Category Archives: High School Football

Meeting set to discuss dead period

David Bailey (left) listens as Columbia Central football coach Jason Hoath speaks during a Monday signing ceremony for Bailey. (Photo by Maurice Patton)

By Maurice Patton

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association will hold a specially called Legislative Council meeting Thursday remotely to discuss a possible one-year waiver of the dead period.

With schools dismissed statewide in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of coaches have expressed concern regarding the preparation time for the upcoming 2020-21 seasons that has already been lost.

As communities across the state begin to ‘reopen’, summer workouts are restarting as well. Columbia Academy and Williamson County Schools resumed activities Monday, with Maury County Public Schools to start on June 8.

However, the dead period is currently set to begin on June 22 and continue through July 4.

“It’s tough, because (coaches) have all told our parents, ‘please take your vacations here’,” Columbia Central football coach Jason Hoath said regarding a potential reversal of the inactivity.

Free physicals Friday: Maury County Public Schools officials announced that free physicals for high school student-athletes will be available Friday at Columbia Central High School beginning at 10 a.m.

Details were incomplete, but the physicals will be provided by Northside Medical Professionals, Maury Regional Medical Center and the MRMC Foundation, according to county athletics director Chris Poynter.

The physicals will be conducted in the event center at Central.

A later session is planned for middle school student-athletes, but has yet to be scheduled.

Columbia Central’s David Bailey (center, with mom Sharon, niece Makaila Hester and dad David Sr.) has signed a football scholarship with East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss. (Photo by Maurice Patton)

Bailey celebration: A signing ceremony was held Monday at Columbia Central for David Bailey. The three-time all-Region 5-5A selection committed last month to East Central (Miss.) Community College.

“David is everything you could want as a coach – not just as an athlete, but as a young man,” Hoath said. “He’s always ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’, always willing to do anything he could for the team. We put him in some tough spots, and he never complained. His parents did a fantastic job raising a fine young man.”

Bailey, a 6-4, 270-pounder who lined up at defensive end and tight end as a senior, recorded 39 total tackles (eight for loss, including two sacks) last fall while helping Central into the state playoffs and earning region defensive lineman of the year honors. He also played basketball for the Lions and was a member of the competitive cheer squad.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Local coaches discuss plan for return to work

Columbia Central’s refurbished weight room will get busy as summer workouts under COVID-19 guidelines are set to start on June 8. Mt. Pleasant and Spring Hill will begin offseason practices then as well. (Photo by Maurice Patton)

By Maurice Patton

High school coaches in Maury County now know when they will be able to begin summer workouts with their athletes, and the COVID-19 parameters within which those workouts can take place.

How many athletes they will have to work with looms as the sticking point.

Chris Poynter, athletics director for Maury County Public Schools, distributed “a plan that is safe and realistic as it pertains to slowly opening our facilities and bringing back our student-athletes/band members to train and practice” to MCPS principals, ADs, coaches and band directors.

The plan allows students — with updated physicals — to “begin training, try-out and practicing for their respective teams” on June 8.

This portion of the startup differs from the guidelines previously recommended by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, in which an extension on physicals from the 2019-20 school year was suggested for participation.

“A lot can happen between March and the second week of June,” Poynter said, referring to the last school-related physical activity for MCPS athletes. “These kids have been sitting around since March. To have kids come out in 80-, 90-degree weather and ramp back up that quickly, we think it’s unsafe.

“In this season of COVID, it’s good to have a medical professional look at them. It makes the transition a lot easier and gives everyone that peace of mind.”

Coaches across the county are concerned with the prospects of all their athletes having updated physicals in time for the June 8 start.

“The first thing I did was call and make an appointment for my (children) – for Thursday,” Columbia Central football coach Jason Hoath said. “With every kid in Maury County trying to get a physical in Maury County in a week, I don’t see it as a realistic expectation. But we’re going to do the best we can.

“I understand the reason we’re doing it. You want to make sure they’re ready to participate after not doing anything the last 9-10 weeks. But it’s going to be difficult to get everybody in in a week.”

Poynter, who said priority for practice is to be given to fall sports (football, girls soccer, volleyball, cross country and golf) during the month of June, also said efforts are being made to secure free physicals with local medical providers.

“The logistics of getting 70-75 kids a physical in a week’s time – it’s sometimes hard when we’ve got three months,” Spring Hill football coach Ben Martin said. “But I’m just glad we have some sort of guidelines and have been given the go-ahead to start, to be able to tell our kids something and not look like I don’t know what in the world is going on when they call.”

Coaches will be required to submit their plans for return to Poynter during the upcoming week for approval. Those plans will include practice times and sites, as well as areas that will need to be covered by custodial staff.

Athletes will be expected to maintain social distance and work in groups of nine or less with a coach, with “noticeable distance and separation” between groups, whether working indoors or outdoors. The same athletes are expected to remain together as they move from station to station. Athletes can remove masks during physical activity but are expected to wear them otherwise. No physical contact is to take place. 

“It’ll be a little challenging at first, but I think we can make it work,” Mt. Pleasant football coach Bronson Bradley said. “The larger schools may have more of a problem than us, but I think we’ve got a pretty good plan set forth to go by those guidelines.

“I’m pretty excited … mainly to see the guys. I haven’t really seen them since March 14. I’m just excited to see them and get back in a routine of things.”

That routine will be somewhat shortlived, as the TSSAA-mandated dead period begins June 21 and ends July 4.

“We’ve got to get a plan together, use the space we’ve got to work with and get as much done as we can in the time that’s been allotted for us,” Hoath said. “We’ll do what we can do in two weeks.”

In communicating with MCPS personnel, Poynter was unsure as to how activities would continue after the dead period.

“At this time there are too many uncertainties to explore what the month of July moving forward will look like,” he said. “As we get into the month of June, we will be able to determine if we will be able to remove any of the restrictions outlined for the month of June.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Indy alumnus Guidry anxious for return to Miss. State

Landon Guidry, a defensive catalyst on Independence’s 2015 state title team as a junior, is working to earn playing time at Mississippi State. (Photo courtesy Mississippi State athletics)

By Maurice Patton

Landon Guidry was poised to participate in a potentially career-turning spring practice before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, limiting him to Zoom meetings and solo workouts from a distance.

Instead, the former Independence standout will look to make an impression on the new coaching staff at Mississippi State as the Bulldogs, along with the rest of the Southeastern Conference, return to their respective campuses June 8 for summer workouts.

“Definitely, not having spring ball hurt me,” said Guidry, who in two seasons has accounted for six total tackles – all during his redshirt sophomore campaign. “In winter workouts, I did a lot, showed them what I was capable of doing, put a good taste in my mouth. I felt like I was really showing them what I could do.”

The fallout from the pandemic is just another twist to what has been a somewhat tumultuous collegiate experience for Guidry. A two-way star at the high school level with 98 total tackles, four interceptions, 10 tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries over his junior and senior seasons, he’s been through two coaching changes and a knee injury since arriving in Starkville.

“I redshirted under (current Florida coach Dan) Mullen and played two years under (Joe Moorhead, dismissed following the 2019 season),” the 6-1, 200-pounder said. “(But) I know what I’m capable of doing. Even on Moorhead’s staff, I was competing with guys, with one guy in front of me that I thought I was better than, physically, mentally, I just never got the shot.

“This new staff likes me a lot. They’re telling me I’m going to get a lot of good reps this year, just based on what they’ve seen in winter workouts from me.”

Former Texas Tech and Washington State coach Mike Leach succeeded Moorhead, and Guidry likes what he’s seen from the offensive-minded veteran and the assistants he has brought to town – including safeties coach Jason Washington.

“Honestly, I get a Mullen feeling from him. He reminds me of Coach Mullen,” said Guidry, who expects to work at both free safety and nickel for the ‘Dogs. “He doesn’t talk a lot; he’s down to business. He won’t sugarcoat anything; he’ll tell you straight-up. I really love this staff.

“Coach Washington has been very helpful to me. He’s really taught me more about the techniques of the position. (Former safeties coach Bob) Shoop was more fundamental and scheme, which is great, but as a safety, I feel like fundamentals and technique are way more important, and that’s what Coach Washington has been teaching me.”

Between the lack of on-campus growth and the lack of stability, Guidry’s been somewhat frustrated but remains optimistic.

“There’s been some adjusting, some getting used to,” he said. “The meetings on Zoom, I’m starting to adapt more to that style of teaching. The most difficult part for me is strength and conditioning. I’ve been doing the best I can when it comes to doing things on my own, but it’s not the same without that college weight room. Definitely when we get back, we’re going to hit it hard.

“The biggest thing I take from all this is patience – waiting my turn. As much as it (frustrates), I just know that God’s got me. Whatever comes, I know it’s in His plan. I know that I’ve got to perform to the best of my abilities and everything should work out in my favor.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Former Shelbyville coach hired as Summit OC

By Chris Yow

If you can’t beat ’em twice, join ’em.

Former Shelbyville Central football coach Justin Palmer was officially announced on Wednesday, May 27, as the new offensive coordinator at Summit, joining Brian Coleman’s staff.

Friends first, coaching rivals second, Palmer said Coleman was among the first people to reach out to him following his untimely dismissal from Shelbyville, where he compiled a 33-14 record in four seasons.

“Coach Coleman and I have been friends for a long time, and he reached out as soon as he heard, not to try and offer me a position, but just to check on me,” Palmer added. “That meant a lot to me.”

Justin Palmer was hired as offensive coordinator at Summit HS on May 27, 2020, following a 4-year stint at Shelbyville Central. (Photo courtesy Gary Johnson/Shelbyville Times-Gazette)

Palmer was fired in February despite coming off a Class 5A quarterfinal berth where his team — which defeated Summit 42-25 in a regular-season region contest — lost to the Spartans 20-12 a month later, preventing the first state semifinal appearance in program history.

According to Palmer, his dismissal from the program after an 11-2 finish was due to a personal family matter eventually resolved by him and his wife, Brittany.

The Eagles’ loss is Summit’s gain, though, and both Coleman and Palmer are excited about the future.

“We are extremely excited and blessed to have him come join our staff,” Coleman said. “(Palmer) brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team and our staff. We couldn’t be happier to have him.”

Spreading it out

Known for his balanced spread offense, Palmer takes over a unit that averaged just over 29 points per game and returns the bulk of its skill players for 2020, including twins Destin and Keaten Wade. Palmer’s vast experience with the spread offense will be a positive for the two.

“I really think I can help Destin become the quarterback he wants to be,” Palmer said. “I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to talk with him yet, but when we sit down and decide what kind of player he wants to be for Summit and at the next level, I know I can help him.”

Destin was 87-of-164 passing for 1,341 yards with 17 touchdowns in 2019. He also rushed for 727 yards and had 10 rushing TDs. At Shelbyville, Palmer’s team averaged just under 170 yards passing and 184 yards on the ground per game in 2019.

Taking a step back

Going from head coach to coordinator seems like a step back career-wise, but Palmer looks at this as an opportunity to take a step back to his roots. Without having to focus on other aspects of the team — defense, special teams — he can focus on putting together the best possible offensive game plan.

“It’s a little bit of a relief; there will definitely be less stress,” he said. “I had several offers to be a coordinator and even a few head coaching offers, but I felt this was the best opportunity for me and my career at this point.”

In their first staff meeting together, Palmer said he had to adjust his brain to remind himself when to jump into the conversations.

“I held my hand over my mouth to keep myself from talking because I’m usually the one doing all the talking,” he laughed. “I’m sure there will be moments when I have to keep myself from speaking out of turn, but (Coleman) and I have such a great friendship I don’t think it will make a difference.”

That friendship and experience may also help Coleman.

“He’s going to give us another educated opinion on the sideline when difficult decisions have to be made,” Coleman said. “We are happy to have his expertise to lean on.”

The pair are undoubtedly ready to take on the task of achieving the same goal on the same team for a change.

“Hopefully we can come together and get back to Cookeville and bring home a gold ball this time,” Palmer said.

Chris Yow is the multimedia director for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by email at sports@sm-tnsports.com or on Twitter at @ChrisYow14.

Return to local gridirons hits snags

By Maurice Patton

As summer workouts for Tennessee high school football teams gear up under local COVID-19 restrictions, squads in Maury County are still on hold.

“Right now there’s not been a decision made,” Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter said of plans for Columbia Central, Mt. Pleasant and Spring Hill to commence activities. “Our leadership is discussing a plan to reopen. Hopefully that will take place by the end of the week and we can let everyone know what the plan is for reopening and returning to athletics in Maury County.

“We’re still reviewing all options. The central office is reviewing the plan in its entirety and making sure it’s all buttoned up before we release it to athletic directors, coaches and the public to let them know what our course of action is going to be.”

By rule of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, programs cannot begin summer workouts prior to the final day of the previous school year. Tuesday was scheduled to be the last day for MCPS, though that day has differed for other systems across the state.

“When you see pictures of Alcoa and Maryville – they’ve been going for a week,” Mt. Pleasant coach Bronson Bradley said. “Over in West Tennessee, Peabody and Union City have been going for over a week. Those are championship-caliber teams, and they’ve been leading the way. There’s a reason they’re championship-caliber teams.

“Other coaches are calling and telling me what they’re doing, asking me what we’re doing, and we’re not getting any guidance. The lack of making a decision is what’s aggravating me the most.”

Teams were forced to improvise for spring practice in light of the pandemic, but no one was able to hold on-field workouts – leveling the field for everyone from Memphis to Mountain City. With some programs able to get their summer workouts started quicker than others, the frustration mounts for Bradley.

“When everybody’s in the same boat, missing spring practice wasn’t so bad when everybody in the region (5-1A) was missing spring practice,” he said. “Now that it’s getting fired back up, everybody in our region is starting June 1.

“It’s affecting Columbia and Spring Hill as well. I’m sure those coaches feel as frustrated as I do.”

Raiders coach Ben Martin concurred.

“I’ve been inundated with (social media direct messages) and text messages and phone calls and I don’t have anything to tell ‘em,” he said. “We’re at the mercy of the district. I understand this is unprecedented, that none of us has gone through anything like this. I understand they want to err on the side of caution. But it’s very concerning that other districts are being allowed to come together and starting and we’re not being able to do that yet.

“My biggest concern is, we basically spend June, three weeks in July and three weeks in August getting these kids ready to play. If that time is significantly cut down, I worry about the safety of our players. We have a lot of kids that have to go both ways, and it does take quite a while to get those kids in football shape to play. You hope they’re in shape and taking advantage of the workouts we give them at home, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that.”

Whatever plan comes out of the MCPS office — which will likely address the fall sports of cross country, girls soccer, golf and volleyball as well as football — is expected to have little to no input from the coaches expected to implement it.

“It’s obviously out of our control,” Central’s Jason Hoath said. “They’re meeting about it, figuring out the best possible plan for the safety of the players and everybody involved. We’re all anxious to get back to work soon. 

“It’d probably be good if they had everybody’s input. Football, girls soccer, volleyball – I know those are being affected, and each of our needs are different.”

Neither Columbia Academy nor Zion Christian have a clear path to a restart in place, either.

“We’re really waiting; the administration is trying to figure out what they want to do,” Zion coach Brad Lowery said. “We can’t do anything till after May 22; that’s when school is out for us. We could start in the weight room after that.

“After the dead period (June 21-July 4), hopefully we’ll be able to do everything, get back at it on the field.”

CA athletics director Pernell Knox said a tentative target date for the Bulldogs to begin workouts would be June 1.

“I want to talk to the coaches, make sure they’ve got a game plan, make sure we talk to the parents, make sure we’ve got the ample cleaning supplies,” he said. “I want to do all the research I can to make sure it’s safe for our kids and our coaches.”

Central gridiron, hardwood voices announced

By Maurice Patton

Radio play-by-play duties for Columbia Central football and basketball on WKRM (1340-AM/103.7-FM) this season will be shared, station manager Clayton Harris announced this week.

Newcomer Lee Maddox will handle Lions football this fall, with veteran Barry Duke returning after a 20-year hiatus to broadcast Central basketball.

“We didn’t want to put it on everybody to have to do everything like we’d done in the past with Mike,” Harris said, referring to nine-year Central play-by-play veteran Mike Epley, who will serve in that role for Summit football and basketball broadcasts on WKOM (101.7-FM) this year.

Duke will be a familiar voice to area listeners. The 1971 Central graduate handled Lady Lion radio duties beginning in 1978, and was mic-side for both boys and girls teams from the mid-‘80s through 2000, when he stepped away because of “philosophical differences” with the station’s ownership.

“Barry’s one of the best play-by-play voices in the area,” Harris said. “We’re thrilled to have him back. I really think it’s going to be a good thing for everybody involved. I grew up listening to him. He’ll do a really, really good job.”

Duke’s return will resume a family connection to the Central program. In addition to his radio chores, sons Seneca and Trevor both played for the Lions.

“My sons are excited about me coming back, and my grandchildren are excited because it’s something new for them,” he said.

Similarly, Maddox will have the chance to call his son’s name on the air. Louis Maddox will be a junior lineman for Central this fall.

“We’re going to do the best we can and have fun,” Maddox said as he contemplated his first play-by-play assignment. “I’m looking forward to it, hoping they can continue the momentum they had at the end of last season – competing for the Region (5-5A) title, getting back to the playoffs and see what happens.”

Maddox, communications director for Columbia-based Tennessee Farm Bureau, is a television/radio veteran and serves as vice president of the Columbia Central Gridiron Association.

“He’s very familiar with the student-athletes coming up through the program. It made sense to give him the opportunity,” Harris said.

“We didn’t want to put too much on either of these guys. You’re talking about 30 basketball games, and 10 (regular-season) football games. It really worked out well to be able to get both these guys to come in, hopefully take us to the next level and have people enjoy listening to our broadcast.”