published Monday, September 9th, 2013

Gossett blog: Surprises abound at start of greater Chattanooga prep football season

So anybody want to talk about surprises?

Where to start? Rhea County? Sequatchie County? Hixson? What about Silverdale Baptist, Gordon Lee or Marion County?

Rhea, which moved this year from District 5-AAA to 6-AAA, is 2-0 despite having its third new coach in four years. The Golden Eagles are now coached by Mark Pemberton, who once took Knox Catholic to a state title. They're 2-0 for the first time since Jason Fitzgerald took the 2008 team to a 10-win season.

Fitzgerald, by the way, was the man in charge Friday when Hixson rallied for a crucial win over Tyner. It was a game most figured would be for the District 6-AA championship. Hixson has won two in a row since opening the season with a stunner of an upset loss to Soddy-Daisy.

The Wildcats were 7-4 a year ago and they last had back-to-back winning seasons in 2005 and 2006.

Sequatchie County, with new coach Ken Colquette, made a strong 7-AA statement Friday, posting its initial league win and its second victory of the year with a convincing victory over Grundy County.

While Al Rogers' Seahawks put together a 10-3 record last year -- and set some school records along the way -- they're 3-0 for the first time in school history. And Marion County, Mac McCurry's first two years as head coach, has put together back-to-back 3-0 starts for the first time since the aforementioned Colquette's teams did it in 1994-1995.

Finally, Gordon Lee has a 2-0 start for the first time since 2005. The Trojans' coach, in his second year, is Charlie Wiggins.

Just about everything that could go right has for McCallie, which might well be at least a year ahead of the rejuvenation schedule under Ralph Potter. The 3-0 Blue Tornado has averaged 48 points per game. They go on the road to Siegel this week and are at home next week against Bowling Green, Ky., before returning to Division II-AA games at Ensworth.

• Hats off, too, to East Ridge, which surprised many by starting the year 0-2. They put that streak to bed Friday with a 16-0 shutout win over Central.

Coach Tracy Malone said the defense played well but that the key for the Pioneers was committing just one turnover. Now, if they can just get everybody healthy they might still make a playoff run, especially with Tyner's surprising 0-2 start.

• Brainerd coach Brian Gwyn was still limping along as he continued to recover from an automobile accident that totaled his truck.

"I'm trying to do what the doctor says," he said late last week.

He is more interested in getting players healthy and those players and his coaching staff in the right spots.

Headed into Friday's game with Red Bank, Brainerd had lost 40-2 and 55-13 in games with Ooltewah, which is two classifications above the Panthers, and three-time Division II-AAA state champion Ensworth.

"We have had to reconfigure some things to become a little more successful. No, no way have I given up on this year," he said. "It's still early."

Once he was hired Gwyn hit the ground running but the program was without winter workouts-- at least the way Gwyn would like to see them done -- and spring practice with him. He wasn't hired until the latter stages of 2012-2013's second semester and he and the program are paying the price.

"We're just trying to get guys healthy and to keep moving forward," he said.

They lost to Red Bank 20-18.

• Meanwhile, Red Bank, already very thin, is struggling mightily due to suspensions, injuries and a couple of players being dismissed from the team. Then on Friday night, top tailback Shawn Caldwell was ejected from the game and will have to sit out this week against Signal Mountain.

It's very likely coach E.K. Slaughter, who's struggling to hold things together, will have to start three sophomores and a freshman in the defensive secondary this week.

• As injuries go, East Hamilton senior lineman Cordell Sands is done for the year. He went out at a mid-week practice last week after getting rolled up on. It's likely he has a torn ACL and is done for the year. MTSU and UTC had been among those keeping tabs on Terdell's son.

• Here's an answer to the misunderstood dilemma of Baylor coach Phil Massey's ejection last week at Knox Webb.

It comes from the NFHS book via Paul Cox, Jr.

The rule basically says no player, nonplayer or coach shall be in the restricted area when the ball is live, the restricted area being the marked-off area between the playing area sideline and the area for coaches and players. That's article 3.

Non player fouls are assessed to the head coach, which was the case last week when two of Massey's assistants collided with an official.

First (sideline) offense is a warning. Second offense is five-yard penalty and each subsequent offense is to be 15 yards and then 15 yards and ejection of coach.

The rule states specifically that a disqualified (ejected) coach shall be removed from the stadium and be prohibited from any further contact, direct or indirect, with his team.

The question here, though, remains with the TSSAA. Because of the infractions, Massey missed part of the first half and the entire second half of last week's game and then had to absent himself before the Red Raiders played MBA last week. That's six-plus quarters he missed, more than a tenth of the regular season.

The TSSAA rule regarding ejections says "the next game" and is more suited to sports that play more than once per week. For football at least, perhaps the TSSAA should consider a penalty by quarters so that no coach misses more than four quarters of his season.

• What happened with Baylor and Massey is nothing compared to an ugly incident at a game Aug. 30 in Alabama.

There was a postgame fistfight between two coaches from opposing teams and one of the participants (Walker head coach John Holladay) has resigned after exchanging blows with Cullman assistant Matt Hopper.

Both schools were fined $1,500 and Hopper was suspended for a year. While Holladay has resigned his coaching position, he apparently has retained his teaching job. Because Walker was already on probation, the AHSAA ruled it cannot compete in the postseason. Cullman has been placed on non-restricted probation.

By the way, Cullman won the game 13-10.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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