By Randy Cavin
Press Sports Editor
Weakley County’s three teams in the UT Martin 7-on-7 passing tournament had to take the good and bad.
There was plenty of both Saturday at the Martin Soccer Complex. Westview and Dresden made it to the quarterfinals, while Greenfield was eliminated in the first round of the championship bracket.
The Chargers, led by sophomore quarterback Ty Simpson, won their first two games in the pool-play section of the tournament, and then they lost their next four games before breaking for lunch.
Westview entered the championship bracket as the No. 14 seed after going 2-4 in the pool section. The Chargers beat MASE and then lost to Liberty in the quarterfinals.
The Lions played somewhat better in their six games of pool play as they were the No. 8 seed in the single-elimination bracket. Dresden took out Cordova in the first round and got beat by Columbia Academy in the quarterfinals.
Greenfield, which was the only team in the county to make the playoffs last season, surprised a few schools as it went 5-0-1 in the preliminary round and earned the No. 2 overall seed. The long lunch break and hot sun may have hurt the Yellowjackets as they got beat by Wayne County in the first round.
Head coach Don Pitt made it clear to his team that he was not pleased with their effort against Wayne County.
“We have got to improve our attitude and be able to work better as a team,” he said. “That is what these next few weeks are going to be for. I feel like we have put in some good work so far, but this last game was not good. We had played six already and had an hour break. We just could not get going.”
The Yellowjackets played exceptionally well before taking the lunch break and then went up against Wayne County. Senior quarterback Kelly Ricketts looked comfortable passing the ball. Junior running back Keylon Thomas, senior receivers Trevon Watkins and Michael Isbell put forth the extra effort to make plays on both sides of the ball.
“Kelly started at quarterback and moved the ball well,” Pitt said. “His favorite target today was Michael Isbell, who had a bunch of yards catching the ball. Trevon Watkins played some at quarterback, as did Will Harris and Craig Ross, who is a freshman. Kelly definitely looked the best, and he is probably going to take our snaps at quarterback.”
Pitt saw several good things in the tournament, even though Greenfield got eliminated in the first round. He especially liked the way the Yellowjackets went about their business against the bigger schools.
“We got out here and got better conditioning-wise,” Pitt said. “We got better at learning plays. We got better at competing, and we only lost one football game. We felt like we competed well against some bigger schools, and I am proud of the way they played.”
It is still a work in progress for Dresden and its first-year head coach Wes Johnson. This is his first time being a head coach. Johnson told the team there were plenty of mistakes by both him and them.
“I saw a lot of bad habits,” Johnson said. “I told them I am going to own the bad stuff that happens. There are some situations I haven’t even covered. We played Union City and I haven’t even seen any of what they do. I saw guys compete, and I was really glad to see that.”
The Lions beat Cordova in the first round and there was plenty of jawing go on from both teams. Most of it was all in the spirit of the game, but a time or two it got a little testy. It may have just been the heat of the moment, or possibly the heat from the sun as the temperature was in the low 90s with high humidity.
“When we played Cordova, it got out of hand a little bit,” Johnson said. “There was some pushing and shoving going on. We are going to have to learn to play through that. We are not sinking to their level. Our standard is this — we are not going down. I refuse to do it any other way. I will play with just 11 kids. That is all I need.”
He is searching for a starting quarterback and rotated Zach Crawford, Tatum Oliver, and Divers Lockhart at the position in the tournament.
Crawford had just rejoined the team last week and had only been to a couple of practices after playing baseball with a travel ball team. Crawford, who is a junior, is the most experienced of the three, and he has some adjusting to do with Johnson’s offensive style.
Oliver was a starter as an eighth-grader at the middle school, and he looked good standing in the pocket throwing the ball. Lockhart played a few snaps at quarterback, but he was mostly used as a receiver, which is his more natural position.
“All of them are really good,” Johnson said about his quarterbacks. “Zach Crawford really stood out. He just got back with us, and he is a sharpshooter. He is going to be able to spread the ball around for us. I am excited about him.”
Westview’s new head coach Matt McConnell was not as forthcoming about his team’s performance. He had mixed emotions about it with most of them on the negative side.
“We did not play very well at all,” McConnell said. “We started out 2-0. We then went to the third game and had a little bit of adversity. We wanted to start pointing fingers, and we lost three in a row.”
McConnell was not happy at all after the third loss and had a long talk with his team. The Chargers did not respond very well and lost their fourth straight game before breaking for lunch in the field house.
That long lunch break did the Chargers some good.
“We went up there and ate lunch and got together as a team,” McConnell said. “We said we are going to play together as a team. We came back and won our first one in the bracket and lost the second one. We had an opportunity to win that one. I was proud of how they came back as a team in the afternoon. We have some team stuff we have to work on.”
Westview lost by two points to Liberty in the quarterfinals. University School of Jackson won the tournament by beating Giles County by three points.
A bright spot for the Chargers is the connection between Simpson and three of his receivers. Garrett Byrd appears to be one of Simpson’s top targets. Byrd made several good catches on cross routes, short hooks, and deep passes.
Garner Anderson had a good day with several big catches, and Jonathan Davidson is turning out to be a reliable go-to receiver for Simpson.