Upbeat and ready to play
It's like spring in the summer with the birds chirping, the fresh breezes blowing in and life starting anew.
That's how most high school football coaches and players in Tennessee feel as they leave the practice field behind and get ready to rumble on opening night.
Those feelings are prevalent in Marshall County as coaches Gerard Randolph, Thomas Osteen and Matt Kriesky's optimism is that breathe of fresh air.
Ready to play
"The kids are very pumped for this Friday," said Marshall County's Osteen. "They've been itching for a good while now to get to a game that counts and we believe that we've had a great off-season and summer, and the kids are ready to show how hard they've been working."
Randolph is in his first year at Cornersville and believes his troops are in a great frame of mind and ready to improve on last year's disappointing 3-7 season when the Bulldogs missed the playoffs.
"The guys are really excited about getting the opportunity to play this Friday night and they've been up-beat and positive during the course of the week," Randolph said.
Rockets on road
Forrest's Kriesky likes the Rockets' attitude going in to its road contest at Huntland saying, "It's always good to get the season started on a good note and the guys are real excited to get the 2015 season kicked off. I believe if we go out and play Forrest football we'll be just fine."
Because of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's realignment in the off-season, the Rockets will travel to Huntland in back-to-back years, making Forrest's opener a lot tougher in hostile territory.
"We as a coaching staff believe that Huntland is a really good football team as they have a lot of guys returning off the team that put up 37 points on us last year," the Forrest coach said. "We'll have to come out Friday night ready to play. If not it could be a long night for us."
Tigers face Rebs
Marshall County opens at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg, hosting a Franklin County squad it's beaten twice in row, but Osteen is taking nothing for granted.
"Franklin County has a brand new coach in Scott Smith who's been successful at a lot of different places and is installing a spread attack which is very different from the Wing-T scheme they've used the last five years," Osteen said. "Defensively, we have to limit the big plays and make them snap it a lot. Our goal is to be at least plus-3 in the turnover margin each game and take the ball away from them."
Marshall County has an explosive offensive attack that can put up a lot points if it gets in synch.
"Offensively, we have to take care of the football and play like our 'hair is on fire' each snap," Osteen said. "The first game is always huge no matter who you're playing because we want to validate with our kids as a coaching staff that what we've been doing is productive and that all the work they've been doing is for a reason."
The Tigers went 8-3 last season, losing to longtime rival Giles County in the playoffs. But the upbeat Osteen and his team have left that game in the back pocket for later when they'll meet the Bobcats in the fifth game of the season at Pulaski.
"The first game is pivotal in getting a good flow to the season going, but no one game makes or breaks a year at this juncture," Osteen said.
Bulldogs rev up
Randolph lost a bevy of starters to graduation, but feels the squad has worked hard and is ready for the challenge at Mt. Juliet.
"They're really taking the proper steps to prepare themselves for Mt. Juliet Christian on Friday night and I've told my guys every time that we go out to play, that we're going out there to try and win the football game," he said. "If we win this Friday night that would be awesome, but if we were to lose, that does not mean our season is over. We'd still have a lot of football to play."
The Bulldogs coach laid out the Friday night game plan -- simple and to the point.
"Offensively, we have to take care of the ball and not have turnovers. That will help you lose a game quicker than anything," he said. "Secondly, as an offensive unit, we have to play well and not have mental mistakes. I'd love to be able to run the ball methodically and control the clock."
On the defensive side of the ball the coach said, "We have to get off the field on third downs and not allow them to make big plays. If we can create turnovers and tackle the football well, we give ourselves a really good shot."
Rockets run it
The Rockets game plan has been the same for several years, run the football, control the clock, and play hard-nosed defense.
"Offensively, we have to have 11 guys working together as one doing their assignment on each play and keep the ball out of their hands and have long drives without any turnovers," Kriesky said.
Forrest returns most of the players who formed both the offensive and defensive lines, which should be the strength of the defense this season. A new linebacker crew could be the key to the game for the Rockets.
"Defensively, we need to have 11 guys read their keys and fly to the football, while not getting caught looking in the backfield or (Huntland will) be able to make big plays on us."
Each of the three head coaches, none of whom has been on the sidelines more than two years in the top role, all had great things to say about the schools they're coaching and the community support that's so important to a teams' psyche.
"The experience here at Forrest has been wonderful and I could go on and on about the things this community has done for the football program and my family," Kriesky said.
Added Randolph: "Being at the single A level is quite different from your 3A and 4A level schools where depth plays a big factor, just because you don't have as many student-athletes. I will say this about my experience at Cornersville is that they've really worked hard for me and sometimes its not always about how athletic someone is, but how much heart and determination the athlete is willing to put forth."
Osteen, in his second year as MCHS head coach, also raved about his experiences so far in Lewisburg.
"I'ave loved my time so far at MCHS and I couldn't have imagined a better place to start my head coaching career," he said. "However, I don't even believe we've even scratched the surface of what we can accomplish here. I'm truly blessed beyond measure to be able to do what I do on a day-to-day basis."