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District 6-AAA coaches meet
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Looking around the room as the opening speaker, Warren County coach Tommy Johnson noticed something he has come accustomed to seeing when meeting with the other head coaches from District 6-AAA.
Despite it being a different person, coach Johnson couldn’t help but notice the smiles of the Cookeville coaching staff.
“The first thing I see is all the Cookeville coaches smiling,” said Johnson. “They know what they got and we’ll all be chasing them.”
Cookeville was selected by coaches and media to repeat as District 6-AAA  champions at a media day held at Cotten’s Marina Monday.
The Cavaliers were chosen as the favorites in a district that features three new head coaches.
Scott Cook takes over at Cookeville, Ted McCaslin will lead the Cumberland County Jets and Matthan Houser assumes control of the White County Warriors.
The coaching turnover leaves coach Johnson, entering his third season leading the Pioneers, as the most tenured coach in District 6-AAA.
The Pioneers were picked to finish fourth by the coaches, while the media placed Warren County in a tie for fourth with Cumberland County.
All five District 6-AAA teams will begin the regular season Friday, Aug. 17.
Coach Tommy Johnson didn’t waste any time letting coaches and media know Monday what his expectation for the start of the season is.
“We expect to win our first game,” said Johnson.
With that opening statement, coach Johnson kept the confidence which has been coming out of the Pioneer camp during the fall.
Coach Johnson has been steadfast in his belief Warren County is a much improved team from a year ago, when the Pioneers finished 0-10 for the eighth time in the program’s history.
Winning is the only thing that matters to Warren County and coach Johnson knows he has some players he will need to lean on if the Pioneers are going to start piling up victories.
“We have guys that we are confident can make plays for our team,” said Johnson. “We’re going to ride those guys until they tap their helmet.”
Big things are expected by an experienced backfield, which includes junior quarterback Hunter Mullican and junior running back Cameron Lusk.
With the offense geared to go under center more often, Lusk’s power running could be a focal point.
Coach Johnson still feels the offense can be diverse, but the running game will be the team’s backbone.
“We want to get going downhill in the running game,” said Johnson. “We’ll have a hybrid offense, with some spread and some multi-back looks, but running the ball will be important.”
Defensively, coach Johnson wants to eliminate mistakes. After reviewing film and seeing more than 60 tackles in the backfield, it was easy for Johnson to find areas to improve.
“Bottom line, we have to tackle better,” said Johnson. “We have to improve our tackling.”
In his debut as coach at Coffee County, Lee Davis wasn’t satified with how his Red Raiders finished.
A 3-8 season, which included a 63-21 loss in the playoffs to Riverdale, left coach Davis hungry to start a second season with Coffee County with greater expectations.
If the Red Raiders are to fulfill the expectations of their coach, the team will likely rely on a talented backfield.
Starting quarterback Peyton Meeker and star tailback DeAngelo Rozier return to anchor Coffee County.
Meeker was an all-region selection last season, while Rozier returns after gaining 1,500 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Coach Davis made it clear the Red Raiders haven’t changed their schemes, just their strength and skill.
“Pop in a tape from last year, we’ll look about the same,” said Davis. “We are expecting more though. Our guys are stronger and faster than a year ago.”
The responsiblity of replacing 14-year coach Jerry Joslin has fallen on Scott Cook.
Cook takes over the Cookeville Cavalier football program after Joslin left to coach Pope John Paul II.
The former defensive coordinator inherits a team expected to win District 6-AAA, so coach Cook will need to win early and often.
Wins could be easier to come by for coach Cook as he leans on a strong senior class.
“The strength of our team is definitely our senior class, which features over 30 kids,” said Cook. “We have plenty of guys returning with lots of experience.”
Cookeville is coming off a season where the Cavaliers won District 6-AAA with a 6-4 record and shocked Bradley Central in the opening round of the playoffs 34-28.
While coach Cook hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback, the team should be able to protect the passer.
Returning linemen Cody Lindsey, Ethan Crum and Nathan Garcia lead the Cavaliers.
Ted McCaslin knows not much is expected from Cumberland County following a 1-9 season, but the new coach of the Jets isn’t ready to concede to being the cellar dweller in District 6-AAA.
Using inspiration borrowed from Vanderbilt, McCaslin has asked his team to give its all in small increments in hopes of winning in the long run.
“We want the guys to give us 100 percent six seconds at a time,” said McCaslin. “We want to compete between the whistles.”
McCaslin takes over a program which hasn’t experienced much success. Despite the down years, the new coach has seen interest in the program grow to new heights as the Jets feature 89 players.
With 36 freshmen, coach McCaslin knows the learning curve will be steep, but he already sees improvements.
“Guys are handling the heat and learning from mistakes,” said McCaslin. “We’re putting in the system and the kids are buying into it.”
Matthan Houser has been very clear with what he expects from the White County Warriors in his first season as head coach.
“I expect our team to play hard, fast and physical,” said Houser. “If we do that, we’ll be competitive.”
Houser inherits a Warrior team that went 5-5 last season, but missed the playoffs.
White County enters the season on a four-game winning streak though and many of the key players who sparked that run last year return.
Senior quarterback Devon Davidson will be asked to lead the spread offense for the Warriors.
Running back Blake Lynn will also be in the backfield, giving White County two lethal weapons.
Coach Houser believes the Warriors have the pieces to compete this season, but changing things may take some time.
“We have to work on mental toughness,” said Houser. “We’re wanting to change the culture and add stability.”