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District 6-AAA coaches hold annual meeting
00 Scott Smith
Scott Smith speaks at Monday's District 6-AAA media day held in Cookeville. Other district team previews are available on page 2B. - photo by Photo courtesy of Craig Delk/Herald Citizen

The mood was somber at Monday’s District 6-AAA football media day. Coaches had every right to feel that way too.
With the fate of the six-team district hanging in the balance Monday afternoon at a TSSAA board meeting to discuss realignment, coaches were already saying their good-byes.
“It’s a shame this district could be breaking up,” said White County coach Matthan Houser. “It’s been good to be a part of this district. There are good coaches here and even better men.”
Only a few short hours after Monday’s media day held in Cookeville, the TSSAA made its decision on realignment. The TSSAA decided to adopt a six-class system, putting the top 32 schools in terms of enrollment in its highest class. Warren County and Cookeville both meet the criteria, likely meaning both schools will move out of the current district.
The change won’t go in effect until the 2015-16 school year, giving each of the six schools one last chance to claim a District 6-AAA championship. Going into the season, last year’s champion Rhea County has been deemed the favorite.
In the media poll, the Golden Eagles took the top spot. In the coaches poll, Rhea County and Cookeville were tied for first place. New Pioneer coach Scott Smith saw his team selected fifth in the media poll and tied with Stone Memorial for fourth by the coaches.
Smith is the newest coach in the district, though Rhea County’s Mark Pemberton, Cookeville coach Jimmy Maynord and Cumberland County coach Ted McCaslin are just starting their second years at their respective programs. Smith plans to fit right in from the beginning.
“I’m glad to be with you all. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t all competitors,” said Smith.
There were some light-hearted moments at the meeting, often coming at the expense of Maynord.
The Cavaliers added a huge transfer in the offseason as former Wilson Central star Gabe Angel will suit up for Cookeville this season. The Cavaliers bringing in Angel, a four-star junior prospect who already is getting offers from SEC schools, gave opposing coaches plenty of ammunition to make jokes.
“You know UT coach Butch Jones says he’s building ‘brick by brick,’ but what he really means is recruit by recruit. That sounds like what Jimmy is doing at Cookeville,” said Stone Memorial coach Mark Wattenbarger as laughter erupted.
Pemberton added, “We had a Norwegian kicker who transferred in, but he thought about Cookeville first.”
Every team except Rhea County will start its season Friday, Aug. 22. The Golden Eagles will get started Friday, Aug. 29.

WARREN COUNTY TEAM PREVIEW

Coach Scott Smith didn’t have to be on the job long in Warren County before finding out the first thing he needed to do. Changing the culture and mentality of his Pioneers has been Smith’s goal since arriving in late January.
“We want to establish a program. We’re working to change attitudes,” said Smith at Monday’s District 6-AAA media day. “The kids are figuring out how to work hard. They will need to live in the weight room and show up for practice every day.”
Currently, Smith estimates over 60 players are participating in fall varsity practices, including four returning starters on both sides of the ball. Within those players, coach Smith sees an old, albeit inexperienced, team that is hungry to get live game experience.
“I’ve never seen such an old team that has played so little. When I wanted to see some game film of our guys, I had to get with a mom who had recorded the JV games,” said Smith. “We’re starting from scratch.”
Smith has brought in his system offensively and defensively and feels his personnel fits what he wants to do.
“I think we will be very balanced offensively. We’ll run and we’ll be able to pass,” said Smith. “I love the quarterback position. I threw it around a lot at Ezell Harding, but I had to scale it back at Moore County. We’ll be able to throw the ball this year.”
Smith mentioned junior quarterback Christian Wilkinson will likely get the nod as the starting quarterback and will play behind an offensive line the new coach believes, “is the strength of the team.”
Going forward, Smith hopes to see his team grow this year and gain confidence which each outing.
“It’s going to be a process. Winning breeds more confidence and more success,” said Smith. “We’re fighting to keep from hanging our heads and learning the game is truly four quarters.
“We want to be in it in the fourth quarter and be physically tougher.”
The Pioneers begin their season Friday, Aug. 22 at DeKalb County.