The 2021 season didn’t have the greatest start for the Page Patriots football team. In the first game against Fairview, the Patriots lost its starting quarterback and Colorado State commit Jake McNamara to injury in the first half.
It put the team in a tough spot as it tried to win its first game of the year.
“Anytime the quarterback goes down, especially the caliber of McNamara, and the backup comes in, it makes you feel good knowing you’ve prepared both guys pretty well,” said Page coach Charles Rathbone.
Page could have been out of the game after losing McNamara, but they ended winning against Fairview with backup quarterback Colin Hurd. Hurd threw for 147 yards passing for three touchdowns, securing the Battle of 840 for the Patriots.
“Colin Hurd came in and set the stage and got the ball rolling for us," Rathbone recalled. "He made a lot of plays and carried it over to week two. He is a such a valuable part on defense, that we had to get him rest on defense. Overall I was pleased how it ended up turning out for us.”
McNarama later returned this season for Page, who hasn't looked back after that first win against Fairview. The team is 6-0 after picking up a COVID win this week against Giles County, a statement following a 5-8 season last year. They shut out 6A opponent Franklin and got wins against Spring Hill, Coffee County and Franklin County.
With four games to go, Page could push for an undefeated regular season. Its quarterback is a big reason why.
While McNamara’s athleticism on the field isn’t a surprising part of his game, Rathbone says isn’t surprised about the leader he is to his teammates off the field as well.
“It’s been an absolute joy and pleasure to coach him,” said Rathbone. “When he got hurt that first week, he was the biggest cheerleader on the sideline. A lot of kids would’ve stuck their lip out and pouted because they got hurt, but he didn’t do that. He was in Colin’s ear every single play. After the game, Colin thanked him for all his help. That’s what leadership is all about. That’s what this whole senior class is about. One kid gets hurt they’re all willing to step up and help whoever.”
Indeed, since the 28-20 week one victory, Page has been on fire. Rathbone emphasized the importance of having an offseason this year and how much it helped his team.
“We had plenty of guys that got a lot of playing time, but we just didn’t have a lot of seniors,” said Rathbone of last season. “Anytime you throw the ball a lot like we do, it takes a lot of reps and things like to get it down, so that hurt us last season. For us it was vital to have this offseason and hit the weight room, working extremely to build those relationships and comradery.”
Another thing the Patriots have done very well at this year is limiting points on the defensive side of the ball. They haven’t allowed opposing teams to score more than 20 points against this season and have also done a great job of causing turnovers in the five games they’ve played as well, averaging at least one takeaway per game so far this season.
Rathbone says that it comes down to being prepared week in and week out.
“That comes down to the coaching staff getting them prepared every single week, and the guys being comfortable and learning what to do,” said Rathbone. “The guys have played hard. We’ve have [Eric] Hazard and Hurd on both edges, and then we’ve had our linebackers and defensive line cleaning everything up. We’ve been happy with how the defense has played.”
The run game has also gotten the job done for the Patriots this year. The Patriots have really used a committee of running backs this year to their advantage at times.
“This year we were worried about our running game,” said Rathbone. “Then Hazzard came along, and we had [Ethan] Cunningham. We try to spread the ball around a lot, but you know Hazzard is so valuable on defense so we can’t run him 20 times a game. Cunningham has been a blessing since he’s a lot of power and speed. We need to be more consistent. I think that starts with the guys up front, and our lineman. We like to keep guys fresh.”
While Rathbone has been at Page for almost nine years now, he stated that while this has been a great start to the year for his team, he feels like they still have something to prove. While the team has won two out of the last three region championships and other awards along the way, the Patriots are still hungry for more.
Rathbone says he is proud of his team and the strides they’ve made this year.
“This team has something to prove,” said Rathbone. “They wanna prove all the doubters wrong. They wanna show that last year was an anomaly. They play for each other, and they play hard. They’re the reason for this start. I’m not doing a whole lot differently. I think anybody that knows football will tell you that can only coach so much. Sooner or later you’re athletes have to make plays, and our guys have done a good job of doing that so far.”
The Patriots return home Oct. 1 for the start of a two-game stand against Columbia and Nolensville (Oct. 8).