It’s a conclusion, but it’s not the end.
The SJHS football team’s inaugural season came to a close on Thursday with a 36-6 loss to host McMinn Central in the first round of the SETAC playoffs, seeing the Junior Cats finish the year with a 4-4 overall record.
But although the defeat concluded Sweetwater’s season, the base has been formed for the program’s future. It is evident in between the box score.
“I think this team is mentally tough,” Junior Cats head coach Jeremy Lorenz said. “Mental toughness. And that’s what we’ve had to do. We had to break these young men down and then build them back up as our foundations of what we need them to be for the future of Sweetwater Junior High School football.
“Being mentally tough and mentally prepared is what these young men have done each and every day that they’ve come out.”
The Chargers got on the board first by way of a 13-yard passing touchdown near the end of the first quarter, but the Junior Cats responded with their own 13-yard score through the air, as quarterback Tucker Lorenz hit Parker Holt for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed.
Another McMinn Central passing touchdown, plus a successful two-point conversion, during the third quarter notched the Chargers a 16-6 lead by the start of the fourth period.
Three more Charger touchdowns capped off the game in the final quarter, as the Junior Cats offense wasn’t able to find the end zone again in the game, while its defense struggled to contain McMinn Central’s attack.
“What happened tonight, who can explain it?” Lorenz said. “You come out and you’ve had a great week of practice. And one or two things happen early in the game and it just kind of snowballs.”
The loss eliminates the Junior Cats from the postseason.
“It’s always discouraging,” Lorenz said. “You don’t want it to end. You’ve built these relationships with these young men. You’ve seen them grow as young men, as football players.
“We had four kids that had ever played football before and now we have almost 30 that are football players.”
Despite the first-round playoff exit, Sweetwater still has plenty to hang its hat on regarding the program’s first ever season. The Junior Cats finished the year at .500 and dominated in county play, defeating the Sequoyah Junior Chiefs twice and the TPJHS Junior Bears once.
Plus, the team will return a decent chunk of its depth for 2020, as Lorenz and the Junior Cats look to continue to establish SJHS football during the program’s second season.
“Silas Brown, he is going to be our leader next year,” Lorenz said. “Trenton Mizer came in today and snapped for us. Kai Correll was out this week so Trenton Mizer is going to be huge. Traylon Ferguson is going to be another name that’s going to be big for us.”