School is back in session, and it can only mean one thing: Football is back.
For 10 Rutherford County middle schools, the 2013 season started earlier this week with a rematch from last year’s title game between Christiana and Oakland.
Here is a brief look at the teams for this new season.
Head coach Chris George’s squad looks for revenge this season after finishing runner-up in last year's standings. The Cougars' only two losses in 2012 were to champion Oakland Chargers.
But, only one starter is back from that team.
George admitted the Cougars might not be the biggest or fastest team on the field, but he feels good about how his team has come together.
“These boys have bought into that (concept), and we have 60 boys who will do their jobs to ensure we are successful as a team,” George said.
Players to watch include captains: Jordan Cordoba, Austin Thompson, Clay Scothern and Timmy Goodrich.
La Vergne Hawks
The 2011 Rutherford County champions will be looking to get back to the top spot after finishing third last season at 6-2. Head coach Glenn Suggs said he likes the Hawks speed, size and depth of this year’s team.
“Our major strength is the large number of eighth graders we have who have been with us for a couple of years,” Suggs said. “They know the system and that’s a huge strength.”
Players to watch include: Keith Anthony Conner, Chima Egbuji, Stanton Stevens, AJ Wallace, Dante Brown and Cameron Brown.
The 2012 undefeated and defending champion Chargers will be working toward a repeat performance in a tough conference.
Head coach Colin Wells said the Chargers will have to replace several players from last year’s team, but there is a certain way of play Oakland wants to be known for every time it steps on the gridiron.
“The biggest strengths for our team are that we have players committed to the Oakland way of playing football,” Wells said. “We pride ourselves on playing very physical in all phases of the game, executing our assignments, and competing on every play.”
Players to watch include: Dre Litaker, Justice Dingle, Brendan Crowell, Brandon Thomas, Troy Hutson, Carson Key, Cameren Snelling and Mason Loupe.
Rock Springs Knights
Head coach Keith Stephenson said he wants to bring a winning attitude to the Rock Springs program after a disappointing 2012 season. One of the ways he is doing that is getting new uniforms and equipment for the team.
“We want to build a winning attitude in the program and for the players to understand that success has a price, hard work and commitment,” Stephenson said.
Players to watch include: Tanner Antonutti, Tyree Garner, Shawn Jones, Evan Potter, Gerry Ivy and Josh Lewis.
The Ravens, coached by Torey Patterson, will be looking to rebound in 2013 after finishing near the bottom last season.
The goal for this team, Patterson said, is real simple: Just worry about the next play during the upcoming game and nothing else.
Patterson said he also wants every player on the same page and believes he has had that during preseason workouts.
“The team this year really looks after one another, and they hold each other accountable for their actions,” Patterson said. “The players on the team really trust one another and they play for each other.
Players to watch include: Ibrhim Qadir, Dontavious Claybrooks, Jerry Young, Corry Rankins, Austin Rowland and Lance Pawlowski.
The Cavaliers are also looking to bounce back after a hard luck 2012 campaign. Head coach Kyle Manderfield said he wants to bring back the winning attitude this season, and he has a lot of returning players at the skill positions. He also likes the depth at linebacker.
“We really want to have a winning season,” Manderfield said. “To do that, the kids know they will have to learn how to win. That is not easy to do, and they understand that. They are really putting in the work.”
When asked about some of his key players, he simply said, “We have 59 very key players on this team.”
Whitworth-Buchanan Yellow Jackets
Head coach John Howse admits he has a young team coming back this season, as the Yellow Jackets try to get back on track in 2013. A couple of years ago, the Yellow Jackets lost the Rutherford County title game, but almost all of those players have moved on to high school.
The team's youth will bring with it challenges and promise, Howse said.
“A young team will make mistakes at full speed and will take chances,” Howse said. “We will coach them up and get them better. What more can I ask for.”
Players to watch include: Mike Scruggs, Christian Soufrront, Thad Chapman and Darius Jones.
Please note: Blackman, Stewarts Creek and Smyrna middle schools did not respond to requests for comment.