Hixson now 'the target' in 6-AA football

Hixson now 'the target' in 6-AA football

July 12th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Jason Fitzgerald, head coach of the Hixson High School football team, discusses the upcoming season at the District 6-AA football media day on Thursday.

Jason Fitzgerald, head coach of the Hixson High...

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

6-AA polls

Team Coaches Media

Hixson 1st 1st

Central 2nd T-4th

Tyner 3rd 2nd

Red Bank 4th 3rd

East Ridge 5th T-4th

Brainerd 6th 6th

Howard 7th 7th

Hixson leaped a tall hurdle last season, posting the school's first winning football season in more than a decade.

The question now is can the Wildcats maintain or even improve on the 7-4 record of 2012?

"That's what scares me most," coach Jason Fitzgerald said following the District 6-AA football media day. "Because of the success last year and everybody talking to the kids -- how are we going to handle that?"

District 6-AA coaches think they can, voting the Wildcats No. 1 at the event Thursday at Hixson. The media also selected Fitzgerald's team for the top spot.

The Wildcats were 6-1 in the district last year, losing only to eventual champion East Hamilton, which moved up after a successful postseason to District 5-AAA.

"If I had to pick a winner, it would be Hixson," Central coach John Allen said. "They beat everybody last year except East Hamilton. If we can compete with them, I feel like we'll be in pretty good shape."

Added East Ridge coach Tracy Malone: "We understand we're in a district where everybody is going to be pretty good. I think last year East Hamilton was head and shoulders above us. Now that they're gone, I believe everybody can compete with everybody. But I'm going to go with John and pick Hixson. They return a lot of people, and it would be hard to say they're not the favorite."

Fitzgerald, beginning his second season at Hixson, is concerned about the mindset his guys will have heading into preseason practice.

"Our first priority last year was teaching the kids to win, and we were able to come back in the second half of some of the games to do that," he said. "Now we have to build on that and the guys have to realize that there's no sneaking up on anybody and that we're going from shooting at a target to being the target."

6-AA notes

New Brainerd coach Brian Gwyn was present and nodded affirmatively when asked if former Panthers star Tyrus Ward was going to be a part of his staff. Gwyn, a former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga player, came to Brainerd from the Atlanta area to replace Stanley Jackson. ... Allen talked Stan Eller out of retirement, replacing himself as offensive coordinator with the former Meigs County coach. ... Malone has hired Mark Teague to be his defensive coordinator. A native of South Alabama, Teague most recently worked in Arkansas. The Pioneers' new defensive look will be a 4-2-5. East Ridge also hired former Bledsoe County coach Hubert Roberson. ... Red Bank has lost former Lions quarterback Jake Ledbetter from its coaching staff. Having graduated from UTC, Ledbetter will be coaching at Lakview Middle. Also at Red Bank, 2012 offensive coordinator Kraig Campbell will be defensive coordinator and head coach E.K. Slaughter will be offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. ... Tyner coach Wayne Turner, making a rare media day appearance, said that Larry Dillard, a key member of his staff for years, is doing well as he recovers from open-heart surgery.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.