By Sam McGaw
The Brentwood Bruins knocked on the door of the Class 5A state championship last season. This year, they want it all.
With several returning starters and a class of 36 seniors, Brentwood enters 2017 fueled with optimism as it makes the jump to Class 6A.
“I tell our team we have an opportunity to have a good football team this year,” Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford said at the Williamson County Schools Media Day. “They know we have a lot of veterans and a lot of experience with kids returning.
“For us, it’s about how good can we be and how good do you want to be? With that many veterans, we kind of put it in their hands.”
After starting last season 1-4, the Bruins won eight of their next nine games before falling to Independence 27-24 on a last-minute touchdown in the semifinals.
“We started extremely slow last year,” Crawford said. “It was probably as much of the coaching staff’s fault as anything. We didn’t do a good job of preparing and coaching. Once we kind of figured out what we were as the season went on, we hit our stride and got better as the playoffs started.”
A main factor in Brentwood’s success this season will be the play of senior quarterback Carson Shacklett.
Last year’s Region 7-5A co-offensive MVP, Shacklett registered 1,782 pass yards, 645 rushing yards, 33 touchdowns (14 run) and five interceptions in 12 games. He missed the state quarterfinals and semifinals with a broken collarbone.
He’ll be shielded by an offensive line that features Notre Dame commit Cole Mabry at tackle, three-year starter Chris Moore at center and Tank Starr at guard.
Shacklett’s top weapon from last year, Parker Bullion, returns at wide receiver. The 6-foot-4 target had 59 catches for 637 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Backup quarterback Kaden Dreier will replace Christian LaBreche (UT-Martin) at H-back/tight end.
Juniors Carter McKecknie and Jordan Nicholas will see time at running back.
“Obviously, we’re going to use Carson’s ability to run and throw, as we did last year,” Crawford said. “We have a lot of experience back on the offensive side of the ball. We know we have more team speed this year than we’ve had in the past.”
Inside linebacker C.J. Grissim spearheads a Brentwood defense that allowed 21.3 points per game last season.
Grissim, last year’s Region 5-5A Defensive MVP, registered 153 tackles (9 for loss), two fumble recoveries and one interception.
He’ll be joined in the front-seven by senior defensive end Blake Myers and Mason Keidel.
Keidel could see time at inside linebacker and on the defensive line this season.
Griffin Goodheart will see ample time at cornerback, while Matthew Phillips and Glenn Young will play safety.
Phillips will also handle the team’s punting and kicking duties following the departure of U.S. Army All-American Tucker Day (Mississippi State).
The Bruins will be pitted against fellow Williamson County teams Centennial, Franklin, Independence and Ravenwood in Region 6 Class 6A this fall.
Brentwood is 2-9 against those squads over the past two seasons.
“The challenge for us will be to win a region county game,” Crawford stated. “We haven’t a done a whole lot of that. We lost to Independence twice last season, we split with Centennial and we beat Ravenwood. But still, that’s going to be our challenge.”
Brentwood opens the season at Franklin on Aug. 18.
Sam McGaw is the sports editor for Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page, Nolensville Home Page and Spring Hill Home Page. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGaw_.