Justin Barnes wasted no time getting reacquainted to the Chattanooga area after taking the Soddy-Daisy head coaching job. He remembered the days that his alma mater, Red Bank, and his new program used to battle as rivals on the gridiron, and once it became practice time, he went back to another nostalgic place.
The campground where the Lions used to practice.
The program, which has suffered through back-to-back losing seasons, is looking at a large senior class in hopes to starting the turnaround and the transformation from a good team to a good program. When the first day of practice rolled around, he took the team to the Dogwood Lodge in Soddy-Daisy for camp. There were no cell phones allowed, no Twitter; just a bunch of team bonding each night.
“We learned the school alma mater one night; another night we had a talent show,” Barnes said. “We just wanted to do some things that would help us come together as a group. Luckily, it was no problem for the guys and they all jumped on board.”
Linebacker/offensive lineman Jared Eidson said that the difference between Barnes and the former regime is almost like night and day.
“There’s a lot of discipline this year. We can’t get away with things like we did last year,” he said. “We’re ready to get out on the field. A lot of people are counting us out there, so we’re going to play every game like we have nothing to lose.
“We have worked hard already, so why not get a reward?”
In a district where five current teams made the playoffs and Cleveland finished with five wins and was the first team left out of the Class 5A playoffs, little will be expected of the Trojans coming into the season. And they’re ok with those expectations — or lack thereof.
“It’s cool being under no pressure,” Eidson said. “It’s our goal to win the district — we might be undersized, but we have some good pieces and it’s our team goal. Our most important game is against Hixson because it’s the first one and we haven’t won our season opener since I’ve been here.
“We want to go 1-0.”
Barnes said the key to the team is to be competitive, while realistic at the same time.
“We’d love to go 10-0. I want to win as much as anybody, but we have a long way to go, so is that realistic?” Barnes said. “East Hamilton has come in and made a good region even better. That’s what we’re striving for, so as long as we’re competing, we’re building a foundation. “
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.