NHS football

Like many prep football teams, Nolensville is trying to find its way in one of the most unlikely and uncertain football seasons ever. 

Most teams had to treat the first few games of the season like scrimmages; it wasn't uncommon to hear a football coach in these last few weeks describe a game that counts for the regular season tally as a scrimmage in theory. 

The Knights are 2-1 in this ramshackle season, fresh off a 30-14 region win over visiting Spring Hill. The team won on the road at Watertown in a close slowdown in Week Two after a difficult home loss to Brentwood to start the year. 

Some things have changed for the team, while others have stayed the same. 

The unlikely sophomore starter from 2018, quarterback Ryder Galardi has ascended into a senior star with college offers (he has just committed to Long Island University). Gone are names like Tim Coutras; rising are guys like Samson Johnson. Head coach Paul Derrick is in his third year at the helm of the program. 

How does the ball coach feel about the ever-changing landscape, or just how good it is to have gotten in a few games in a year where those were never certain to begin with? 

"It's an awesome thing for our kids," Derrick said. "I think it's an awesome thing for for our community, and I'm just glad we're playing.

"It is frustrating at times because we haven't had the full offseason, and I don't think we're where we want to be as football team right now. But our kids play hard, they love playing the game, they've got to play three games.

"So, hopefully, we can complete the season and they'll get to play as many games as they can." 

From the player's perspective, Nolensville's signal caller says he's happy to be out on the gridiron with his pals. 

"It's great," Galardi said. "It's such a blessing, and I'm glad we're just able to get out here with our guys and play this sport we love [and have had fun with] since we were kids." 

The Knights have had to play catch-up quickly, with most all of the summer devoted to distanced conditioning and any chance at padded practice contained to only August.

"It's really unorthodox," Galardi said about preparing for a season such as this. "[We need to] make the most of every chance we get." 

Derrick said he feels that the pandemic has made his team look at things differently than they might have in other circumstances. 

"I think they understand the situation, and they understand that maybe...in the past, we've probably taken some things for granted," Derrick said. "The whole time that we were away from each other, it was [about] how much they missed it, how much they missed each other.

"I think they've come back with a new appreciation for practice and for weights, and maybe some of the harder things that go along with football. But our kids play hard, we've got really good kids. It's just a matter of us trying to get up to speed as quickly as we can to be where we would be in a normal season, even though that's probably not going to happen.

"But we've got to continue to get better as quickly as we can." 

What has Derrick learned about his Knights three weeks in? 

"I learned that our kids are fighters; they'll play hard," Derrick said. "We've just got to execute a little better. Right now, we're playing some inexperienced players at some spots, and not having all the 7-on-7s and everything that we normally have, maybe we're a little out of sync on offense at times in the passing game. 

"That's not an excuse; that's just the reality of the situation, and everybody's in the same situation. So, again, we've got a bye week this week, and we'll work on those things, and we'll try to come out of our bye week and be a lot more crisper than we were at this point." 

The team's quarterback says that their coach has been a guiding light in a difficult time like this. 

"He's been great," Galardi said. "I can't say enough about Coach Derrick and leading us, and all the adversity. All the schools have had adversity with [coronavirus] and all that. I'm just proud to be a player under Coach Derrick." 

"I'm very proud of our fight," Galardi said of his team. "We're going to clean up some things. We're going to play a lot smarter football, and we're hopefully going to take over region."

Everyone has had to learn new ways to do things in COVID-19. No matter if you're a football coach or a PA announcer, everyone has had to find ways to do things differently and manage the strange times we're in. 

Galardi says sticking to the fundamentals is the best way to stay focused as an uncertain season continues. 

"We just stick to what we normally do," Galardi said. "Stick to game planning and all of that good stuff." 

Derrick said he's had to learn to do things a little differently in an area most football coaches focus on the most.  

"I've learned to modify and adjust," Derrick said with a laugh. "It seems like, a plan, you make a plan, and the plans change again. Just try to be as organized as you can. 

"As a coach, you're a planner. You organize, and everything is mapped out. That has not been the case [this season]. So I think I've learned how to adjust on the fly, and how to appreciate being around our kids, and appreciate getting to play a football season. 

"Like I said about the kids, I think maybe everybody took some things for granted, and getting to play, and getting to have this season, and being three games in, I think having an appreciation for football and being around our kids, and just getting to coach them throughout the week, and watching them play on Friday night." 

Nolensville will play at Lawrence County next Friday.