Category Archives: High School Football

Next in line: Cummings assumes Eagles’ starting quarterback position

By Maurice Patton

THOMPSONS STATION — It would seem that, over nearly a decade, there would come a time that Scott Blade would be without a quarterback capable of performing at the level necessary to engineer the high-powered offense that Independence has relied upon throughout his tenure.

It doesn’t seem that this is that time.

Joe Cummings, a senior who sat out last season after transferring from Battle Ground Academy, appears set to continue the Eagles’ signal-calling lineage that began with Blade’s 2013 arrival after four seasons at Oak Ridge.

“Everything goes through the quarterback,” Blade said following Friday’s scrimmage against visiting Overton. “He takes care of the ball. There’s a read progression on every play. If he’s smart and disciplined and keeps his eyes down field, there’s typically a receiver that’s going to be open. It’s discipline and keeping your eyes down field, having the God-given strength and ability to do that and make the throws – they’re all over the field.

“We have been blessed that we’ve had guys that were able to do that.”

Starting with Andrew Bunch, a sophomore when Blade showed up at Independence who led the Eagles to the 2015 Class 5A state title, the parade at the position continued with Brandon Hines, Nathan Cisco, Ethan Cash and Jaxson Campbell – a quintet that helped Independence to a .700 winning percentage.

Cummings took note.

“It’s a big deal, for sure,” he said of playing that position for that program. “I think it’s the way Coach (Blade) operates around the guys he has – Ethan Cash, Jaxson, even Andrew when they won state. They find the right pieces with what they have. I think that’s what makes it so special here at Independence.”

Though Cummings spent the first portion of his high school career at BGA – reversing the path that Williamson County product C.J. Beathard took, from Indy to BGA to Iowa to the NFL – he previously played at Heritage Middle School in Spring Hill.

“I played with these guys in middle school,” he said. “I figured I’d come back and hopefully help this team win some games this year.”

Early indications point to that being the case. In limited action Friday, Cummings completed five of eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns.

“He was on point, and just about every ball was catchable,” Blade said. “The good thing is, he’s had a year to kind of absorb the offense and learn enough in a (junior varsity) role so that this year makes sense and there’s preparation time and the game slows down like it should for a senior.

“He’s got all the physical tools. Mentally now it’s about getting him enough reps. We got some 7-on-7 time. It’s a work in progress. We haven’t been tested, like (Christ Presbyterian Academy) and Lipscomb and Ravenwood and all the teams we’re going to play, but in 7-on-7 he was super accurate, he’s been super accurate in practice and he was super accurate (Friday).”

First-year Overton coach Arcentae Broome, who’s seen Blade’s Independence and Hillsboro squads from the opposite sidelines during previous stops at Maplewood and McGavock, sees why his teams have been able to build on their success behind center.

“Sometimes, what you display, people want to be a part of it,” Broome said. “We weren’t on that level, but at Maplewood, we were manufacturing quarterbacks. We were never in a situation where we didn’t have that good of a quarterback. Blade’s the same way, just on a better level.

“It feeds off itself, it breeds a sense of consistency and it brings people along.”

Cummings follows Campbell, who accounted for 2,697 offensive yards and 34 total touchdowns last fall.

“It’s a fun offense to play in when there’s protection and (the quarterbacks are) on point,” Blade said. “They know we’re going to throw. Even last year, with shortened preparation time and a different offense – our first time to use a tight end-type, a running-first quarterback – it’s still an offense that’s receiver friendly, and quarterback friendly as well.”

Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports

Participation decline at Zion Christian dictates move to eight-man play

By Chris Yow
and Maurice Patton

‘Late in the game’ is an understatement for everyone involved, but Zion Christian confirmed its decision on Wednesday to cancel its nine-game 11-man football schedule in favor of an eight-man schedule.

In an e-mail obtained by SM-Tn Sports, ZCA Athletics Director Derek Boyd cited declining participation numbers and the safety of student-athletes as the sole reason for the move.

First-year coach Jeff Jordan confirmed his team was down to no more than 14 players.

“I realize that the timing of this decision now creates issues related to your schedule and for that I sincerely apologize,” Boyd wrote in the email. “We worked hard to get our numbers up so we could have an 11-man season, but in the end our efforts did not produce enough players.”

The Eagles announced the move in all other sports to the Tennessee State Independent Athletic Association in May. The TSIAA reached out to ZCA after Riverside Christian (Fayetteville) dropped its program due to a participation issue.

With a ready-made schedule, the ZCA administration decided to assume Riverside’s schedule and play eight-man football in 2021.

For the Eagles’ nine TSSAA opponents, those teams are now a game short on their schedules.

“That is unfortunate,” Summertown coach Dakota Crews said. “We knew they were talking about it, back when they first (moved to TSIAA), but they decided to go through with 11-man. I think they thought (staying) would draw some numbers.

“If that’s what they’ve got to do, I respect it. I hate it for our kids. Everybody’s schedule is pretty well done. If we can find a game, we’ll try to find a game (for Sept. 24). But I understand where they’re coming from.”

Richland, First Assembly Christian, Grundy County and Wayne County are now out of a home game, and without a replacement game will likely lose the revenue that would come along with the game. Each contract carries a $2,000 cancellation clause, meaning Zion Christian could be on the hook for up to $18,000.

“We don’t have any choice. We lost home games last year due to COVID. We can’t afford to lose any more,” Richland coach Nick Patterson said. “I hate it for them and their program. I hate it for us, too.

“You don’t want to lose a home game, an early game (Aug. 27). It’s a little late in the game to be calling it. But we’ll adjust.”

Jordan said he is close friends with at least one other eight-man coach in the state, and will get at least some guidance on the nuances of the game.

“I have watched some of the games online,” Jordan said. “I have a pretty good relationship with (Providence Christian coach) Lebron Ferguson. He told me he would help me any way possible to help me figure out the game.

“I’ve got six practices to figure it out.”

Zion Christian 2021 Football Schedule
Aug. 14 @ South Haven Christian School
Aug. 20 vs. Franklin Classical School
Aug. 27 vs. Providence Christian
Sept. 10 vs. Franklin Christian Academy
Sept. 17 @ Lighthouse Christian
Oct. 1 @ Lancaster Christian School
Oct. 15 @ Grace Baptist

Area high school grid preseason schedule

Friday

Summit at Riverdale
Overton at Independence
Columbia Central at Lawrence Co.
Hickman Co. at Columbia Acad.
Spring Hill at Lebanon
Huntland at Richland
Mt. Pleasant at Cornersville

Tuesday (Aug. 3)

Collinwood at Mt. Pleasant
Summertown at Perry Co.
Columbia Acad. at Spring Hill
Richland at Giles Co.

Thursday, Aug. 5

Hardin Co. at Lawrence Co.

Friday, Aug. 6

South Gibson at Columbia Acad.
Loretto at Scotts Hill
Stewarts Creek at Summit
Hillsboro at Independence
Richland at Moore Co.
Spring Hill, Summertown at East Hickman

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Mt. Pleasant at Waverly
Tullahoma at Columbia Central

Friday, Aug. 13
Maury County Jamboree
at Lindsey Nelson Stadium

Goodpasture vs. Columbia Acad., 6 p.m.
Dickson Co. vs. Spring Hill, 7 p.m.
Creek Wood vs. Columbia Central, 8 p.m.

Giles County Jamboree
at Sam Davis Park

Fayetteville vs. Richland, 7 p.m.
Lawrence Co. vs. Giles Co., 8 p.m.

Summertown at Rogers (Ala.)
Zion Chr. at Loretto

Coaches whose program’s scrimmages or jamboree appearances are not listed are encouraged to e-mail sports@sm-tnsports.com with that information.

Former players rally behind interim Columbia Central football coach

By Chris Yow

Players from Columbia Central football’s past are looking to the future, and are rallying behind their former offensive coordinator John Moore. He assumed the role of interim head coach of the program on July 12, following the dismissal of Jason Hoath by new principal Kevin Eady.

Eady said he did not consult with any former players of Moore’s before making the decision to offer him the position. Had he done so, the recommendations from some of the program’s biggest names in recent memory would have been positive.

Former players have called Moore a ‘tough, but fair’ coach, including the 2010 Class 5A state championship game’s offensive and defensive most valuable player Tra’Darius Goff.

“He’s the type of guy that when it’s business time, it’s business time. He’s going to have fun and create memories,” he said. “When you went into a game with him on your side, you felt like you had an advantage because he was going to find the weakness and exploit it. He put us in the position to succeed.”

Goff, who joined the Mt. Pleasant coaching staff this season under Kit Hartsfield, said Moore is a coach he would love to work with.

“Coach Moore is a guy anyone would want to coach under; he knows what he’s doing. He has a long pedigree,” Goff said. “It’s not like he’s some guy off the street.”

Moore’s pedigree is quite impressive. His father and hall-of-famer, the late Herschel Moore, is credited with naming the “jet sweep” play and is best known for his work in the Wing-T offense. Moore’s brother, Tom, is the head coach at Hillwood.

That pedigree has given Moore an extensive knowledge of the game, according to current New England Patriots offensive guard Shaq Mason.

“No matter who you line him up against, his football knowledge is right there at the top,” Mason said. “He says some of the same things (New England coach Bill) Belichick says. They have high football IQ, and for me, I think he helped my career a lot.”

Mason credits Moore with making him work to be an offensive lineman because that was where Moore saw him playing at the collegiate level.

“All I wanted to do was sack the quarterback and get tackles for losses, but he told me that I was going to play offensive line at the next level,” he said. “Sure enough, when I got to Georgia Tech, that’s where I played.”

Some might say that advice worked out well for the two-time Super Bowl champion.

Moore’s business-like approach as a coach was one players may not have understood — or even liked — at the time. Looking back now, however, that approach was part of what made those teams successful.

“He ran a tight ship, and didn’t play around. He had direction and discipline. I didn’t always like him, but I respected him as a coach. He would bring the best out of a kid. He knows the game,” former quarterback Zach Tate said.

Matthew Markham added: “He was tough on me, and if anyone could have any ill will toward him, it would’ve been me, but I didn’t see it that way.

“He was very tough on me Monday through Thursday, and because of that, Fridays were easy.”

For those players to have such fond memories and recollection, Moore said it was a “good feeling.”

“Any time anybody says complimentary things about you, it validates what you were trying to achieve,” he said. “Everybody wants to win, but for me, the biggest thing I learned about football is the relationships you develop. I’ve got life-long friends with guys I’ve coached with, coached against and even players.

“Zach Tate calls me John, and it’s a little weird, but it’s OK because that’s the type of relationship we’ve built.”

“Some people might think he’s a hard coach and he gets on to kids, but that’s what you want as a player. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. That prepared me for coaches like Paul Johnson and Bill Belichick,” Mason said. “There are a lot of coaches who are soft, but he’s not going to let you goof off in practice.

“He’s going to have fun when it’s time to have fun, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work.”

Mason’s mother, Alicia McGuire, said Moore was one of the few people who followed through on promises to visit Georgia Tech to watch her son play in college. Goff mentioned the connection he kept with Moore throughout the last decade as well.

“He stayed in touch with me over the years even when I was in college. He never left our side even after we finished playing for him,” he said.

Participation numbers continue to plague Eagles

By Maurice Patton

Zion Christian athletics director Derek Boyd targeted this as “a big week” for the Eagles’ football team.

Participation numbers, traditionally limited for the program, had been similarly so under first-year coach Jeff Jordan, but Boyd was hopeful that in the second week of preseason work following the dead period, they’d see an upswing.

And they did.

“After talking to him (Monday), we had about 15,” Boyd said earlier this week. “The numbers were a little bit lower last week.”

Boyd and Jordan remain optimistic that as the calendar flips and classes start in August, the roster will see a surge that will make all involved more comfortable ahead of the Aug. 20 season opener against Grace Christian.

Right now, though, ‘how many’ may take a back seat to ‘who’.

At least five pivotal performers from last year’s 4-6 team that were available to return have yet to do so, including all-state selection Luke Perko.

As a junior, Perko threw for 1,432 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 822 yards and seven scores. Both yardage figures were the second-most among SM-Tn Sports area programs, with his passing TDs tops among all area quarterbacks.

Additionally, receiver Max Brown – fourth among non-seniors last season with 327 yards with an area-high 23.4 yards per reception – has, like Perko, opted out of preseason workouts to this point. Ditto for receivers Sam Duffy, Jaron Keyser and Wesley Riggins, although Keyser’s absence is likely related to the facial injuries he sustained during baseball season.

Though the numbers aren’t high, Boyd feels they’re sufficient for the Eagles to get to the home opener against Grace Christian and through the nine-game slate – which also includes September home games against Mt. Pleasant, Eagleville and Summertown.

“I feel OK because, just talking to the people at Zion that have been around for a while, several have said they’ve had 15 or 16 (players) in a season,” said Boyd, entering his second year as the school’s AD. “After talking with Jeff, I don’t know that I’m that concerned yet. His thinking is we’re going to have 16 to 18.

In addition to the expected increase in numbers once classes begin, Boyd said efforts have been made to attract area home-school students. With Zion Christian leaving the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association at the end of the 2020-21 school year, that becomes a more workable option.

“With us playing independently, … that’s a possibility for us to gain a few kids,” he said. “I think once we can get school started, … I think our numbers will go up.”

Standard game scheduling contracts include a cancellation penalty of $2,000 – another potential numbers issue for Zion Christian.

“If we roll up in a couple of weeks and we don’t have but 12 or so coming consistently, then of course I’d be very concerned,” Boyd said. “But I don’t really have a concern yet.

“We plan to (play). That’s our plan as of now, for sure.”

Raiders welcome alumnus to grid coaching staff

By Maurice Patton

Ben Martin and the Spring Hill Raiders continue to be the beneficiaries of an unsettled situation involving their county – and Region 6-5A – gridiron rival.

Jason Hoath becomes the third member of last year’s Columbia Central coaching staff to relocate within Maury County in the 10 days since his firing after five seasons as the Lions’ head coach.

“No. 1, the kind of man he is, the character and everything he brings,” Martin said in touting the value of Hoath joining his staff after Saturday’s announcement that ex-Central defensive coordinator Josh Taylor and former Lion two-way playing standout and defensive assistant Montana Cairns would be on the Raiders’ sideline this fall.

“He’s also a very accomplished coach, with multiple years of head coaching experience. He’s a good coach. As I said with Josh and Montana, they’ve coached in our new region. He’s been a head coach in our new region. That’s an invaluable asset.”

A 2003 Spring Hill graduate, Hoath — a three-sport athlete during his high school days who went on to earn all-conference and all-American honors at Lambuth — will likely have offensive and defensive coaching assignments under Martin.

“We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to help on both sides of the ball and pretty confident he’ll be a huge help,” Martin said. “Montana has already taken over the defensive line and has jumped in with both feet. He’s going to bring a lot of youth and enthusiasm as well as knowledge. Josh is learning terminology right now. We’re doing a lot of the same things; there’s just different names for it.

“A lot of times, when you bring in new coaches, it’s a learning curve – you have to work on chemistry. With those guys, it’s built-in chemistry. They mesh very well with what we do. I think it’s going to be a positive all around.”

With much of the staff already set, Hoath is content to get in where he fits in under Martin.

“I’m excited that Coach Martin gave me an opportunity to join his staff,” said Hoath, 11-12 in two season at Mt. Pleasant before going 23-31 over the past five years with the Lions. “There’s a lot of good things going on at Spring Hill. I’m excited to be a part of it and get into the building as a teacher. I’m looking forward to a new, fresh start.

“I would imagine defensively I’ll be (working with) the secondary, either with the safeties or the cornerbacks. Offensively, I’ve got a little experience coaching all the positions, so I guess I’ll be wherever they need me.”

Meanwhile, Hoath’s sons – freshman running back/linebacker Nate and junior tight end/defensive end Jase – continue to practice at Columbia Central.

“I’m hoping they follow me, but it’s still up in the air,” he said. “No final decision’s been made. It’s tough for Jase, being a junior. I want them with me, but I’ll love ‘em no matter what.

“They’re good ballplayers and good young men. I want them to continue to do the right thing. Until a decision’s been made, they need to be there practicing and getting better at football and preparing for the season and being good teammates. It’s been difficult, but I know they’re going to be successful no matter what they do.”

Dialogue between Martin and former Central offensive coordinator Scott Tilghman continues, but no decision has been made regarding his addition to the staff.

The personnel changes, as the 2021 campaign starts in a month, promise to make the Oct. 29 “Backyard Bowl” regular-season finale between the Lions and host Spring Hill an even more energetic event.

“That’s never much of an issue,” Martin said, “but we may not need the pyrotechnics to have the fireworks.”