UPDATE: The White County Middle School football team are Mountain Football Conference champions after winning their game on Thursday, Oct. 22. Details will be in the Oct. 29 issue of the White County News.
With one more win, the White County Middle School football team can add Mountain Football Conference champions to their 2020 resume.
The Warriors take on Fannin County in the MFC title game today at 6:30 p.m. at WCMS stadium. The Warriors rolled through the regular season with a 5-1 record, earning the right to the host the championship game. The MCF seventh-grade championship game will be played at 5 p.m., with Lumpkin County and Pickens County squaring off, with the Warriors and Rebels taking the big stage in the nightcap.
The Warriors knocked off Lumpkin County (22-20), Fannin County (34-14), Pickens County (38-0), Union County (36-30), and Dawson County (36-15) on the way to the regular season title. The team's lone loss came in Week 3 when Gilmer County handed the Warriors a 14-0 defeat.
Members of the football team are Braxton Anderson, Tripp Nix, Riley Freeman, Nathan Hunter, Cash Holcomb, Hayden Vandegriff, Jon Scott Cohen Michaud, John Phillips, Davey Waller, Wyatt Powell, Josh Adams, Isaac Weakley, Tristan Orndorff, Jackson Mitchell, Bryson Philyaw, Hunter Brown, Noel Lammers, Brayden Roach, Jacob Biesterfeld, Malachi Nutting, Hayden Weakley, Koltyn Wallace, Noah Williams, Davin Lightsey, JJ Deck, AJ Carter, Cooper Adam, Toby Nickell, Alex Johnson, Cade Dockery, Tyler Autry, Hunter Foster, Tyler Seymour, Bryce Dockery, Dalton Robinson, Jaydon King, Jeremiah Jarrard, Matt Turner, Dade Anderson, Colton Adam, Clayton Stephens, Carson Rich, Grayson Pinson, Gavin Fountain, Trevor Butler, Jackson Krilla, Jason Revis, Roy Foster, Gunner Young, Ashton Chambers, Jad Dodge, Brennan Norris, Carson Anthony, Corbin Blank, and Tuck Leslie.
The team's head coach is Robbie Bailey, with Wil Stonecypher, Henry Powell, Jacob Booke, Will Hammersen, and Will Havlen serving as assistant coaches.
Like every other team around the state, the 2020 season has proved to be anything but normal, with Covid-19 issues causing problems all year.
“This year has been really different, going all the way back to June,” Bailey said. “We have 55 kids on the seventh and eighth grade teams, and we've had 32 kids quarantined at one time or another due to contact tracing. It's been an ongoing thing. We had six starters (on the eighth grade team) miss game, and it gone from there. It's been a revolving door all year. The Union County game (Week 5) was the first time we had every kid there. We had to adopt the “next man up” approach because we never knew who we would have on game day. We had kids quarantined the day before a game, had kids quarantined the morning of a game. So we tried to give as many kids as many reps as we could in practice. We had to be creative, think out of the box, as far as practice and games go. Fortunately, it has worked out really well. We have a really good group of eighth graders. We about 35 kids, and we never had to reschedule a game. It's been a crazy year, but it's been a fun year. That's a major testament to our kids. They fought all year and have played pretty well.”
The Warriors have been solid on offense this year, averaging 27.6 points a game. Since being shutout by Gilmer County in Week 4, the Warriors are averaging 36 points per game in three consecutive wins.
Tripp Nix leads a talented group of skill players, along with running back Noah Williams, and a deep group of receivers consisting of Trevor Butler, Brayden Roach, John Phillips. Davin Lightsey, Hunter Brown, and Bryson Philyaw.
“Our skill players gave us an advantage; our skill players are as good as anybody in the league,” Bailey said. “We're able to throw it and catch it, and at the middle school level if you can do that, it gives you a big advantage. When we are clicking, we are hard to defend.”
Bailey said the unsung heroes on the Warriors' spread attack is the offensive line, made up of Bryce Dockery, Tyler Autry, Alex Johnson, Dade Anderson, Cade Dockery, Gunner Young, Ashton Chambers, and Tyler Seymour.
“This group goes unnoticed at times, but they have been lights out all season,” Bailey said. “They set the tone for us, and they have played really well all season. When have some depth up front, which is really important since several of the kids play both ways.”
On defense, the Warriors are giving up 15 points a game, including posting one shutout this fall. Bailey said the group plays a “bend, but don't break” style, and has come up with a lot of big plays during the season.
“We've played really well at times, and been pretty steady all year,” Bailey said. “I don't necessarily like having to win a 36-30 game like we did with Union County, but even in that game, we made some plays on defense down the stretch that helped us win the game.
Bailey said the Warriors' linebackers and defensive backs have been at the heart of the defense effort, led by linebackers Bryce Dockery, Williams, Riley Freeman, and a defensive back group of Nix, Koltyn Wallace, and Jackson Mitchell.
“Those guys have made a lot of plays,” Bailey said. “One of the biggest things for us was moving Bryce to middle linebacker. He's got great instincts and he's made a ton of plays. Mitchell has three or four interceptions.”
Up front, the defensive line is led by Johnson, Young Anderson, Young and Chambers.
“Those guys have all played well,” Bailey said. “We're undersized, but we're quick and we cause a lot of havoc.”
Today's championship game will be a repeat of the Week 2 matchup that saw the Warriors blow open a tight game in the second half on the way to a 34-14 win.
“Fannin is a good team, a scrappy team that likes to hit,” Bailey said. “In the first game, it was a close at half time, and then we shut them out in the second half and we scored three times. There's a history for our group with Fannin, they've played these guys for several years. Last year, they beat us 6-0 in the regular season and 22-20 in the playoffs, so our kids know what Fannin is about. Just because we beat them in the first game doesn't mean we're just going to walk out there and beat them again. It will be a battle.”