Hargis: Things I know about the 2017 prep football season

Hargis: Things I know about the 2017 prep football season

August 18th, 2017 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Columns

Gallery: White-led Baylor dances past Notre Dame, 42-21, in area opener

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As we get set for the first Friday night of the 2017 prep football season, here are a few things (I think) I know we'll see before fall is over:

-I know Brendon Harris, who's committed to the University of Tennessee to play safety, will rush for 1,000-plus yards as Baylor's featured running back. Harris ran for nearly 600 yards in the final four games last season after injuries forced coaches to move him to offense. Now he'll stay on the field to play both ways for a full season, letting him show just how talented he is.

-I know Brainerd not only will snap its 12-game losing streak but will earn a playoff berth in Tyrus Ward's first season as coach. In his first head coaching job, he took over a Whites Creek program that had suffered 27 straight losses. With Ward in charge, it took just three games for the Cobras to snap that skid, and he'll do similar work with his alma mater this year.

-I know Cleveland's offense is literally a track team in helmets. Sprinters Micaleous Elder, Keegan Jones, Treasure Johnson, Jordan Hickey and Romeo Wykle are all track sprinters who have been clocked at 4.55 seconds or faster in the 40-yard dash. Getting the ball in their hands could result in a highlight play on any snap.

-I know Marion County running back Jacob Saylors will run for more than 2,000 yards and become a Mr. Football finalist. The speedster was named all-state last year, despite having to share the workload on a loaded team. With fewer weapons around him, he'll get more carries, which is a good thing for the Warriors offense.

-I know Red Bank will win its region and make a deep playoff run, resulting in offensive coordinator Drew Akins receiving considerable interest to become a head coach at other schools. Akins took over an offense that had struggled two years ago — scoring more than 20 points just once while winning only three of 11 games — and helped the Lions average more than 34 points per game last year on their way to an eight-win season. Akins has plenty of big-play weapons back, including Calvin Jackson and Zay Brown.

-I know Grace Academy faces one of the most grueling travel schedules of any area team. Grace's region schedule includes games at Concord Christian, Donelson Christian, King's Academy and Middle Tennessee Christian. Those four trips add up to 836 miles, with the shortest trip 86 miles to Knoxville to play Concord Christian. The others are all 230-plus miles round-trip.

-I know Ringgold coach Robert Akins will earn the 300th win of his impressive career and South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider will get his 200th. Both are eight wins from those milestones.

-I know Tyner defensive lineman Tracey Justice (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) will lead the area in tackles for loss. It's a nightmare for Region 3-2A offensive linemen trying to keep him out of their backfield.

-I know that while there are some big-time college prospects in this year's area senior class, only McCallie receiver Hakim McMorris can claim to be the best in the nation. McMorris, who won an incredible nine of 10 events at last spring's decathlon state championship, is ranked as the top high school decathlete in the country.

-I know Sale Creek will earn its first playoff appearance. The Panthers, whose program began just five years ago, have 17 starters back and enough talent and depth that they should be able to beat either Lookout Valley or Copper Basin and possibly both. Just one region win will earn them a spot in the postseason.

-I know South Pittsburg and Whitwell will meet twice this season. The Region 3-1A championship likely will be decided when the two teams meet in South Pitt on Oct. 13, but regardless of who wins that game, the talent level of both will mean they'll face off again in the state quarterfinals.

-I know that for the second straight season, Walker Valley quarterback Kolten Gibson will pass for more than 3,000 yards. The return of his top target — Zeke Westfield (6-4, 195) — will be a major help.

-I know Calhoun will earn its 17th straight region championship and win at least two playoff games for the 10th consecutive year. Many of the current Yellow Jackets weren't even born the last time the program lost to a region opponent in 2001.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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