Sweetwater Junior High Football is off and running now, shortly after the program was created by the Sweetwater Board of Education in a recent meeting. The school has chosen junior high math teacher Jeremy Lorenz to head up the first version of the program and he is excited to get to hit the ground running.
The transition to middle school football was made by necessity, but Lorenz hopes it has a positive impact on football in the local area.
“Well, I think most of the schools in the surrounding counties have kind of moved in that direction over the past several years,” Lorenz said. “So our juniors was what was called the Sequoyah Conference, and as those teams began moving into the middle school realm of things, it sort of forced all the others to do the same.”
As for Lorenz, when the opportunity presented itself to be the first head coach at the middle school level, he jumped at the chance.
“I’m a football guy,” Lorenz said. “I’ve coached football for a long time. And I saw the need and saw the opportunity to do something for the first time at Sweetwater, and I just thought it was a great opportunity for our boys and our young men and for our community as a whole. So, I’m excited about the opportunities its going to bring for our community.”
Sweetwater City Schools Director Rodney Boruff hired Lorenz for the job and had high praised for his new coach.
“I met him years ago while I was a principal and he was a basketball coach at Loudon Middle,” Boruff said. “You could see his passion for winning and his kids always played their hearts out for him. I found out later that he had lots of high school football coaching experience. As a teacher, I see no difference. His expects the best from himself and his students. I am extremely excited to have him head up our very first SJHS football team and look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
Lorenz hasn’t had to build the program on his own. From the junior league ranks, there has been plenty of support and the administration has paved the way for a successful program.
“We’ve had a lot of help,” Lorenz said. “I would like to thank Mr. Boruff and the School Board for giving me the opportunity to be a part of and build this middle school football program. I’m grateful for them and I’m also thankful for Brandy Smith and Nicki Nile, the administration here at Sweetwater Junior High School for all the support that they have shown me so far.”
Lorenz said the Optimist Club has really made the transition smooth.
“They’ve made sure we have everything we need to make this successful,” he said.
Now the key for Lorenz is getting kids involved, now that the technical details of the program have been squared away.
“We have a schedule, and we’re putting the finishing touches on that.” Lorenz said. “We have equipment. So we’re looking forward to getting the ball rolling and getting kids in here and getting them excited.
Lorenz doesn’t want to reinvent the way youth football is run in Sweetwater, but he hopes for one change in particular- continuity. Providing a middle school football program that will work closely with the high school program will allow players to practice side by side with high school players and play on the high school field for home games. This will hopefully breed more excitement and passion for the Sweetwater team at each level.
“I think that our little league and Optimist club have been solid for a very long time, so we’re just looking to build on what they’ve done,” Lorenz said. “We just want to continued that to the high school. We want everyone to feel like this is Sweetwater football. I’ve worked closely with (Sweetwater) coach Mike Martin and we share the same vision for this. We want to instill a family atmosphere that will continue from the time a child is 5 years old to the time their 17 years old, and hopefully we can build a young man that is well-rounded not only on the football field but in the classroom and the community.”
Lorenz knows he faces challenges ahead, the first of which is building a team, but with the prior Sequoyah Youth Football Conference to build on, the sky is the limit for Sweetwater Junior High. He plans to have a staff of several experienced coaches and community leaders to help him.
“It’s no different from starting anything- building anything from the ground up,” Lorenz said. It’s getting kids to mentally focus on the task at hand. We are going to focus on being a student first. We’re going to try to make this community better than it was. There will be some challenges for getting kids prepared and running new systems. It may be a little more advanced from what they’ve seen in the past. But they have been well trained.”