his role as an administrator and then goes home. He can't be on the practice field, and he surely can't be on the sideline where he's been a fixture, reportedly because of federal law that governs his current position.

It won't last long. Ward has his diploma and expects to pass the test to be a math teacher before the new year. He immediately will be a head coaching candidate.

He was one of two offensive staff losses for Brainerd coach Stanley Jackson, and it's taken three-plus games for the Panthers to collect themselves. They lost again Friday night (to East Hamilton) but had more than 300 yards of offense.

The Panthers were way too undisciplined, and Coach Jackson will have seen it by now on the tape. They were flagged 21 times for 187 yards, including six personal fouls.

• Congratulations to Hixson, which pulled out a scintillating 36-35 victory at Red Bank for first-year Wildcats coach Jason Fitzgerald.

While he was sure to have congratulated his kids and celebrated some over the weekend, it's likely that he'll tell all who'll listen that the Wildcats haven't yet bought completely into his philosophy.

Those who know him can hear it now: "We've still got a lot of work to do."

His primary job this week will be to convince his team of that.

But as long as the Wildcats are winning, the coach's very supportive parents will have to stay away.

"I told them to go watch [brother] Jeremy [an assistant at Rhea County]," Fitzgerald said last week.

The Wildcats are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in District 6-AA, and they'll be on the road Friday to play at DeKalb County.

• Congratulations also to Howard, which ended a 13-game losing streak (which carried over from the last game of 2010) with a 20-14 victory over Central. The Hustlin' Tigers will be at home against Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday.

• Just on a whim, and this was before the East Hamilton-Brainerd game, I went back last week and checked the number of penalties and penalty yards from games reported to the Times Free Press in time for the Sept. 8 edition.

Now before any thin-skinned individual thinks I'm finger-pointing, I am just presenting the numbers, realizing all the while that we're talking about three different associations from Tennessee and at least one each for Georgia and Alabama games.

For 17 games, there was a per-game average of 13 penalties for 106 yards. It might cause coaches to shudder, but that's not really a bad number when you consider each team is, on the average, getting seven penalties for 53 yards.

However, and I remind you again I'm not pointing fingers, in 12 of the games the visiting team was penalized more, and in half of those dozen contests the difference in yards marked off was at least 50.

Another oddity? One team got penalized just once for 10 yards. In high school football?

One penalty that I haven't seen called that much is offensive linemen dropping back as if to pass-protect and then diving into the knees of the oncoming defenders. At least one referee I know of said there's no doubt that should be a penalty but you're never going to get every crew calling every situation the same, whether it's holding or pass interference or even blocks in the back.

• A question came up about a player having to leave the game after his helmet comes off. Could a timeout be substituted for a player having to leave the game? The answer I got was no. The player still has to stay on the sideline for one play.

If you're wondering why the emphasis on the helmet rule, my guess is that players aren't "cinching up" as they should, thus creating safety issues. And if you saw the ESPN NFL highlights last week, you'd understand. There was a safety who got crunched head on and helmet to helmet. His helmet went sailing straight away from him, and I'd venture to guess he suffered a broken nose or some cracked teeth.

And here's one that you may find hard to believe: A player in a game over the last two weeks threw his helmet while on the field. He didn't have to leave the game and he wasn't penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Somebody must not have been watching. Maybe his coach caught it on a replay and set the youngster to at least running a bunch of sprints. Something like that, well, there just isn't room for it; it is a display of a spoiled child with serious anger management issues and a definite lack of maturity.

• Bailey Lenoir, a young tight end at East Hamilton and the son of former Vols offensive lineman Patrick Lenoir, was among the fans screaming for the Big Orange in their game against Florida on Saturday.

Bailey, who just turned 16, is a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder who attended a camp at UT last summer.

• Did you need a sweater last Friday night? I spent a week at the beach and came back to some beautiful autumn weather. Know where I'm going with this? Can you imagine how much safer players would've been and how much more comfortable fans could've been if the Tennessee season started the Friday after Labor Day rather than a dangerously hot and humid four weeks prior?

Still haven't figured out why this happens except that school systems have skewed their schedules and are starting earlier and getting out earlier, plus the addition of a fall break. Too, basketball and wrestling coaches need to realize that their seasons are too long and that they have way too many events.

Just doing some rough figuring -- if a basketball team used all of its allowed dates, then teams reaching the state championship games could have played more than 40 times. NCAA champion Kentucky played just 40 games last season.

The TSSAA, of course, added that football Week Zero several years ago and said coaches like it. Well, they like it because of the flexibility they need to find non-district games, and some teams such as those in the five-team District 5-AA are having to schedule six non-district opponents. For 5-AA member Polk, that schedule includes a 6A team (Bradley), a 5A team (Walker Valley) and a 4A team (Signal Mountain). Then there's 1A power South Pittsburg to round it out, and South Pitt is a bunch no team would seek out unless it was in a scheduling bind. The only non-district 3A team on his schedule is Chattanooga Christian.

• If I was going to watch a game this week, I'd probably head first for Finley Stadium. Baylor and McCallie is always a sure bet to be a spirited, tooth-rattling game. Hard to say who the underdog is in this one, especially when one considers McCallie's dismantling of Tyner — handing the Rams their first loss — on Sept. 7.

Baylor is still playing two quarterbacks, but the coaching staff has to be pleased with the performance to date of running back George Porter, who has rebounded nicely from a nagging 2011 leg injury.

This one should be spiced too by the return to the McCallie sideline of coach Ralph Potter, who knows well the importance this game has on the schools' respective communities and on future students at the two schools.

Baylor, by the way, is in a two-game funk with back-to-back losses to Montgomery Bell Academy and Ensworth. The Red Raiders last had back-to-back losses in 2009, ending the regular season with setbacks at Ensworth and at home against Father Ryan. They haven't lost three in a row since 2008, and that was a four-game skid that included a 24-3 loss to McCallie. It was the Blue Tornado's most recent win in the series.

• Former Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter returns to his three-year home this week when he brings Red Bank to Benny Monroe Stadium. He might feel the need to try to prove a point, and as he said last week, Red Bank is still looking for that complete game with consistent performance and not just flashes of greatness.

Too, he's quite familiar with many of the Blue Raiders' players, especially quarterback Austin Herink.

• Austin-East at Brainerd is quite often a track meet, and Marion County-Sequatchie County could be a slugfest, depending upon the health of numerous Marion players. And although it's a local vs. an out-of-towner, Tyner's home game with Tullahoma could be entertaining. You owe it to yourself to go see Tyner's defensive line. Down the road there could be quite a matchup — the Rams' front seven and East Hamilton's brawn-filled offensive line.

• Down in Georgia, most of the good games are on the road, but Ridgeland is at home against Cedartown and Dade County hosts Calhoun. There are a pair of neighborhood rivalries in Alabama — Boaz at Scottsboro and Ider at Fyffe.

• At least three Oct. 5 games have been moved to Thursday, Oct. 4 — Red Bank at Brainerd, Central at Tyner and Soddy-Daisy at Walker Valley.

The move, at least in two cases, is precipitated by the fact that Hamilton County students won't go to school on Oct. 5.

The game between Howard and East Ridge will remain on Oct. 5 because it's East Ridge's homecoming. East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said there was no decision yet on his Hurricanes' home game with Hixson, and there was no word from Signal Mountain coach Bill Price on his Eagles' home game against Polk County.

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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