SEYMOUR — Homecoming games are typically scheduled against lesser foes, upping the chances for a joyous ending to a day chock full of festivities.
The King’s Academy football team expects Friday’s meeting with Mt. Juliet Christian won’t be the only time this season it is viewed as a 48-minute celebration after winning two games a year ago, but it is out to make those programs regret that decision.
“I think kids take a lot of fuel from it,” The King’s Academy coach Jonathan Sellers told The Daily Times. “You can always use that as something to poke at them and get them more fired up about the game.”
The Lions (1-2, 1-0 East Region) were also the Saints’ Homecoming opponent last season, a reminder of what is driving this program in Sellers’ first full season at the helm.
A first-round playoff loss to Clarksville Academy that has since been switched to a forfeit victory wasn’t nearly enough to erase the memory of a difficult 2-7 regular season that included a midseason coaching change, motivating this team to do everything in its power to be more successful.
“We’ve continuously gotten better over three weeks,” Sellers said. “When they show up on the practice field, you can see that they’re showing up with great effort and a great attitude to try and get better than they were last season.”
It took the Lions eight weeks to secure their first win last year, but they expedited the process this time around by knocking off Franklin Grace Christian on Sept. 6.
That victory came after The King’s Academy went to the wire against Class 5A Seymour in the Battle of Boyd’s Creek to open the season and followed that by giving Class 3A Gatlinburg-Pittman some problems in Week 2.
Another year, another losing streak to begin the season, but this one proved the Lions could be competitive.
“This team has a lot of fight,” Sellers said. “Those first two games were great competition for us and great experiences for our kids, but a lot of these kids started 0-7 last year. When you start 0-2, that sense of doubt starts to creep in a little bit, but being able to go into region play and put up a lot of points and make a lot of plays on defense really helped the morale of the team.”
The Saints (1-2, 1-0) live and die with junior quarterback Christian Link, who has attempted 81 passes and carried the ball 11 times to account for 67.2% of all their offensive plays.
He has struggled with taking care of the ball, throwing eight interceptions through Mt. Juliet Christian’s first three games, five of which came last week against Macon County. That cluster of errors far outweighs the three touchdowns he has accounted for.
The Lions hope they can bait Link into a few more mistakes and let their offense go to work after a prolific display against Franklin Grace Christian that was paced by junior quarterback Zak Acuff throwing for 339 yards and six touchdowns.
A similar performance would keep The King’s Academy rolling, as well as put a damper on Mt. Juliet’s Christian’s Homecoming.
“One of our team goals is to place top-2 in the region, which gets us a bye in the first round of the playoffs and gets you straight into the quarterfinals,” Sellers said. “To do that, you have to take care of all your business, especially early on in region play.”