MOUNT PLEASANT — Officials at Mount Pleasant High School confirmed to Southern Middle Tennessee Sports their plans to install artificial turf to their football field, complete with a track surrounding the playing surface.
Redstone Sports Construction is tentatively scheduled to take on the $1.74 million project. With a field available year-round, there are plenty of unique avenues to bring in revenue.
“I want the public to understand it’s not just a field for football. It’s about bringing the community together for all of our different events,” MPHS principal Dr. Ryan Jackson said. “This is going to be a gamechanger.”
The new turf, however, won’t be a traditional green color.
Just like Boise State’s signature blue turf, the Tigers will sport their own signature color red with royal blue accents.
Local businessman Gerald Reed has pledged $250,000 to go toward the cost of the project, while the rest of the money will be raised through fundraising efforts, including a cow patty drop on the old field surface before it is removed.
Former players and coaches have been both supportive, although some rife with jealousy.
“These kids will get to play on the best surface in the county, and won’t have to worry about getting muddy when it rains,” former lineman Harold Potts said. “We had to roll around in that mud like pigs in slop.”
According to Reed, installation will take 50 days at seven days per week. The plan is for the field to be ready by next April Fools Day.
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As Zion Christian comes off two of its more competitive football campaigns in recent memory, it will be up to a new coach to continue the momentum.
Brad Lowery’s resignation was confirmed Monday by school officials, ending a 12-year tenure with the Eagle gridiron program. He served as head coach for the final four of those, posting a 14-24 record that includes four-win finishes in both 2019 and last fall.
“He has a church he pastors and he also the last couple of years has started a school through his church,” Zion athletics director Derek Boyd said. “He didn’t feel he could give us enough time and do it correctly now that his school is starting to grow some.
“He told the kids on Friday. He talked to me and (head of school Rick) Jarvis a few days before and said ‘this is what I need to do’. I think some of them were shocked. I think some of them are upset, and I understand that, because not only does he do a good job coaching but he’s also a good Christian role model for them. He’s what we want to be at Zion. We’re thankful and blessed for the 12 years he has been with us.”
Zion split its first eight games last season – playing eventual Class A state champion Fayetteville close early before eventually falling 41-16 before winning three straight games in addition to stunning Mt. Pleasant 34-27 – behind junior quarterback/linebacker Luke Perko, who finished the fall as the area’s second-leading rusher (822 yards, seven touchdowns) and passer (1,432 yards, 22 TDs).
Perko took the Eagles’ offensive reins from Mark Lowery, who led the area with 2,038 passing yards and 24 TDs in 2019 as Zion opened the campaign 3-1 before dropping four of its last five contests.
“We were 4-6 (in 2020); we beat some teams, and we actually had a chance to probably be 6-4,” Boyd said. “If you talk to Coach Lowery, I think he’d tell you that as would some of the players as well.
“He’d been with those seniors a long time. We lose nine seniors. I think he felt like the timing was right for him.”
The process to identify Lowery’s successor will be an expeditious one, Boyd hopes.
“We’re going to try to move as quickly as we can,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll bring in four to five (candidates) in the next couple of weeks and make a decision as soon as we can, as we know it’s important to try to get spring practice in if we can.”
Lowery indicated via text that he is out of state for the rest of the week and unavailable for comment.
SPRING HILL — Brian Coleman’s got a really big team.
And after their 28-7 win over Oak Ridge in the Class 5A BlueCross Bowl state championship game three months ago, the Summit Spartans needed some really big rings.
A total of 70 players, plus coaches, were presented rings and managers received pendants commemorating the Spartans’ title season during a ceremony Thursday night at the school’s gymnasium.
And while the recipients knew they were receiving some jewelry, they had no idea what it would look like prior to the presentation.
“Nobody’s seen them except me,” Coleman said prior to the event. “I want everybody to be surprised.”
They were – pleasantly so.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be this big,” junior quarterback Destin Wade said. “It looks really good. I’ll wear it a couple of times, but I’ll definitely be putting it in my room somewhere.”
“It’s really exciting,” senior cornerback/receiver Konata Werts added. “All the hard work paid off. (The surprise) made it even better. Coach Coleman did a great job.”
The smiles made it all worthwhile for Coleman.
“They put in the work, they deserve it,” he said. “We borrowed one from (Christ Presbyterian Academy) and passed it around during the pregame meal before we went to Henry County. We told ’em, ‘this is what you’re playing for, this is what your future can be’. It’s pretty awesome.
“I think they’re happy. They’re smiling. That’s all that matters.”
A pair of Spring Hill football seniors recently declared their collegiate destinations, as receiver Jaylan Rucker signed a scholarship Wednesday with Culver Stockton College after kicker Brett Hughes signed earlier with Lindsey Wilson College.
Rucker, a 6-6, 200-pound receiver, finished the Raiders’ 2020 season with 13 catches for 116 yards and one score – a 30-yarder in Spring Hill’s playoff loss at DeKalb County.
“I really felt more connected with them,” Rucker said regarding the staff at Culver Stockton, an NAIA school in Canton, Mo. “They like me on the outside, running good routes and using my speed.”
In signing with Culver Stockton, Rucker turned down scholarship offers from Defiance (Ohio) and McPherson (Kansas) colleges.
“He went for a visit at Carson-Newman. They invited him up, think he ran some routes,” Spring Hill coach Ben Martin said. “I think that’s what set the ball in motion.
“He’s always been a great kid. His aggressiveness came on, he got a little more confident, decided he could actually catch the ball and do something with it when he caught it.”
With his size and strength, particularly at the NAIA level, Martin expects Rucker to give the CSC coaching staff some options.
“He’s a strong kid – benching 285 (pounds), squatting 400, … You can’t coach 6-6,” Martin said. “He really showed some strides. I think what really helped him is, he was one of our better blockers on our team. He doesn’t mind getting physical. They think they can add about 40 pounds. If he’s able to hold weight and put his hand in the dirt, he could possibly be a tight end because he can block pretty well. He’s also a 4.65 (-second) 40 (-yard) guy, so he presents a lot of problems in the slot and he can run those routes. You get him matched up against a 5-10 cornerback, you kinda like that.”
Hughes handled punting, kicking and placement duties for the Raiders and will likely have an opportunity to do all three at Lindsey Wilson, an NAIA school in Columbia, Ky.
“They have a really good placekicker, but he’s a senior,” Martin said. “They think he has a shot to play early at punter. He’s probably stronger as a punter right now.
“He’s worked his tail off … It’s really paid off for him.”
Hughes also considered an offer from Culver Stockton College, as well as Kansas Wesleyan.
“Lindsey Wilson was the best out of the pack because they had the best football team and they offered me the most money to go there,” he said. “It’d be kinda ridiculous not to take it. I went on my visit and they showed me the rings they got for winning their conference. It’s pretty appealing.
“It’s close enough to home, but far enough from home.”
Brian Coleman doesn’t anticipate many secrets along either sideline when Summit takes the field on Week 11.
Alex Melton, who helped the Spartans to the Class 5A state championship in December, has been named to succeed Donnie Webb as head coach at soon-to-be Region 7-6A rival Franklin.
“It’s going to be different,” said Coleman, who has worked for the past seven seasons at Summit with Melton as his defensive coordinator. “We’re used to each other. He’s been a huge part of what we’ve done.
“We’re going to miss him. I’ve always tried to prepare him and let him in on decisions. He’s ready. He’ll do a great job – just hopefully not that week.”
It will be the fourth different Williamson County assignment for Melton, who previously served as an assistant at Centennial and at Brentwood, in addition to stops at Haywood in West Tennessee and at Marshall County.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to compete in one of the best regions in the state because of the level of coaches and players and the excitement in these communities,” said Melton, a Lexington, Tenn., native and a Union University graduate. “I’m excited about coaching here since I live in Franklin. It will be a chance to coach and teach where my family lives.”
In Webb’s last season at the helm, the Admirals finished 7-6 and advanced to the Class 6A state quarterfinals before falling to Brentwood. Their 27-20 Week 4 win over Summit was the Spartans’ last loss en route to the Class 5A state title.
“The history of the program, academically and athletically, and the work Coach Webb has done over the past several years drew me to the job,” Melton said. “Having the opportunity to be in charge of a group of young men and coaches and surrounding them with people who are mentors is something I’m looking forward to as a head coach. I won’t take that responsibility lightly.”
Melton steps into a reconfigured league that features four programs – Brentwood, Summit, Independence and Ravenwood – that have played for or won state championships over the past five years.
“When you look at all the teams in the region, there aren’t a lot of differences between players and coaches,” he said. “It comes down to the expectations of your program as a whole. (We) want to continue to put a good staff together and teach the kids how to respond to victories and defeats.
“The approach has to be the same in what you do every day.”
Centennial and the Admirals will round out Region 7-6A, with Dickson County reassigned to Region 6-6A along with Antioch, Cane Ridge, LaVergne, McGavock, Overton and Smyrna for the 2021 and ’22 seasons.
Over nine seasons at Franklin, Webb led the program to a 59-43 record with seven playoff appearances, including a pair of state quarterfinal berths. He similarly comes from a defensive background, having served as the then-Rebels’ defensive coordinator for six years before taking a similar role at Battle Ground Academy and returning to replace Craig Clayton as head coach.
“We are very excited to welcome Coach Melton and begin a new chapter in Franklin Admiral football,” principal Shane Pantall said. “Coach Melton is highly respected within the coaching community and we have confidence that he will continue to grow the program and engage our athletes and create a winning environment.”
Maurice Patton is the editor of SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MoPatton_Sports.
After wearing purple and gold throughout his high school and collegiate football career, Tra’Darius Goff will have to update his wardrobe for his next gridiron step.
Arguably one of the best to ever suit up at Columbia Central – he’s one of three Lions to have their number retired – Goff will join Kit Hartsfield’s coaching staff at Mt. Pleasant.
“I’d been wanting to get into coaching for some time,” Goff said this week. “He reached out, we had about a 30-minute conversation and that just sealed it as far as what I wanted to do in terms of starting my coaching career.
“I’ve heard good things about the athletics there.”
Goff, 27, has been involved in personal training locally since completing his degree in exercise science and physical wellness at Tennessee Tech – where he graduated as the Golden Eagles’ third all-time leading tackler while starting for three seasons and earning first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference honors.
His collegiate success mirrored that of his high school career, where he started all but one game at Central and capped his reign as the offensive and defensive most valuable player in the 2010 Class 5A state championship as the Lions defeated Hendersonville 28-7.
“Tra’Darius is a very well respected individual, not only locally but across the state,” Hartsfield said. “He’s got great relational skills. He was a fantastic player. He brings a great deal of energy and leadership to the table. He’s got great references – from (former Tennessee Tech coach) Watson Brown, from Gardner-Webb coach Tre Lamb.
“He’s somebody you’d want your kids to play for. He’s perceived as a great man in the community. He’s an enormous addition to the school and the program.”
Goff said previous efforts to join the coaching staff at Columbia Central fell short.
“I don’t think the situation was right, as far as me trying to get into coaching and get paid,” he said. “I don’t feel like the opportunity was there for me. But I’m always going to bleed purple and gold.”
Goff is the first step as Hartsfield looks to complete his staff.
“I’m still waiting for a couple of chips to fall, and then it will all fall into place pretty quickly,” Hartsfield said.
Maurice Patton is the editor of SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MoPatton_Sports.