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Yes, there will be football

Mavs host Clinton to kick off 2020 season

Clinton High School and Anderson County both kick off their seasons this Friday with the “Battle of the Bridge” rivalry game after a long, uncertain summer.

It was uncertain whether the game would take place due to restrictions from COVID-19, but, between the governor’s clearing of contact sports to take place and the tireless efforts of the TSSAA, the students of both schools get to enjoy one of the most-anticipated games of the season.

Last year’s matchup between the two schools was hosted by Clinton and turned out to be a rainy, muddy, messy experience that ended with a 26-0 victory for Anderson County after a shaky first half.

With all the changes that have happened in the past year, though, it should be an entirely different ballgame to watch.

Anderson County hosts this year, giving the Mavericks the homefield advantage, but Clinton has a new coach, and, with it being his debut game in the new position, Anderson County has had little opportunity to study up on what to expect.

David Gillum, head coach for the Mavs, said that, for the most part, they’re just ready for football.

“It’s a good rival game,” he said. “Everyone’s excited. There’s new coaches there and our team’s optimistic for this season. Most of East Tennessee is just excited to see football again. Hopefully both communities show up and we have a good atmosophere and a good game.”

Even with the excitement around the start of the season, though, Gillum said he’s not letting the team slack, especially after such a strange start to the season so far.

“Short pre-season going into game one, so hopefully we’re prepared for it,” he said. “We’ll figure it out eventually no matter what, but hopefully it’s not an issue for execution early in the game.

“Our strategy doesn’t really change. Offensively we do what we do. We’ve done it for a decade now. Everyone knows what we do, so for us, it’s all about execution. Defensively we’re going to do what we do there also. We’re not going to change anything. We like to know what a team is going to do, to take their strengths away from them, but we’ve got adjustments for whatever situations come.

“Unfortunately, there’s no game plan for what they’re doing, because we don’t know exactly what that is right now. Still, Coach Chadwell is the best at what he does, so hopefully he can figure that out and make some calls to try and balance that out. Especially when you don’t know what someone is trying to do, blocking and tackling are very important. As long as we do both of those well, I think we’ll do well.”

Similar to last year, there’s rain forecasted for game day, and Gillum noted the impact that had last year.

“I think we had four fumbles in the first half so we’re trying to do better,” he said. “Whatever the circumstances, you’ve got to be ready for it, and we didn’t do that last year. It was nasty but we have to be ready for whatever comes.

“The big emphasis for us is just to execute and make sure that we’re not missing assignments and everyone’s on the same page. For us, though, we just want to play clean football. If something slows us down, it’s going to be more on us and self-inflicted wounds than anything. We want to make sure that we’re playing as clean as possible. There’s nothing worse than bad snaps and fumbles and penalties killing drives.”

Clinton is the wild card this year, and it’s uncertain what the plan of attack will be. Maybe that’s why head Coach Darrell Keith was so reticent about the game.

“If we lack execution, we have to compensate with effort,” he said. “Coaches are very similar to artists in that their success is dependent on what they use for a canvas and how they use their brushes to disseminate the paint.”

Ultimately, whether they have the execution or the effort to overcome the Mavericks will be up to them, and it’ll be decided on Friday night.