Gossett blog: 2-0 start nice but can be misleading

Gossett blog: 2-0 start nice but can be misleading

September 1st, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Is there any big deal about being 2-0 in a high school football season?

The obvious answer, one you'd likely get from saucy Signal Mountain coach Bill Price, is that it beats being 0-2 or 1-1.

Chattanooga Christian is one of those teams that know being 2-0 can give a sense of false security. The Chargers started 2-0 last year against inferior competition and ended the season a disappointing 3-7.

It isn't just CCS, though.

Walker Valley is again 2-0. The Mustangs did it last year and the year before, too, and finished 4-6 last season and 5-6 in 2012.

This is a big week for Baylor, another 2-0 repeater that saw its unbeaten streak last year ended by Montgomery Bell Academy, this week's opponent. McCallie made it 3-0 in 2012 before losing seven in a row.

Now some thought food about being 2-0 or 0-2 or even 1-1:

• Ooltewah (2-0) parlayed a 1-1 start into a 9-3 season last year under then first-year coach Mac Bryan. The Owls' longest win streak to open the season in recent history was the 9-0 string under Benny Monroe in 2009.

• Soddy-Daisy is 2-0 for the first time since, well, last season, when it charged out of the gate and then stumbled in the next eight with only one more win. Prior to that, the Trojans last started 2-0 in 1984 -- E.K. Slaughter's only season as head coach -- and wound up 8-4. It's one of three winning seasons for the Trojans in the last decade.

• Signal Mountain last started 2-0 in 2011, but mention of that year brings painful memories to Eagles faithful. Their team officially finished the year 2-2 after forfeiting six wins for use of what the TSSAA determined was an ineligible player.

• Brainerd has started three of the last four years with a pair of losses. The Panthers won three of their last four last year, including an upset of eventual District 6-AA champion Hixson. They'd like to think they just ran out of games.

• Is it unusual for Central to be 2-0? Not necessarily. David Barger's 2009 team went 4-0 but then lost four straight, a streak that began with a 40-14 pummeling by South Pittsburg. There is hope on Highway 58.

• Though they've started 0-2 each of the last three years and have just three wins over the last three seasons, Howard's Hustlin' Tigers surely have been reminded of 2010 and a 4-0 start to an 8-3 season. That was under very successful Alvin Tarver, who reportedly has been quite supportive of new coach Mark Teague.

• Among the most positive notes for those who already have lost one or two games, Tyner has started just three of the last 10 seasons 2-0 yet the Rams made the playoffs each of those years.

• McMinn Central's 2-0 start is the first in Josh Goodin's head coaching tenure.

• So you think it's been a long time since one team or another started the year 0-2? One of the area's most consistent programs, Polk County, has had just one losing season since Derrick Davis took over as head coach in 2000, and the Wildcats haven't missed the playoffs since 2001. They started 0-2 in 2011, previously the only time a Davis-coached team has done that, and that bunch righted the ship to finish with eight wins.

• Who would've thought South Pittsburg would be 0-2? The Pirates got spanked in Week Zero and then busted 35-12 last week. Well, it's been a while but it happened, even to Vic Grider, for whom the Pirates' field is now named. In the midst of Class 1A dominance, the Pirates stumbled repeatedly coming out of the gate in 2000 and actually finished that year without a win.

And now looking around the area:

• Reese Phillips, the ex-Signal Mountain quarterback who redshirted last season at Kentucky, got his first real taste of college football Saturday, although it was in a mop-up role.

"An absolute dream come true," he said late Saturday afternoon in a swap of texts.

If you knew this youngster, you'd have to pull for him and not just because of his athletic ability. No, he isn't perfect but he is class and character. A fellow might be hard pressed to pull for Tennessee's Volunteers when they play Kentucky if Reese is in the game. He was, you know, snubbed by the Vols, but to give Butch Jones and his staff a break, it was in the midst of coaching transition.

You remember, don't you, that it was former UT assistant Randy Sanders who landed Phillips for UK. Too bad Reese can't join him now at Florida State.

• Speaking of Sanders, ever wonder where others from Phillip Fulmer's coaching staff wound up?

The two primary coordinators were David Cutcliffe, who has established Duke as a legitimate ACC power, and John Chavis, the LSU defensive architect. Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell is now at Boise State, and Dan Brooks, who coached defensive tackles at UT, is now assistant head coach at Clemson. UT, by the way, did try to interest Brooks in returning to Knoxville, but Clemson gave him a job when he was without.

• Did you see the photo on the front page of Saturday's sports section? It's Elijah Cartwright, a Soddy-Daisy defensive tackle, being brought down by Red Bank quarterback Caleb Tate.

It was quite a play by Cartwright, who broke through the line virtually untouched and actually snatched Tate's handoff to a Lions running back, setting up a Soddy-Daisy score.

The Trojans won the game 43-30 behind Hunter Maynor's second straight 5-TD passing performance. The left-handed senior doesn't necessarily zip his passes, but he definitely has the timing down.

• In rolling to its second straight blowout win, McCallie benched its starters after intermission. The Blue Tornado have outscored their first two opponents 93-6.

Baylor also is on an early tear while also getting valuable experience for backups. The Red Raiders have scored 85 while allowing 13.

Both begin Division II East/Middle play this week. Baylor is at home against MBA (8 p.m. kickoff) and McCallie is on the road to meet Pope John Paul II.

• It's the district kickoff for a number of Tennessee teams, and among the biggest of games are Soddy-Daisy at Ooltewah in 5-AAA, Notre Dame at CCS in 7-AA, Central at East Ridge in 6-AA and Whitwell at Marion County in 6-A.

How much juice has new coach Rob Spence actually injected at CCS? They'll know for sure Friday. Notre Dame lost its opener to Knoxville Catholic, but receiver/athlete extraordinaire Kareem Orr showed himself last week, scoring three TDs and adding a couple of key defensive plays in the Irish's win over East Ridge.

• If you wonder about Courtney Stamper, Red Bank's standout senior, well, he's for real. He played fullback and scored a TD and a two-point conversion, may have lined up at tight end a time or two and definitely made his presence felt at linebacker.

Still feel, though, that he'll wind up playing defense on the line with his hand on the ground, but if he can boost his grade point average and his ACT score, he will be a definite SEC-level player.

Could say the same for the Lions' Malik Davis, who could play safety, wideout or even a running back at the next level. He had a near unbelievable kickoff return for a TD nullified by a block in the back. That would've been his second in as many weeks.

Another one to watch is Soddy-Daisy's Tre Carter. Good size and speed for a receiver/defensive back. Great instincts and he could also serve as a backup punter. It wouldn't surprise me if he winds up kicking extra points before the season gets too much older.

• Got to visit with some of the members of Red Bank's all-time team Friday night, including coach Tom Weathers, his son Jeff, Gary Partrick, Wayne Elrod and Mike Ducker, along with Mike Kelley and John Becksvoort. Ducker, by the way, has traveled the world since he graduated in 1971 but is now back in Memphis and talking about retiring to a farm near Ole Miss, where he played collegiately.

• How about a parting feel-good story?

While working Saturday afternoon, I got a call from Central assistant head coach Cortney Braswell, who was eager to get the Pounders' statistics included in the Times Free Press's weekly stats package (it's also available online). He actually apologized for "bothering you on the weekend with this nonsense."

When reminded that this is what both of us do, he responded, "Love these guys, man. Feel if they can go and work for me, the least I can do is get their stats up."

Now that's a guy who understands what he's about and why, and, yes, the ex-Baylor running back has matured nicely and one day soon will be a head coach.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.