Heritage moving forward, faces Maryville Friday
By John Brice | (email@example.com)
The smallest detail isn’t too small.
Not for Tim Hammontree, the first-year Heritage High School coach who has helped guide football teams in Georgia, Kentucky and repeatedly Tennessee into powerful, playoff-tested programs.
The Mountaineers (0-4) are off to a difficult start that gets no easier Friday when they visit rival and Class 6A top-ranked Maryville (3-0) in the defending state champion Rebels’ homecoming contest.
Hammontree, however, sees daily signs of progress and is keeping his Heritage squad focusing on the process.
“When turning programs around, I don’t know if for sure there is a formula, but I do believe the smallest parts of discipline are key,” said Hammontree, who led Maryville to the 1998 state title, and credits his late father, Baptist preacher R.L. Hammontree, as a role model for being called to lead young people. “Tying shoes instead of wearing shoes loose. Don’t cut the sleeves out of your T-shirts; leave them in there. We’ve really gotten away from the basics of what disciplines are.
“So many people, and I don’t know if the business world sees it the same way but I know in education once you lose focus of a lesson plan, you’ve lost the discipline of people who are supposed to be studying. When I was at Maryville, the thing that was so good and so effective, was that the academic excellence that was demanded and of the top quality. We’ve established here our coaches are of top quality. Now, we have very few coaches but the ones we have are the best.”
And there are unquestionably signs of progress for the Mountaineers, particularly in rebuilding the program from the foundation up. Heritage’s freshman team has more than 40 members; both it and the junior varsity squad notched victories earlier this week against a rejuvenated South-Doyle program.
“For players, they’ve got to be coachable and believe in what we’re telling them. We used the word climb, I was speaking at the New Providence breakfast thing over there, and we use the word climb and we’re Mountaineers and we’re supposed to be climbing these mountains. Our assistant coaches believe in that and the ones that put it together and continue to do that, we can start to turn this around.”
Count Maryville’s George Quarles, the nationally recognized leader of the Rebels’ program who owns nine state championships and 182 career wins, among those who believe Hammontree will rediscover a level of success at Heritage.
“I think he has a plan; Tim knows what he wants, and I think he starts and it really has nothing to do with football,” said Quarles, hired at Maryville to be an assistant under Hammontree in the mid-90s. “He’s trying to change the culture and build character. I think that’s his thing. He’s all about building young men up, trying to get them to learn how to work hard and be part of a team.
“I think he did a great job here, and I think he’ll do a good job with that out at Heritage. It’s a little different because they’ve been down for a while and Maryville has so much tradition and it’s been happening here a long time. But I know he’s working hard at it, and he’s really proud of his staff. He’ll get it turned around at some point.”
Maryville utilized its open date simply to turn around some personnel matters and largely to rehabilitate some injured players. The Rebels will welcome back Jon Garrett this week after his absence due to illness. Garrett should start in the secondary and also get some work at quarterback. All-State tailback Shawn Prevo will miss this game as he continues to recovery from a shoulder injury suffered in Maryville’s 47-33 win at Knox West.
“We did quite a bit of ones-versus-ones, first offense versus first defense, trying to get some competition going with some of our better players,” said Quarles, his team winners of 32 straight and 172 of its last 177. “We’re trying to get better not giving up big plays on defense and generate big plays on offense.”