The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here: high school football is back.
Week 1 brings an interesting slate of nonregion games for Robertson County-area teams. Although preseason scrimmages and the Robertson County Jamboree provided some insight into how these teams might perform, the stage will be different this week.
Without further ado, here are my picks for Friday’s season openers:
Jo Byrns vs. Harpeth
The Red Devils lost much of their offensive production when 1,000-yard rusher Eric Herring graduated in May.
But the Jo Byrns defense could be better, led by seniors Emmanuel Barbee, Bobby Ogg and Maxie Owens. And tailback Jake Chennault is back from an elbow injury and should get the bulk of the carries.
Harpeth is coming off a 2-8 campaign and won’t be much better this season. Expect Jo Byrns to find a way to win this one.
PICK: Jo Byrns 20, Harpeth 14
Springfield at Wilson Central
Springfield will play its first game without quarterback Bryan Hayes, running back Keith Jones and receiver Dayron Johnson, who each had pivotal roles in the team’s run to the state semifinals last year. Wilson Central is coming off a disappointing 3-7 campaign, but the Wildcats play 6A football and have a deeper roster than the 4A Yellow Jackets.
However, coach Dustin Wilson will have his team ready to play. Although the Springfield offense is still scrambling to replace its graduated three-head monster on offense, the Yellow Jacket defense should offset some of those losses.
This game could go either way. I expect a low-scoring affair, but the Wildcats get the slight edge at home.
PICK: Wilson Central 17, Springfield 14
White House Heritage at Middle Tennessee Christian
Stopping Middle Tennessee Christian running back Kemari McGowan will be a tall task for the Patriots.
McGowan rushed for 2,094 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2017. He followed that performance with 1,892 yards and 18 more touchdowns last season.
The Patriots will be much improved this year. Junior Will Wilson takes over at quarterback, and senior tailback Jackson Mapes and receiver Trenton Tuttle will be playmakers on offense.
But White House Heritage will have to wait at least another week for its first victory. McGowan may run wild in this game.
PICK: MTCS 40, White House Heritage 28
White House vs. Station Camp
The Blue Devils experienced heavy turnover this offseason.
Longtime coach Jeff Porter was succeeded by assistant Ryan Hamilton. Caleb Anderson took over for Andrew Nixon at quarterback. Leading rushers Preston Sharber and Will Frazer were replaced by a committee of backs that includes Trevor Ivantis, Wil Blackburn, Ranen Blackburn and Montrel Black.
Those changes could bring growing pains for White House, which lost two scrimmages to Goodpasture last week. Hamilton, previously the offensive coordinator, is still adapting to his new role.
Station Camp went 3-7 last year and also suffered heavy losses to graduation. But starting quarterback Max Barnett is healthy again, which should help the Bison be more consistent on offense.
Give Shaun Hollinsworth’s team the advantage here, mostly thanks to experience.
PICK: Station Camp 20, White House 13
East Robertson vs. Forrest
Highly-recruited East Robertson sophomore Taylor Groves has made the switch from receiver to quarterback, and he’s going to be hard to stop.
Forrest is coming off a 5-6 campaign and a first-round exit from the 2A playoffs. The Rockets boast a talented senior tailback in Nick McClendon.
But if the Indian defense can do its part, Groves and the East Robertson offense should produce enough points to earn Atlee Pond’s first win as a head coach.
PICK: East Robertson 42, Forrest 30
Greenbrier at West Creek
Greenbrier 1,000-yard rushers Brandon Chambers and Micah Escue have moved on, so coach John Elmore has a difficult task on his hands.
But quarterback Tristan Leopold is back with a year of experience under his belt. And tailbacks Reagan Conquest and Izik Rector should make up for some of the lost ground production for the Bobcats.
West Creek finished 1-9 in 2018 and may struggle again this season. The Bobcats have beaten West Creek two years in a row, and that streak will be extended to three on Friday.
PICK: Greenbrier 28, West Creek 17