One game at a time. That has long been the mantra of William Blount coach Philip Shadowens. However, the Governors can’t help but set their sights a little further down the road.

“Last year, we missed the playoffs by one game, and that was just devastating,” quarterback Trey Clemmer said. “Nobody wants to be in that position again.”

William Blount’s season fizzled out in its next-to-last game when the Govs fell to Bradley Central, squashing their chances of making it to the playoffs. They rounded out their schedule with an uninspired performance against Stone Memorial, falling to the Panthers 27-0 after defeating them by 29 points the year before.

It was a bitter ending to a season Shadowens considered productive from a program-growth standpoint. The Govs went 1-9 in 2017.

“We played horribly Week 10, so that was kind of a sour note because our kids had progressed through the year,” Shadowens said. “The letdown of not making the playoffs took its toll the next week. That’s my job. We can’t allow that to happen. … Our mental approach has to be different — not looking too far into the future and not looking back at the past. Just focusing on the present because that’s the only thing we can control.”

The past is certainly not something on which the Govs want to dwell. They have been working toward a breakout season since 2007 — the last time they recorded a winning record.

A junior, Clemmer said making it to the postseason is William Blount’s ultimate goal, but first and foremost the team has to win some games.

“That’s the No. 1 priority. It doesn’t matter how good we play,” Clemmer said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and just focus on what we’re trying to accomplish this week.”

Clemmer has been a starter since the latter half of his freshman year, giving him an inordinate amount of game experience for a quarterback only halfway through his high school career. He threw for 1,450 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

“It’s my third year playing varsity so it’s definitely a big change,” Clemmer said. “I’m really getting comfortable. It makes it a lot easier because the game slows down.”

While Clemmer comes equipped with more experience, his targets are in the process of gaining theirs. William Blount graduated its top three wide receivers in Brett Boling (410 receiving yards), Isaiah Prats (382) and Jordan Tarver (372). The trio accounted for almost three quarters of William Blount’s yards through the air.

Shadowens said three of the four starting wide receivers will likely be sophomores, with senior Noah Durman anchoring the group.

“The young guys, they really do want to go hard all the time,” Clemmer said. “They’re just always pumped up to be out there. They really run crisp routes. They’re always doing the right thing and where they need to be.”

Kaleb Sugden also left behind a substantial hole at running back. As a senior last season, Sugden contributed more than half of William Blount’s rushing yards with 479. Stepping up at that position are Seth Cooper, Aaron Romero, Micah Franklin and Zach Gardner.

“We’ve got depth in the running back area,” Clemmer said. “We can switch out anybody and trust them to make a play.”

One of William Blount’s better-known assets is kicker Job Matossian, who made headlines after making a 49-yard field goal last season as a freshman. He made 22 of 22 point-after attempts and eight of 10 field goals for 46 points. He will also play wide receiver.

Shadowens said getting Matossian in a position to use his leg is going to come down to executing on defense, giving the offense a short field.

William Blount allowed almost 33 points a game last season. Because the Govs don’t boast the kind of speed of many other 6A teams, Shadowens said one missed tackle can be especially costly for his team.

“We have to win things up front because we know our speed as a whole unit is not as good as some of the teams we play against,” Shadowens said. “Defensively, be in great body-leverage position and be good tacklers. Playing against the teams we’re going to play against, you have to be good tacklers because some of those kids break a tackle and they’re gone.”

Unfortunately for the Govs, they’ll have to manage without their top tackler from last season in linebacker Michael Harris. As a senior, Harris led team with 105 tackles.

Shadowens said he will count on lineman Brayden Pierce to be a leader on both sides of the ball. Pierce said he is up for the task.

“As senior linemen, basically our role is to just hype everyone up, make sure everyone has got the right mindset,” Pierce said. “I’m definitely excited to see how much we’ve grown.”

Fellow senior lineman Trey Smith said the fuel for growth is there this season. The Govs are eager to override last year’s shortcomings.

“Our role (as seniors) is to push everyone to work harder,” Smith said. “Out of all the years I’ve been here, this is probably the hardest we’ve practiced.”

That work ethic hasn’t escaped the notice of Shadowens. He said the team has gained more strength than any other one he’s had during his five years at William Blount.

Clemmer also noted he is enjoying more time in the backfield — a product of an increasingly staunch offensive line.

“Some kids have really made themselves ready to play at the 6A level at a young age and so that’s one of the things I’m proudest of,” Shadowens said. “I’m excited, and I think we’re strong enough to physically match up with people. We’ve still got to contain people because people are going to be faster than us, but we shouldn’t be physically dominated like we have been by teams in the past.”

The Govs don’t have the luxury of easing into the season. They will host Maryville in their season opener on Aug. 23 before playing three of their next four games on the road.

“We just can’t get intimidated just because they have a big name on their chest,” Clemmer said. “Just play them like they’re any other team.”

Follow @TaylorVortherms on Twitter for more from sports reporter Taylor Vortherms.

Follow @TaylorVortherms on Twitter for more from sports reporter Taylor Vortherms.

Follow @TaylorVortherms on Twitter for more from sports reporter Taylor Vortherms.

Sports Writer

Taylor is a University of Missouri graduate, who worked in Maine covering sports before moving to Maryville in 2018.

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