By SAM McGAW
There isn’t a lack of optimism surrounding the Page Patriots this season.
After reaching the second round of the playoffs last fall for the first time since 2012, the Patriots enter this season with key returning starters on both sides of the ball.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Page head coach Charles Rathbone said at Williamson County Schools Media Day. “It’s probably one of my favorite teams I’ve ever had.”
The Patriots finished 7-4 last season with a loss against Spring Hill in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
This year, they make the jump to Class 5A, where they’ll compete against Columbia, Franklin County, Lincoln County, Shelbyville, Summit and White County in Region 5.
Despite having one of the smallest enrollments in Class 5A, there won’t be any excuses coming from the Patriots.
“I feel like we have a chance to compete, and that’s what I’m kind of pushing to our players,” Rathbone said.
“We aren’t going to whine and cry because we’re a small school. We’re going to out and play our hardest and we’re going to do our best. We’re going to hit, be hit, get back up and hit again.”
Page returns its top two offensive producers in senior quarterback Jacob Van Landingham and sophomore running back Bubba Johnson.
In his first year as a starter, Van Landingham recorded 1,549 passing yards, 376 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns (6 run) and six interceptions.
“I’m more confident,” Van Landingham said at Williamson County Schools Media Day. “So far, I’m much more calm in the pocket. I have a year under me now, so I’m able to handle the offense better and be a better leader.”
Johnson rushed for 1,027 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
“We kind of knew he had it in him,” Rathbone said. “He was playing behind a senior and the senior got hurt against Fairview. He stepped up and did a good job all the way around.
“We noticed he had the physical strength and the body to handle a difficult load. Usually, freshmen aren’t as bulky and stocky as he is. He’s a strong kid.”
Van Landingham’s top weapon from last season, senior Will Pierce, returns as one of the starting receivers. He registered 34 receptions for 505 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.
Jonathan Harris, Ian Smith and Will Rathbone are returning starters on the offensive line.
“I’m really excited about our offensive line,” Rathbone stated. “There have been years where we’ve lined up with eight linemen. I think this year we have 15 or 16 linemen.”
The objective for Page’s defense this season is simple: stop the run.
“Everything we’re going to try to do is it to try to stop the run first,” Rathbone said. “That’s going to be our strategy. We want to stop the run game and force people to pass on us. If they can beat us passing, more power to them. We’ll tip our hats to them, but that’s hard to do in high school.”
Harris and Daniel Vaughn are expected to play big roles up front in the team’s 3-4 scheme.
Luke Bowers (71 tkls), Austin Harshaw (36 tkls) and Jackson Satterfield (20 tkls) are returning linebackers.
Quincy Brock-Compton (38 tkls, 1 INT) and Michael Burdick will line up at defensive back.
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_.