Dead Period Primer: What to Look forward to for the 2018 Eagles
With the TSSAA mandated dead period in full swing, it can be quite easy to get separation anxiety from Rhea County’s favorite pastime of high school football. There are no shoulder pads popping on the practice field. The weight room is silent. Cleats that will spend all season digging into the artificial surface of Bill Horton Field and helmets that will bear the scars of a long season lay quietly in lockers, floors, and boxes across Eagle Nation.
Coaches and players alike are spending the two free weeks out of the busy athletic calendar taking in the Florida sunshine, tubing on Watts Bar Lake, enjoying a cabin in the Smokies, or just resting at home.
Football seems like a distant, yet always approaching horizon that fans, players, and coaches both dread and welcome its eventual arrival in mid-July.
However, during this long period of waiting, there are many things for fans to look forward to in our 2018 Golden Eagles.
A New Offense
Eagle fans know by now that, same as the last couple seasons, the gridiron boys will be rolling out another “new” scheme when the 2018 Eagles hit the field in August. “New” is a relative term in this case because the offense being implemented is one many will remember as being a standard in the sport decades ago: the Triple Option.
Eagle headman Mark Pemberton elected to test the waters with Georgia Tech’s signature style in Evensville, and the return was quite impressive. The team rolled to nearly 300 rushing yards in the lone spring scrimmage with Franklin County, with senior quarterback Zack Pemberton taking the lion’s share of those yards by eating up a third of them himself.
Fellow seniors Aulbrey Smith (RB/S), Chandler Kaylor (LB/FB), Payton Dugger (OL/DL), Colton Edwards (OL/DL), and Kaleb Laws (TE/LB) also look to capitalize on the new offense with juniors Jackson Langley (RB/LB), Nick Sherrill (OL/DL), Taylor Cowley (WR/DB), Kyle Carr (QB), Bradley Goodwin (FB/LB), and numerous others looking to make great contributions as well.
A New Opponent
To make room for an Alabama powerhouse, the Blackman Blaze opted out of a game in Murfreesboro against the Eagles, leaving Coach Pemberton and the athletic department the task of filling Rhea County’s second week of the schedule with a new opponent. They found one in a team Eagle fans are more than familiar with: the Brainerd Panthers.
The Eagles and Panthers have met on the football field eleven times, with Rhea County having the lead in the series 9-2. The first meeting was a first round, 28-12 playoff win for the legendary Coach Bill Horton and the Eagles in 1990. The last meeting was a 33-6 Rhea County win on the first game the Eagles played on the new artificial field in 2012.
The Panthers did not have a great season in 2017, but no opponent should be taken lightly.
Eagles Lighting Up the Camp Circuit
One of the best things about the off-season is the chance for aspiring college prospects to get exposure at camps across the state and region. Rhea County has had the unique chance this season to see an up-close look at how much time and effort players, parents, and coaches put in to getting college looks and offers.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been saturated with tweets and posts from Coach Pemberton, the Touchdown Club, and parents detailing the exploits and achievements of the locals on the camping trail.
Seniors Colton Edwards and Payton Dugger won the “Big Man Award” at a camp at Marshall University for their respective groups (Edwards for OL and Dugger for DL), and have attended a plethora of camps.
Senior Haden “Chigger” Frasier won the QB MVP award at former Tennessee Volunteer Alvin Kamara’s football camp in Chattanooga, earning the award, a $100 gift card to Academy, and the chance to spend it on a shopping trip with the current New Orleans Saints running back and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, plus former Vols Cameron Sutton (Corner, Steelers) and Josh Malone (Receiver, Bengals).
Seniors Zack Pemberton, Aulbrey Smith, and Chandler Kaylor also lit up the camp circuit, attending camps in Georgia at Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, as well as others. Kaylor also made the trek to Southeast Missouri to camp with the Redhawks, who play at the FCS level of NCAA Division 1 football.
Senior tight end Kaleb Laws, only in his second season of high school football, attended camps at Western Kentucky and Kennesaw State, among others, and has been garnering interest to play at the next level.
Other Eagles spent time learning from top notch quarterbacks at the Manning Passing Academy, taking in the atmosphere in Tuscaloosa, and showing off their skills to coaches ranging from assistants at NAIA programs such as the University of the Cumberlands to top-notch Division 1 head coaches such as Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), and Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee).
Football Season is Coming Soon!
One week now remains in the dead period before practices and workouts can resume, and the first scrimmage for the Eagles, a Saturday evening bout at Clinton on July 28, is almost upon us. The facilities at Eagle Stadium will once again be humming with the sounds of football and, before you know it, the band will strike up that familiar tune as the Eagles charge onto the field in Cleveland on August 17th. Be patient, Eagle Nation!
Football time is almost here!