A loss to Bledsoe County may have gotten Grundy County into the high school football playoffs.
"We had a big letdown against them -- maybe their best game and our worst," Yellow Jackets coach Nick Bryant said, "but the kids refocused the next week against Grace Academy, which had been averaging 40 points per game. We held them to one TD and 65 yards rushing."
Grundy followed up with a win over Notre Dame to take four of its last five games and finish the regular season 6-4.
"People complain about who they have to play, but we're just one of those teams that's happy to be in the playoffs. We'll play anywhere they want to send us," Bryant said.
The TSSAA sent the Yellow Jackets to Goodpasture Christian, Class 3A state runner-up last year to Alcoa, but that too is good.
"Oh, yeah," 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle Austin Fults said when asked about playing Goodpasture. "We played up there my sophomore year and we get to play them my senior year. We feel like we let one get away from us."
After Grundy led through three quarters in 2009, Goodpasture rallied for a 29-20 victory. Bryant doesn't see the task getting any easier.
"They look to be big boys, all about the size of Austin," Bryant said. "They're real stout on defense and they remind me of Signal Mountain's style of offense -- explosive."
While Grundy County relies heavily on running back Johnny Cook for its offense, the team turns to a defense led by Fults and linebacker Derrick Sanders, who is among the area's leaders with 121 tackles.
"We have played him both ways but moved him to defense only once we felt comfortable with younger guys on the offensive line," Bryant said of Fults, who spends his spare time carting wood [even cross ties] around at his father's lumber mill. He's also a deer hunter and already has been out with his bow. He plans to hunt Saturday, the first day of muzzleloader season.
Sanders, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, is coming off an 18-tackle showing against Notre Dame.
"He had two or three hits where the crowd went 'Oooh' or 'Aaah,'" Bryant said.
"I guess we're a hard-hitting team," Sanders said about Grundy's defense. "We have worked hard, we have been dedicated and we have a good group of football players."
It will take all of their hard work and dedication.
"We had them on the ropes going into the fourth quarter and just ran out of gas," Bryant said of the 2009 matchup. "This year I think we have to play physical up front -- ground and pound -- and we have to create some turnovers. We want to keep their offense off the field, and if they score we want to make them have to earn it."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765.