Ravenwood, Summit and Christ Presbyterian Academy all have at least one thing in common.
They each finished one win short of a state title last season.
All three teams hope to return to Cookeville this season for a better outcome.
Ravenwood returns nine starters from its Class 6A runner-up team.
The Raptors’ biggest loss to graduation was all-everything quarterback Brian Garcia.
Former receiver Trevor Andrews and junior Brenden Dickinson, a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks, are battling to replace Garcia.
Garcia owns all the school passing records, including 7,873 career yards in three seasons. He passed and rushed for 102 touchdowns.
“Trevor is probably in the lead a little bit just because of his experience last year on varsity as a receiver, but both guys have some really strong arms and are good runners so it should be a good competition on into August,” Raptors coach Matt Daniels said. “I think they’re both really tough kids and strong and athletic.”
Clemson commit Jake Brinningstool and Michigan commit Junior Colson will lead the way for Ravenwood.
“(Jake’s) combination of size and athleticism, the way he runs and he’s got great hands and smooth routes,” Daniels said when asked what makes his 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end such an elite prospect. “That’s why a school like Clemson and other big-time schools are interested in him.”
Clemson was a good culture fit for Brinningstool. He’s headed in a different direction than his dad, Tony, who played linebacker at Michigan State from 1987-92.
Brinningstool’s parents and grandparents attended Michigan State and his family lived in the Lansing, Mich., area for nine years before moving to Nashville in 2012.
Colson seems like the ideal athlete for Michigan.
“A lot of people who recruited Junior said the same thing: Michigan is known for using versatile athletes like Junior in a number of different positions,” Daniels said. “A lot of hybrid linebacker/safety roles whether it’s blitzing off the edge or dropping into coverage. He just has such a versatile skill set that Michigan gets really creative with guys like that.”
Ravenwood’s biggest concern is graduation losses on the offensive and defensive lines.
The Raptors, Brentwood and Independence figure to be the top contenders in Region 6-6A. Franklin and Centennial could also battle for the top spot.
There is a lot of uncertainty this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Practice with contact might not begin until Aug. 30.
“With the season being pushed back a little bit, that kind of throws a wrench into the plans,” Daniels said. “If we have a shorter season – you know, a seven or eight-game regular season – you have a couple games less to get guys experience and then of course we’re not going to be able to have any scrimmages either.”
But Daniels said any opportunity to play football this season will be welcomed.
New role for Summit
Expectations will be high at Summit after it finished second in Class 5A last season for the best showing in school history.
“Now it just seems like we’ve got a target on our back,” Spartans coach Brian Coleman said. “It’s going to be a whole different scenario for this team this year than it ever has been. Usually, we’ve been the hunter and now I think we’re the hunted.”
Summit returns 11 starters from last season’s 12-3 team that lost to Knoxville Central 30-7 in the final.
Destin Wade, a major-college prospect, will lead the way at quarterback.
“We’ve just got to fine-tune him a little bit as far as reading coverages and things like that,” Coleman said. “His arm strength is looking good.”
Wade may see time at safety on defense, but Coleman would like to protect his quarterback from injury.
“Last year we lost, what, two games during the regular season and both of those when he was out injured,” Coleman said. “He means a lot to our team. It’s not a one-man show, but I tell you what those kids play different when he’s behind center.”
Destin’s twin brother, Keaten, another major-college prospect, is the Spartans’ wild card.
“For sure, defensively, he’s going to play outside linebacker/defensive end,” Coleman said. “Now, offensively, we may put him out at slot receiver more than running back. He is a huge matchup problem at slot receiver.”
The 6-foot-4 junior’s catch radius is extremely wide. Destin just needs to get the ball in his vicinity for him to make a play.
“His arms are unreal,” Coleman said of Keaten. “A lot of the colleges call it elite wingspan. His hands are huge and he’s very athletic. There were a few times last year we just threw it in his direction and he came up with it.”
Shutdown cornerback Konata Werts will also contribute at receiver. So will Caleb Jolley, a talented outside linebacker.
Junior Brady Pierce will be another option for Wade at slot receiver.
Summit, Shelbyville and Page figure to be contenders again in Region 5-5A.
Adjusting to the social distancing regulations for the pandemic have made summer drills difficult.
“Man, it’s different,” Coleman said. “It’s just weird. I don’t think as a coaching staff we can get into specifics as much as we would like to because we’ve got to stay within our group of 10. The fine-tuning of things right now is not going because we’re trying to do things right.”
CPA returns a lot on defense
CPA returns nine defensive starters and five on offense after its runner-up finish in Division II-AA last year.
Quarterback Cade Law, who has an offer from Eastern Kentucky, is back on offense after passing for 1,219 yards and rushing for 492 last year.
“We definitely feel good about our team and we’re excited about what 2020 holds,” Lions coach Ingle Martin said.
Running backs Tyler Reid (832 rushing yards in 2019), Langston Patterson, Will Hays and Grant Rinker will share the load in the ground game of CPA’s two-back shotgun offense.
Patterson has offers from Notre Dame, Tennessee and Vanderbilt among others at linebacker. His brother, Kane, is a sophomore linebacker Clemson.
Wide receiver/cornerback Maverick Rodriguez, the 2019 Athlete of the Year in the DII-AA Middle Region, will make a big impact on both sides of the ball.
“Maverick is just a really good athlete that’s got a lot of natural ability,” Martin said. “He can make people miss in space, he’s got unbelievable ball skills. He can play the ball at any level.”
His lack of height wasn’t a problem last season.
“I saw him play against 6-4 guys last year and he played as tall or big as them and he’s only about 5-8,” Martin said.
Tackle David Enoch anchors a strong offensive line.
Martin enters his 10th season at CPA with a 105-23 record, highlighted by two state championships and three runner-up showings.
The Lions have made it at least to the state semifinals in DII-AA or Class 3A every year since his arrival in 2011.
He quickly rebuilt CPA, which went 5-6 the year before he got there. Martin, 37, played quarterback at Montgomery Bell Academy, Florida and Furman.
He played in the NFL for three seasons before going into coaching.
There is a lot of uncertainty this season due to the pandemic, but Martin is hoping for the best.
“We’re planning on starting on time,” Martin said. “That’s why we’re practicing, lifting and running. When they make the final decision, we’ll make the final decision.”
CPA lost its first four games last season before rallying with five straight wins late in the year.
The Lions’ difficult schedule includes games against defending DII-AA champion ECS, Ravenwood, Brentwood, Ensworth, Independence and Lipscomb Academy.