Earlier this year, the Monroe County community decided to create middle school football teams to help ease players’ transition into high school football. The program received much support after many community members spoke in favor of the idea at the school board’s following meeting.
Shortly after the Sweetwater City School System did the same, the Monroe County Board of Education officially adopted middle school football teams to begin their first season this fall.
This year, its first, looks to be a promising one for the Sweetwater Junior Cats football team.
“I am excited about our upcoming season,” head coach Jeremy Lorenz said. “We have worked extremely hard and are ready for the challenges this year holds.”
Lorenz also has strong faith in his players, stressing his confidence in the roster he was gifted in his first year on the job.
“We have pushed them to train their bodies and minds to be able to overcome the challenges that football presents,” Lorenz said.
As far as expectations go, Lorenz feels nothing short of assured in his players and their ability to work together as a team. Lorenz said that each player has improved tremendously from where they have started.
“Players like Kai Correll and Jesus Guzman have shown a lot of improvement and physical toughness,” Lorenz said. “We also have a first-year player at quarterback, Tucker Lorenz, who has impressed our coaching staff with understanding the mental aspect of the game very quickly.
“Jayden Richesin has shown great vision and explosion as a runner, and Silas Brown has been exceptional with catching the ball with authority. We also hope to get the ball into the hands of receivers like Chris Alford (another first year player) to open up our offense.”
Along with improving the players’ performance, the entire coaching staff has worked hard to instill a family environment among the team.
“It is the foundation in which our program will be built upon,” Lorenz said. “We will not measure success in wins and losses, but rather on how much we grow our players into responsible young men who care more about others than themselves.”
The staff, which consists of assistant coaches Eddie Byrum, Kevin Watson, Jason Upton, Greg Brown and Ryan Bookout, look forward to seeing this growth take place.
In total, the Sweetwater Junior Cats are looking forward to a promising football season, which will begin with a road game at Polk County on Thursday, Aug. 22.
When it comes to the 2019 season, Sequoyah Junior Chiefs head coach David Matlock’s excitement is noticeable.
“Players are grasping new concepts very well and seem eager to learn,” Matlock said. “I expect the players will progress throughout the season. They seem eager to get the games started.”
Matlock also strongly believes in his players, saying that each one has improved from where they have started.
“(The players) were taught the basics and toughness required in the league setting by coaches who graciously donated their time,” Matlock said.
The staff has been working to coach each and every individual to their best ability, both physically and mentally.
“You may never know how each player will grow physically,” Matlock said.
Matlock is confident every player has the potential to mentally exceed expectations. He also said the “Team One” concept of the first-year program has been consistently stressed to the players, and everyone is working together fairly well.
The coaches and players alike are quite eager for the season, looking forward to the possibilities it has to offer. The Junior Chiefs officially opened the year with a 34-6 loss at Meigs County on Thursday, Aug. 15.
“We are just excited about the growth of this program,” Matlock said. “It will be nice to renew rivalries in a new format.”
The Junior Chiefs are certainly ready to begin digging in to what this year has in store for their team.
Head coach Lynn Rowe is certainly looking forward to what this season has to offer for the Tellico Plains Junior Bears.
“This is our inaugural season,” Lowe said. “There is definitely much to look forward to.”
Rowe is proud of how far his players have come since their first practice; the team mostly started from scratch.
“We had no equipment when we started,” Rowe said. “All we had to work with was some rubber footballs and trash cans. Thankfully, through the graciousness of the School Board, community and high school, we were all able to work together and get the program started.”
Along with a shortage of training equipment, the team also started with little experience.
“Half the team had never even worn a football uniform before this year,” Lowe said. “The other half mostly consisted of players that either have not played in a long time, or had not played much at all.
“The players have come a long way from where they started, I cannot begin to stress the phenomenal improvements they have made.”
Furthermore, Rowe sees the different athletic abilities for individual players.
“We have players, such as Austin Williams, who are exceptionally athletic and can do things not normally seen as easy at this age,” Rowe said. “Others, like Riley Burnett, carry almost all the characteristics a coach searches for in a player.
“Ethan Harris, Payton Dodson, and Chance Shiripo are some of the more experienced players on the team, while others are quickly catching onto the necessities of the sport.”
Rowe also said that football is a game of positions, not players; everyone must be able to play more than just one spot on the field. “You never know how many games you may win or lose,” he says, “but these kids will represent themselves well.”
Already off to a good start, the Tellico Plains Junior Bears will working hard to stay strong throughout the season. Tellico is currently 0-1 on the year, having opened their season with a 50-16 home loss to McMinn Central on Thursday, Aug. 8, before an open week.
This season will certainly bring many challenges to each middle school team, but the coaches and players alike will be ready to face and defeat whatever stands ahead of them. Win or lose, each team has the potential to accomplish great things this season.
The Sweetwater Junior Cats, Sequoyah Junior Chiefs and Tellico Plains Junior Bears are all looking forward to make the most of their inaugural year.