By Steve Williams
He may not be a star player. He might not even be a starter. But he’s consistently contributed to his team’s successful season.
Head coaches of the area’s winningest teams were asked by The Knoxville Focus to recognize their “unsung heroes” last week.
Here are their responses:
Coach Rob Black of Fulton (6-1) on Hayden Willard, a senior starter at outside linebacker and backup quarterback: “Hayden plays on all special teams and is a great leader by example. Hayden is a blue collar player that plays with so much heart. I cannot ever remember a coach talking to Hayden about effort.”
Coach Jeff Phillips of Austin-East (5-1): “The offensive line is our unsung heroes. They never get recognition or praise by the media. All they have done this year is played extremely hard and allowed us to be very balanced on offense. We
are gaining over 100 yards rushing a game and throwing for over 200 yards a game. We are averaging 35 points a game because of them. They are the hardest working kids on the team and enjoy their jobs.”
The A-E O-line consists of Bradley Neal, senior right tackle; Zacc Cooke, junior right guard; Knori Bone, junior center; Winston Beaty, junior left guard; and Calvin Wilson, sophomore left tackle.
Coach Rusty Bradley of CAK (6-0) on kicker Isaac Gallegos: “He is consistently putting kickoffs into the end zone, which forces our opponents to start at the 20-yard line. As a result, our offense has had a lot of drives with a short field. That has been a huge weapon for us.”
Coach George Quarles of Maryville (7-0) on Drake Martin, senior cornerback: “He is a starter and has made some big plays for us. He has become the emotional leader of our team. More importantly, he is a leader in our school. He looks out for kids in our school who need help. He is friendly with everyone. Unsung hero is a great title for Drake.”
Coach Jeff Harig of West (5-1) on Corbin West, a 5-9, 200-pounder: “Corbin is an undersized defensive lineman for the Rebels. He is a two-year starter but gets very little acclaim for his role outside the coaching staff and the respect of his teammates.”
WEEK 8: It’ll start with an air raid. Thursday night’s TV game on MyVLT will feature two pass-happy teams – Clinton at undefeated Christian Academy of Knoxville. The Dragons’ quarterback is senior Tyler Thackerson. The Warriors’ junior QB is Cole Smith. It could be very entertaining.
Friday headliners will include once-beaten West at unbeaten Farragut, streaking Halls at Central, Battle Ground Academy at Webb School in a rematch of last season’s Division II-A state championship game, Hardin Valley Academy at Jefferson County and Greenback at Coalfield.
FIRST SHUTOUT: Fulton Coach Rob Black was delighted with his Falcons’ 46-0 win at Gibbs in Week 6.
“I thought our guys on defense did a nice job against a non-conventional offense,” said Black via e-mail. “We pitched our first shutout of the year and had two defensive touchdowns.
“I was also pleased with our offensive production with the exception of one drive in which we had three penalties. We have to be more disciplined or that will come back to bite us in the future. I was also pleased that we got an opportunity to play a lot of people in the game.”
ROAD TRIP: Catholic’s football game at Belfrey, Ky., on Sept. 25 required an approximate 218-mile, 3½ hour road trip to and from.
The ride home might have felt a lot shorter had the Irish won, but they were defeated 38-14 by the unbeaten and two-time defending Kentucky Class AAA state champions.
Catholic bounced back in Week 7 with an impressive 45-14 win at Anderson County.