The 2018 football season came to a close last Friday night on a soggy, Crisp Field as they lost a 35 – 14 decision to the Smith County Owls. The loss left the Jackets at 1 – 9 overall and 1 – 4 in Region 4 – 3A. The Owls, meanwhile finished at 4 – 6 overall and 2 – 3 in region play and earned the fourth seed and will travel to Red Bank tomorrow night.
Even though the Jackets lost their last nine games of the season, this young teams had some exciting moments and showed what the future may hold for the Yellow Jacket football program. The team had only seven seniors and return a group of young players that gained valuable experience during the season.
The Jackets were unable to use their passing game effectively, considering the weather conditions. They tried to establish the run, but Smith County held them in check for most of the game. Defensively, they weren’t able to stop the Owls’ running game.
The Owls turned a 7 – 0 lead after one quarter into a 21 – 6 lead at the half. A long touchdown run by the visitors in the first quarter gave the Owls a lead they would never relinquish.
In the second quarter, the Owls scored on a couple of short runs sandwiched around a 45-yard sweep around left end by junior RB Evan Nunley of the Jackets for the hosts only score of the first half. Smith connected on all three of their PATs, while the Jackets misfired on their only conversion attempt. The Owls led 21 – 6 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Owls scored on a 45-yard run and a 35-yard pass to extend their lead to 35 – 6 after both PATs were successful.
The Jackets, as they have done all year kept battling. Sophomore QB Jaden Ruehling scrambled out of the pocket and hit a wide open Evan Nunley for a 40-yard touchdown strike. Ruehling kept going and powered into the end zone for the two point conversion and the final score of 35 – 14.
“There is a lot I could say about this season. Some good things and some bad things. It made me excited for next year and it made me realize how far I have to go,” said Head Coach Tracy Hayworth.
“It was a learning season, not only for my players, but also for me. I had to learn not only my players, but what they can do, what they can comprehend and how much information they can take at one time. I had to learn their attention spans, their work habits or lack of, their study habits, what kind of footwork they had or didn’t have, how strong they were body wise and mentality wise, and how much physical pain they could endure.
“So, in a nutshell I was learning each individual throughout the whole season. This made it sort of hard to find an offense and defense that fit them.
“The whole season was more like a big scrimmage year because we were learning and feeling out our team as the season went on. We kept trying to find different scenarios, different schemes, and different players both offensively and defensively that would work with the talent pool that we had. They seemed to work together sometimes and sometimes not. It may have gotten too complicated for them because of the fact that they weren’t used to having information in that capacity about the game so we had to go back to the basics and really teach the fundamentals.
“We finally started getting the ratios together as the season started to go and then we found out that the weight room is very important because that’s where a lot of the issues were because the others teams were bigger and stronger than us. That is something that hasn’t been done here in Grundy County. It’s something that can be rectified in the off season but not during the season so we had to try to coach around it.
“This season has been one of great molding not only of the team but as a coaching staff and as a whole organization. There are plenty of good things as we look at the film that gives us hope and lets us know that we can do it. Now we just have to be able to do it on a consistent basis. That is where we come in as coaches and put together a plan that is not only going to have us to where we are making better use of our time but also to be structured to where there isn’t any waste of time during the off season and during next year. We want to keep them busy, keep them learning, keep them working, and keep them moving with a sense of urgency. We want them to understand what it takes from us to become the team that we want to be. We want to become champions so we have to start modeling championship behavior and in so many aspects we already do.
“We will have to strive on being able to develop on our weak points. As a coaching staff we are going to dissect every game that we played and start the evaluation process.”
Hayworth and the Yellow Jackets turn their attention to winter workouts. The next nine months will give Hayworth and his staff time to develop this team to the point they will be reckoned with in Region 4 – 3A. The strength and techniques they acquire over the next several months, mixed with the hard work on the field that these young men have learned to do, will give Jacket fans a lot of optimism heading into the 2019 season.