William Blount coach Philip Shadowens knows getting his football team pumped for its Region 2-6A game tonight isn’t going to take much effort.
That’s because the Governors are taking on their cross-county rival, Heritage, in the Battle of the Bell.
“We won’t have to say a word — our kids will be ready to play,” Shadowens said. “They’ve been ready to play since Monday.”
Both teams are eager to bounce back from losses last week while the Mountaineers (0-3) will aim to avenge their 48-6 loss to William Blount last season. The Governors (1-2) have won eight of the last 10 matchups against Heritage.
Shadowens said the key to continued success for the Govs will be consistency and playing sound defense.
“They’re really about opening up the defense — they’re trying to get you out of position,” Shadowens said. “We’ve got to do a good job of not creating gigantic openings within our defense and do a better job in our pass defense. We’ve got to be smart and not make the silly mistakes we made at times last week.”
The Govs fell to Ooltewah, 31-7, on Sept. 6. It was quite the improvement from their past two meetings in which the Owls rolled over William Blount by scores of 42-0 and 48-7.
The Govs trailed by 10 points with seven minutes left in the game last week. They were driving inside the Ooltewah 30-yard line when an interception turned the tide in the Owls’ favor for good.
“We drove the ball over and over again against people all year long, but we haven’t always done a great job of finishing,” Shadowens said. “That’s going to be our focus — just executing every single play. The better we get at that, the more wins we’ll have Friday night.”
William Blount is a run-heavy team and rushed for almost 200 yards last week. Sophomore running back Micah Franklin led the way with 138 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Heritage coach Tim Hammontree said William Blount is much improved from last season and that it boasts more strength up front than it has in years.
“They’ve got a really hard-nosed running back,” Hammontree said. “He’s running hard against the best competition they’ve played, so he’s not going to let up on us.”
The Mountaineers are coming off a 62-14 loss to Bradley Central. They’re looking for their first win since 2017. Hammontree said Heritage has had a very focused week of practice.
Ball security will be a goal for the Mountaineers, who turned the ball over six times against William Blount last season.
“They know what they need to do to win this game,” Hammontree said. “We probably just need a couple early breaks.”
Now a junior, William Blount quarterback Trey Clemmer had an efficient and error-free night against Heritage in 2018, completing 8 of 12 passes for 175 yards. He will look to give the run-heavy offense some balance.
Last season’s blowout between the schools is not representative of typical William Blount-Heritage games. Their previous six matchups had been decided by 15 or fewer points, with William Blount winning four times.
“It’s an import game for us,” Shadowens said. “We know what it’s like to lose in that rivalry, and we don’t like that feeling.”
The game is coming on the heels of the county’s Budget Committee voting down a proposal to build new football field houses for Heritage and William Blount.
Over the summer, the Blount County Board of Education voted unanimously to use $1 million from its fund balance, like a savings account, for the new buildings for football locker rooms, coaches’ offices and weight rooms.
Shadowens said both schools desperately need upgraded facilities.
“When you consistently say no to the same group of kids over and over again, eventually, it takes its toll,” Shadowens said. “We need people who are going to say yes to what’s best for these county school kids.”