To the surprise of many in the middle Tennessee prep football community, former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer was named head coach of Lipscomb Academy’s football team last year.
In his first season, he lead the Mustangs to a 5-5 record and an appearance in the Division II Class AA semifinal game where they ultimately lost to rival CPA 24-7.
However, no one season is similar to the last, so many coaches aim to build a community before focusing on winning. Most coaches would tell you that you’ve got to be willing to be a life coach to your players as well to find true success as a program.
“It’s endless,” said Lipscomb Coach Trent Dilfer. “You have to be sensitive to every kid, to every parent. Whatever issue to going on with them is the biggest issue in their family. You have to become invested enough in their lives to where it’s the biggest issue in your life.”
This season, the Mustangs got off to an 0-2 start after losing to Brentwood Academy and JPII. The Mustangs turned the ball over several times in those games and only managed just over ten defensive stops.
Since then, LA has turned the corner and have won seven straight games. The team now sits at a number one seed in the D-II AA playoffs.
After those first two games against D-II AAA competition, the Mustangs quickly realized that they had the chance to be great.
“The biggest thing was that after the loss to JPII that we knew we could be pretty good,” said Dilfer. “We turned it over seven times, and we had nine stops on defense. We still played well on special teams and offense, and we could still move the ball at will. We looked back and said, 'Let’s take an optimistic approach about this.'
"I think that optimism and looking for the good instead of looking for the bad and confirming our kids in the good things they had done. Going to work and correcting those mistakes really launched us into this run. You’re really only as good as your staff.”
If you watched Lipscomb Academy at all last season, you'd assume that Jaden Lyles would be running the ball for the Mustangs this year after rushing for 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019.
Like many, you may have been surprised to know that former Maplewood running back and new addition Alex Broome would be the ball carrier this season while Lyles changed over to safety.
“I think it makes us a better team,” said Dilfer. “Jaden is a dynamic secondary player. He can play multiple positions on defense. Alex is more of a natural running back and kind of fit more with what we wanted to do this year. Both are selfless guys, both would have done whatever we had asked them to do, but I think it fit them and I think it fit our team.”
Another player that has really turned heads for the Mustangs has been junior quarterback Luther Richesson. Richesson threw for over 2,200 yards last season and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 23 to 11. This year he has led the Mustangs through the air with his arm and decision-making by limiting his mistakes.
“He’s growing and growing every single week,” said Dilfer. “I still think he has a lot of growing to do and will be significantly better than he already is. He had a tough one against JPII, but has really cleaned up a lot of the things since then. He’s a tough guy, a team leader. You can’t say enough about him.”
Dilfer has redefined the culture of Lipscomb prep football. How the facilities have changed are a testament to that change alone. Dilfer also brought in former NFL kicker Phil Dawson to coach for him. There was also a recent change in uniforms: the Mustangs changed from the only uniforms they had ever worn to the black and purple they wear now.
Those have been just some of the changes that have come to Lipscomb Academy in the last couple of years, changes that have cemented this as one of the most fascinating preps programs in the state. If things keep going the way they are, you can expect some more changes, and more winning, on the horizon.
“I think it’s a growth mindset,” said Dilfer. “It’s about can we win this day and this day only. I hope to continue to grow as a team, grow this staff, and grow this community and the more we grow the better we’ll be.”