By CAROL STUART / Franklin Home Page

Franklin, Independence and BGA host 3 teams from Rutherford County in Friday season-openers, with Donnie Webb making his head coaching debut for FHS. Page’s Charles Rathbone goes on the road for his first game.

Franklin’s Webb, Page’s Rathbone make debut as teams’ new head coaches

Updated 11:15 a.m. Thursday

Franklin, Independence and BGA play host to three teams from Rutherford County’s powerful District 7-AAA in their football season-openers Friday, with Donnie Webb making his head coaching debut for the Rebels against Siegel. Page’s Charles Rathbone will go on the road for his first game as head coach.

Donnie Webb makes his debut Friday as Franklin head coach.

The opening games will all be tough tests for FHS, IHS and BGA, who played the same opponents on the road in close games to open last season.

All three teams went on to highly successful seasons despite two of them falling in narrow defeats, Indy 14-9 to Blackman and Franklin 35-30 to Siegel.

“I know the guys are really excited,” Webb said. “Obviously as a player, the games are what it’s about, because it’s about the kids. As the coach, I prefer Monday through Thursday because that’s the fun part.

“Friday I just become a fan just like the rest of us and watch it. If i have to coach a whole lot on Friday, we didn’t do a good job on Monday through Thursday.”

Centennial has its open date on the front end and opens next week at Overton, which played in the Thursday Night Lights game this week.

Here is a closer look at Friday night’s season-openers:

Season previews

At Franklin Home Page

Centennial: Cougars hope to build on playoff run

Franklin: FHS coach seeks to continue tradition

Independence: Eagles look to soar to top again

Battle Ground Academy: Batten looks to replace QB

Page: New coach opening up offense

At Brentwood Home Page

Brentwood: BHS coach inherits top contender

Ravenwood: Raptors ready to roll this year

Brentwood Academy: Coach puts Texas stamp on BA

On radio Friday

Franklin vs. Siegel, WAKM, 950-AM, 7 p.m.

FHP GAME OF THE WEEK: Siegel at Franklin, 7 p.m.

Webb, BGA’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons before returning to Franklin as head coach, named sophomore Joe Critchlow the starter at quarterback earlier this week.

The Stars are expected to compete for the 7-AAA title along with Riverdale and Oakland this season.

“I’m sure they’ll have a good scheme,” Webb said. “But it’s going to be good for Joe. I really believe once he gets his feet wet, I really believe he’s going to be a good one.

“It’s like he’s jumping into the ocean right now to get wet.”

Already starting out with a young squad, the Rebels have been hit with injuries to the team’s top two running backs. Colton Black probably won’t play much if at all on Friday after suffering a separated collarbone in the summer, and Nick Hardemon dislocated his elbow at the first scrimmage and is out 2-3 more weeks.

Brent Stockstill

“Defensively they’re just going to be a lot bigger than we are, so we worry about being able to move them to allow us to do things,” Webb said.

Siegel returning quarterback Brent Stockstill, son of MTSU football coach Rick Stockstill, has offers from several schools including Texas Tech. His top target is Tae Martin (731 yards, 7 TDs), who also doubles up as defensive back (8 interceptions).

“The challenge we face is they’re really good,” Webb said. “. . . (Stockstill) can run the football and throw. With their running back and a couple of big receivers, I think they’re going to be a handle just to try and slow them down offensively.”

Webb is happy to return to the Rebels program and said “it’s a pleasure to coach them, they’re good kids, they work hard.

“What we have to work on is bringing an intensity to practice daily. Of course I think that comes with inexperience. I hope as we move along in the year, they’ll see the type of intensity that they have to have, and they have to bring it daily in our league.”

Jalen Wade

Blackman at Independence, 7 p.m.

The Eagles lost a few key players but have several experienced seniors back for a good shot at another district title.

Chase Swayze will take over the quarterback duties full-time, while Indy has a tough defense again anchored by ends Jalen Wade and Josh Murray.

The Blaze no longer have prolific running back I’Tavius Mathers, who took his talents to Ole Miss this fall. His brother, Dee, though will be getting more carries this year.

“They are a physical offense and we will need to rally to the football,” IHS third-year coach Kevin Dyson said. “Although they do not have I’Tavius Mathers, they still have a Mathers toting the rock. Little brother is not as physical but is every bit as fast and we will need to surround him and keep getting hats on him.”

Blackman will start a junior at quarterback, Matt Williams, with senior Austin Singleton anchoring the offensive line.

“On defense they bank on the offense to make mistakes,” Dyson said. “They keep it simple and play hard. They get all the defensive hats on the field to the football and if we do not match that effort we will be in for a long night.”

Smyrna at Battle Ground Academy, 7 p.m.

The Wildcats won last year’s opener with the Bulldogs, but both teams have a rebuilding task ahead this season.

Iowa signee C.J. Beathard’s brother, Tucker, a starter in the defensive secondary, has been chosen to succeed his brother as BGA’s starting quarterback. The junior had been battling with sophomore left-hander Cole Grossvenor.

Coach Roc Batten

“Both of them did a lot of great things throughout camp and both of them had their mistakes, which you expect from kids who are taking over after a quarterback has been here three years leading a team,” second-year BGA head coach Roc Batten said.

“We just like the plays he made and some of the things he did. He’s our guy and we’re excited and confident about him, and looking forward to his performance Friday.”

Batten said he’s worried about Smyrna’s depth as a Class 6A power, and that the Bulldogs always have good athletes with skill and size.

“I know they have some new guys also in spots, but it’s a school with traidition,” he said. “Offensively they’re going to be physical and down your throat like they were last year with us. Defensively, they’ve got speed, and football is a game where speed kills.”

Wildcats running back Keenan Bass is back for his senior year after rolling up around 1,000 yards last season in a pass-first offense.

“We’re a young team at a lots of spots, so just seeing these guys gel together as a unit, it’s exciting part of scrimmages and the intrasquad things we’ve done,” Batten said.

“I feel like we’ve gotten better each week of camp, and definitely each scrimmage we got better. I kind of like the way we finished off our last scrimmage going into this week as a game week, and I feel like our team is ready.”

Smyrna’s defense is led by senior lineman Curtis Jones, and the Bulldogs have switched from a 4-3 to 3-4 this season.

Page at Kenwood, 7:30 p.m.

Rathbone, in his first game as head coach after moving up from offensive coordinator, has a big opening-night challenge by taking on a 5A school in the road trip to Clarksville.

QB Zak Mizell (7)

“They are a little deeper than we are but the real problem they pose for us is their speed,” he said. “They have guys that can run at every position including a college prospect in #10 (Maleek Hall).”

Hall has an offer from UT-Martin and interest from Vanderbilt and others.

The new Page coach is opening up the offense this season, and Patriots quarterback Zak Mizell already has 1½ years experience as the starter.

“If our line can handle the quickness of their line then we can be successful running our offense,” Rathbone said.

The Pats have moved the offense well in preseason scrimmages against Montgomery Central and FRA, and the swarming defense headed by Joe Robertson has also proven effective.

“The kids have adjusted very well to the new coaching staff and are very committed to having a successful season,” Rathbone said. “Hopefully Friday night they will get to reap some rewards of their off-season training.”

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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