Turnovers, touchdowns and thunder sum up night one of WillCo/RuCo Jamboree


Turnovers, touchdowns and thunder sum up night one of WillCo/RuCo Jamboree

BY CORY WOODROOF 

An impatient storm threatened to put a damper on the first night of the WillCo/RuCo football jamboree.

A bit into the night’s first bout between Fairview and Cascade, rain and lightning spattered here and there, and thunder rolled in the distance, putting Nolensville High School on a nearly 45-minute weather delay.

Though, to her credit, Mother Nature waited until right to the end of the night’s last scrimmage for everyone to clear out of the stadium to begin her evening’s downpour around 10 o’clock.

No storm needed to brew Thursday night; a new rivalry could brew in its place (even one only played in two quarters).

The first night of WillCo/RuCo gave a handful of Williamson County teams a chance to sharpen iron against the iron of some of Rutherford County’s best teams.

One could tell there was no love lost on either side once the round of scrimmages had come to a close.

Despite turnovers, Nolensville gets best of Centennial, boost of confidence heading into fall  

Nolensville High School is, in and of itself, only in its junior season after opening in 2016.  

After 2017’s 4-8 effort that saw then-coach Will Hester step away from the gig, new coach Paul Derrick saw a resilient effort from his first and second-string teams as they overcame a handful of giveaways to sneak past a stout Centennial team, 10-7.

In the first quarter (where the first teams mainly squared off), senior dual-threat quarterback Brandon Wharton II threw a couple of errant passes that turned into interceptions. He put the mistakes right behind him as he led the Knights on a touchdown throw to senior wideout Tim Stayskal.

Senior running back Colton Dooley helped set up the score with two long runs in Cougar territory.

The Stayskal score evened the score as the first quarter’s twilight after senior running back Jariel Wilson’s touchdown put Centennial up early in the scrimmage.

“I missed on a few key reads that resulted in picks,” Wharton said of how the quarter evolved. “I just had to pick it back up, and get my guys going, and drive down and score again. I knew we could do it.”

Wharton feels the team could’ve come out a bit stronger at the start, and said he hopes the team will work to make better introductions as the season gets underway.

Turnovers were a major problem for Knights and Cougars alike. Nolensville coughed the ball up three times (two picks and a fumble), and Centennial gave it away twice.

Though, that can also read that Centennial had two interceptions and a recovered fumble on the night, and that Nolensville got two recoveries of their own. Quite the conundrum when your vice is also your virtue.

Derrick feels that his team saw both sides of the coin tonight.

“We had some [turnovers], obviously, we don’t want to commit, and they did a good job of marching the ball on us at times,” Derrick said. “I tell our guys all the time, we want to keep the points down, however that’s to be; force kicks, create turnovers. So, we’re pleased with the turnovers [we got], we’re disappointed on them marching the ball on us, and, obviously, we don’t want to turn the ball over.”

Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky says his team will be working on cutting out errors as they gear up for the season.

“You can’t have negative plays like that and expect to win,” Kriesky said. “Defensively, you can’t stay on the field five-to-eight minutes, and also expect to win. You’ve got to get off the field on third down.”

Kriesky says he plans to get his guys a bit more conditioned for these types of situations once the regular season rolls around next Friday.

Though, the night wasn’t a complete loss for the Cougars. Wilson didn’t just nab a touchdown; in his defensive post, he had a highlight reel-ready pick of one of Wharton’s passes deep in Centennial territory. He then ran it back to the opponent’s 45-yard line, setting Centennial up nicely for the next drive.

“We were in man coverage, and I had an h-back on the short side of the field, and there’s a lot of field over here, so I decided to keep my eyes on my man and play the field,” he said.

The future Governor says it really doesn’t cross his mind that he’s a college-bound running back making plays in the defensive backfield.

“Whatever helps my team best win the game,” Wilson said.

Kriesky also spoke to his vantage on Wilson’s pick, and what he means to the Cougars.

“He saw something; he cheated over in our coverage,” Kriesky said. “I knew he saw something. I trusted him, so I wasn’t going to say anything. He made a play. He’s an outstanding young man. He’s grown tremendously, maturity-wise, this past year. He’s our leader, he’s our bell cow.

“As long as everything’s going [well] with him, we’ll be fine.”

Going ahead, both teams will want to tighten up the turnovers (and, of course, continue to force them), with Nolensville headed to Fayetteville and Centennial hosting conference rival Ravenwood to get the season started Friday, Aug. 17.

Independence flashes, Summit falters

The WillCo/RuCo Challenge also saw the Independence Eagles feature a recent college commit on a big night, and Summit realize what they’ve got to work on going forward.

For Independence, Purdue commit and senior receiver T.J. Sheffield hauled in two touchdowns (including a 65-yard bomb from senior quarterback Nathan Cisco) to help the Eagles trounce LaVergne, 28-0. Even just in two quarters, Indy’s first and second teams gave the county visitors all they could handle, and then some.

While Sheffield’s got being a Boilermaker to look forward to, his mind right now is focused on catching more touchdowns from Cisco.

“We’ve just been doing what we usually do,” Sheffield said of working on his chemistry with his QB. “[We’ve been] getting the timing down with everybody, with both quarterbacks.”

This was Sheffield’s first game action since word came through he was headed up to Purdue to continue his career. He was all smiles about the decision Thursday night.

“It feels great [to be committed to Purdue],” Sheffield said. “I know they’re going to treat me well up there. I love the campus, love [Purdue coach JaMarcus Shepherd, WRs]. I love the way they move the ball. They run a spread like [Centennial]. I think I’ll be a good fit up there.”

Despite dominating the stout competition, Independence head coach Scott Blade takes the night’s showing with a healthy dose of perspective.

“We’re going to see better and better teams [as the season gets going],” Blade said. “Obviously, we’re all still just getting our feet wet, as far as scrimmages.

“It’s the first time under the lights, first time with a game-type situation, where the coaches aren’t out on the field telling them exactly what to do, so there’s a learning curve there. It’s the first time getting to learn the play-clock rules [implemented by the TSSAA], first time playing with a little tempo for us, so there’s a lot of good positives there. It’s obviously a steep learning curve, and the schedule we face from here on out is not a joke. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

And, for any Independence fans worried about senior defensive lineman Drew Cannon, who looked to injure his ankle during the jamboree, Blade says he’s just fine.

Independence opens the season against Oakland next Friday.

Summit, on the other hand, has a lot to learn from their 20-0 loss to Blackman.

Versatile senior running back George Odimegwu looked strong for the Spartans in his snaps on the ground and in the air, and rangy linebacker Jaylen Herrud always seemed to be where the ball was on defense.

Though, the offense couldn’t get much going toward the red zone, and the defense let up 20 points in two quarters as the starters and reserves alike struggled against the Blaze.

“We’ve got a lot of kinks,” Summit head coach Brian Coleman said. “Defensively, we’re going to have to tackle better. We’re just kind of hanging on and riding them down. Offensively, we’re going to have to block longer.

“George Odimegwu is running the ball very, very hard, and we’re not blocking for him very well. We’re kind of watching him run on the second level. We’re just going to have to block a whole lot better for him.”

Herrud’s a transfer from Father Ryan and looks like he could be a key cog for the Spartans’ defense.

“He’s a ballhawk, and he’s new to us,” Coleman said. “He’s getting better. He’s getting better each week. He takes to coaching very well.”

The Spartans will host Spring Hill to open the season on Aug. 17.

Coleman says they’ve got plenty of room to grow in before their neighbors come to town.

“We’ve got to get a whole lot better,” he said, empathetically. “We’ve got to get a whole lot better before we can compete with Spring Hill.”

Night two of WillCo/RuCo commences Friday at Oakland High School. The schedule is below.

5:00 p.m. – Brentwood/Riverdale

6:00 p.m. – Franklin/Stewarts Creek

7:00 p.m. – Page/Siegel

8:00 p.m. – Ravenwood/Oakland

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