Going two years without a win would be a demoralizing statistic to any football program.
Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said his team isn’t letting that affect the way it prepares for the next game.
“They’ve become more focused on the proper way to practice and how it is more important than anything else they do that day besides academically,” Hammontree said. “They’ve come in a little bit more dedicated and more attentive than they’ve been the last two weeks.”
The Mountaineers (0-6, 0-3 Region 2-6A) will have their hands full tonight (Friday, Oct. 4) when they take on McMinn County (5-0, 2-0) in a region matchup. McMinn County enters the game ranked No. 9 in the state in Class 6A.
The Cherokees average more than 37 points, and they’ve won every game by a double-digit margin. They defeated Heritage, 48-8, last season.
Heritage — which hasn’t won since September of 2017 — is coming off a 37-14 loss to Seymour in which it allowed the Eagles 226 yards, including 174 on the ground.
Heritage also racked up almost 200 yards. Daniel Foxx and Harley Morgan scored the Mountaineers’ two touchdowns on runs of 1 and 3 yards in the fourth quarter.
“They’re going to challenge us just like Seymour did,” Hammontree said. “They’re going to be bringing six or seven on just about every down — challenge us to throw the ball and protect our quarterback. We have the opportunity in this game to try to right some things up front.”
McMinn County successfully shut down William Blount’s run game three weeks ago, limiting the Governors to 25 yards on 11 carries en route to a 42-17 victory.
The Mountaineers have made some adjustments on offense to better protect quarterback Zach Hollman. Ryan Ellis will play guard whereas Sean Galyon will replace him at center, and Tanner Payne — typically a guard — will play H-back to give Heritage an extra blocker in the backfield.
Hammontree said McMinn County runs the ball 82 percent of the time, with quarterback Parker Manney and tailback Jalen Hunt accounting for roughly 300 yards a game. Against William Blount, Hunt rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries while Manney recorded 193 rushing yards and a pair of scores on 20 carries.
McMinn County recorded 566 yards and averaged 9.7 yards per carry against the Govs.
The Cherokees also boast talented special team players who Hammontree said do a good job covering kicks.
“They can throw the ball and they don’t like throwing it deep, but we think we’ve got the right people out there now for us,” Hammontree said. “We’ve made a couple of small changes on our defensive front that will allow the kids to run more and not worry so much about taking on the blocks.”