Tag Archives: High School Football

Raider duo sets college plans

By Maurice Patton

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.”

Spring Hill’s Jaylan Rucker (second from left) signed a college football scholarship Wednesday with Culver Stockton College. Pictured with Rucker are (left) sister Ciara Rucker, mother Nicole Declouet and brother Jayden Rucker. (Photo by Maurice Patton / SM-Tn Sports)

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.”

Brett Hughes (center) recently signed a football scholarship with Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. Pictured with Hughes are (left) Spring Hill assistant Matt Brown, parents Larissa and Chris Hughes and Raiders coach Ben Martin. (Courtesy photo)

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.”

Summit ‘defensive head coach’ to take over Admirals’ helm

By Maurice Patton

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.

Alex Melton, who has served for the past seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Summit, was named this week as the successor to Donnie Webb as Franklin’s head coach. (Courtesy photo)

“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 mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter @MoPatton_Sports.

Commentary: TSSAA spring sports decisions defy logic

By Chris Yow

Make it make sense, TSSAA.

What, you ask? All of it — heck, any of it.

Recently, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association alerted spring sports — baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track — coaches there would not be any preseason scrimmages allowed prior to their regular seasons. Football coaches were told there would be no scrimmages allowed against other schools to culminate their spring practices.

The problem with this is there is absolutely nothing about it that makes any logical sense.

Can the TSSAA Board of Control give any logical reason for restricting competition between two teams who are about to embark on 18-game regular seasons? If so, I’d love to hear it.

What about football teams, who will have practiced with each other for two weeks playing against another school’s players who have practiced without incident for two weeks? Sorry, no go. No matter that it’s the last thing those kids will do regarding football until summer workouts.

It isn’t like they’re going to be any safer playing an intrasquad game than against an opponent without any cases among their team. Certainly not any safer than they will be in August.

It seems at every turn the TSSAA has made illogical decisions while also making sound decisions regarding regular-season play.

But if the regular season is OK to play, why wouldn’t a scrimmage be OK? It’s as controlled as any form of competition in which the student-athletes will take part.

COVID-19 is certainly an issue across our state, but throughout the 2020-21 school year, the TSSAA has done some of its best work. Working with Governor Bill Lee’s office to make sure parents can attend games was good work. Getting an entire football season played was even more impressive, especially as the season drew to a close and cases were going up across Tennessee.

As basketball season has continued through game and tournament cancellations and postponements, at least the governing body has stuck with their original plan to leave it up to local school systems. What the Governor’s office has done, though, with regard to cheerleaders and dance teams is a little disheartening. Those two entities are not allowed in the gyms, and I understand that adding parents of those kids can lead to larger crowds, but we’re letting in players’ grandparents — which could theoretically be as many as eight people — and more faculty. Get the cheerleaders off the end lines and socially distance them in the bleachers in an area specifically designated for them.

I know the TSSAA wasn’t really the culprit in those situations, it’s the Governor’s office.

Spring sports nonsense, however, is all on the TSSAA… and I just can’t make it make sense.

Chris Yow is the multi-media editor of SM-Tn Sports. He can be reached at sports@sm-tnsports.com or on Twitter @ChrisYow14.

Legendary Lion Goff set to join gridiron staff at Mt. Pleasant

By Maurice Patton

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.

Tra’Darius Goff, scoring during Columbia Central’s 2010 state championship victory against Hendersonville, has been named to Kit Hartsfield’s coaching staff at Mt. Pleasant. Goff is one of three Central players to have their jersey number retired. (Courtesy photo by Rob Fleming)

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 mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter @MoPatton_Sports.

Winter sports upcoming

Monday
Basketball

Lincoln Co. girls at Columbia Central*, 5 p.m.
Columbia Acad. boys at Providence Chr.*

Tuesday
Basketball

Columbia Acad. at Christ Presbyterian Acad.*
Columbia Central at Shelbyville*
Grace Chr. boys at Zion Chr.*
Independence at Ravenwood*
Loretto at Summertown*
Richland at Mt. Pleasant*
Santa Fe girls at Culleoka*
Spring Hill at Dickson Co.*

Wrestling

Columbia Central, Tullahoma at Coffee Co.
Marshall Co., Nolensville, Summit at Spring Hill

Wednesday
Basketball

Summit at Spring Hill*

Thursday
Basketball

Cornersville at Richland
Summit at Page*

Wrestling

Independence at Spring Hill

Friday
Basketball

Columbia Central at Coffee Co.*
Hampshire at Culleoka*
Independence at Page*
Mt. Pleasant girls at Santa Fe*
Providence Chr. boys at Zion Chr.*
Spring Hill at Summit*
Summertown at Collinwood*
Webb-Bell Buckle at Columbia Acad.*

Saturday
Basketball

Columbia Acad. at Webb-Bell Buckle*

*district game
basketball games 6 p.m. start unless otherwise noted
schedule subject to change without prior notice

Mt. Pleasant lures Hartsfield to take over grid program

By Maurice Patton

Fresh off a trip to watch one of his protégés compete for a college football national championship, Kit Hartsfield was announced Tuesday as the new football coach at Mt. Pleasant.

Hartsfield, 22-13 with three Class 6A state playoff appearances over the past three seasons at Blackman, succeeds Bronson Bradley at the Tigers’ helm.

“It’s a football-hungry program and community,” said the 33-year-old Hartsfield, a Lawrenceburg native who played his final two years at Riverdale – winning a 2004 state title – before going on to start four seasons at linebacker for Austin Peay. “They want success. I can feel the intensity from the administration. It’s a vision I want to be a part of, I’m excited to be a part of.”

The younger brother of longtime Midstate girls basketball coach Wendi Hartsfield Scott (Lawrence County, Riverdale, Blackman), Kit began his coaching career immediately out of college, taking the helm at Oakland Middle School and spending three years as defensive backs coach under Thomas McDaniel at Oakland High School.

“Coaching is part of our entire family,” he said. “It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s something I wanted to do from middle school age. I just did it in a different sport than most of my family.”

Kit Hartsfield (left, with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer) will succeed Bronson Bradley as football coach at Mt. Pleasant. (Courtesy photo)

Following McDaniel’s departure to take the reins at Christian Brothers, Hartsfield moved across Murfreesboro and joined David Watson’s staff at Blackman as defensive coordinator. As a Blaze staffer, he helped the team post a 28-10 mark with a pair of state quarterfinal berths.

Named to succeed Watson at the top of the Blackman program in 2018, the Blaze went 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in Hartsfield’s first campaign, followed by an 8-5 finish in 2019 and a quarterfinal loss to Region 3-6A rival Oakland. Blackman finished 4-6 this past fall, falling to Hendersonville in the opening round of postseason play.

“(In the last two years) we lost to Alcoa twice, we lost to Ravenwood twice, we lost to Independence twice, we lost to Oakland twice,” Hartsfield said, emphasizing the challenging schedule Blackman faced during his tenure.

Bradley led Mt. Pleasant to four playoff appearances in seven seasons, but was dismissed in late November after a 1-8 finish in a pandemic-hampered campaign. Despite losing nine starters – six on offense, three on defense – school administration saw fit to make a move after the Tigers sustained four one-possession losses.

Mt. Pleasant went 38-37 under Bradley, reaching the second round of the postseason in 2014 and in 2018 while also qualifying for the 2015 and ’19 Class 1A playoffs. The Tigers posted eight wins in both 2018 and ’19.

The vacancy drew nearly 50 applicants from across and from outside the state. A screening process resulted in six finalists interviewing over the weekend for the vacancy, with Hartsfield emerging.

“Coach Hartsfield brings a ‘championship mindset’ to Mt. Pleasant,” principal Ryan Jackson said in a release. “He has competed at a championship level as both a player and coach. He understands what it takes to lead and operate a top-tier football program, putting an emphasis on developing authentic player-coach relationships in order to fully maximize the potential of all of our players.”

Jackson said Hartsfield is expected to be visible with both the middle school and youth league programs in Mt. Pleasant.

 “The unification of our campus football program is paramount,” he said. “Creating an athletic powerhouse program in Small Town, USA, is our goal, and it starts with getting all stakeholders on the same page, with everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Mt. Pleasant will compete in Region 5-2A next fall, along with Richland, Summertown, Loretto, Cascade and Forrest. The Tigers’ non-region schedule will also include home games against both Columbia Central and Spring Hill – the first official meeting against the former since 1961, while the latter series resumes after a six-year hiatus.

Having sent a number of players on to the college ranks, including Ohio State running back Master Teague — he was in attendance for the Buckeyes’ 52-24 loss Monday to Alabama — Hartsfield said he’s ready for the challenge of similar achievements at the Maury County school.

“I love my Blackman people,” he said. “I had a great time, great support from that community. They’re going to continue to be successful.

“Football is 11 on 11. Every field is 100 yards long. Every kid wants to be coached and wants to be loved on. That’s my purpose, to help these kids reach their goals. I’m looking to build a staff that coaches for the kids and helps mold them into young men and can develop them to their fullest potential on the field.”