Mekhi Sanders

Henry County High School linebacker Mekhi Sanders (47) drags down Dyer County runner LaQuitton Wells (3) on this play during the Patriots’ 48-14 victory Friday at Patriot Stadium.

One thing the Henry County High School Patriots can be certain of Friday night when they host the Brentwood Bruins in a 7 p.m. football game at Patriot Stadium is that the Bruins are going to pass the football.

And then, they’ll pass it some more.

Bruins quarterback Cade Granzow threw five first-half touchdown passes last week in Brentwood’s 63-0 shellacking of Dickson County. He has led the Bruins to a 3-0 start that includes a 9-6 overtime victory over Montgomery Bell Academy to start the season and a 37-20 triumph over Cane Ridge in Week 2. The Bruins have risen to No. 5 in the Associated Press Class 6A state rankings.

Henry County has started slowly with a 24-7 loss to Class 4A power Haywood County, followed by dropping a 22-20 decision at Class 5A No. 2-ranked Beech in Week 2. Last week, the Patriots pounded a previously unbeaten Dyer County team 48-14 to start play in Region 7-5A where Henry County is the defending champion. Despite the 1-2 start, the Patriots remain ranked No. 8 in the Class 5A poll showing that voters are aware of the quality programs Henry County is competing against and the still-strong level of play the team has shown.

Patriot head coach James Counce Jr. knows that whenever you play a Brentwood team you are going to face a well-coached, well-prepared Bruins squad.

“Brentwood always seems to have a bunch of long, lean-type athletes. As always, they have a tall quarterback that does a good job running their offense. Their offensive linemen know their assignments and are well-coached. On defense, they are complicated but their people get where they are supposed to be. They are going to force you to pay attention to the little things and play very disciplined because they are going to play that way,” said Counce.

And he said they would throw the football.

“They are going to challenge you with the pass. They like playing at a faster tempo than we’ve seen. They’ll throw fast screens or hurry up the line and snap the ball quickly to try to catch you not being ready. They are going to be a challenge for our secondary and linebackers to be sure they are in the right places on every play. We can’t have nine or ten guys doing it right. All eleven have to be where they are supposed to be,” said Counce.

He said there was another element that always stood out to him when the Patriots meet the Bruins.

“They always seem to tackle very well. They aren’t going to give you anything,” said Counce.

Henry County hasn’t had a lot of success against Brentwood in the past with the Bruins having won seven of the eight prior meetings. Counce led the Patriots to that lone win in a 21-15 decision in 2015 at Patriot Stadium.

“They are a very good football team that started the year with a win over MBA in a game that neither one played very well. If you look at teams we’ve seen since we started practice in July, then they are going to look much like MBA, who we scrimmaged. They have the same kind of athletes,” said Counce.

He points out the Patriots are a much-better team than the one that lost a scrimmage in early August to MBA in Nashville. The Patriots’ starters trailed 15-7 at halftime. The Big Red’s reserves pulled away from the Patriots’ younger players in the second half.

Henry County has continued to develop through the start of the regular season. The Patriot offensive line has solidified its play while the team keeps finding production in the backfield despite dealing with injuries to seniors Jayln Foster and Joseph Travis. Foster missed the first two games of the season before returning to run for 79 yards and two touchdowns against Dyer County.

Travis had touchdown runs in the first two contests but missed the Dyer County game with a hip flexor injury and his status is uncertain for Friday’s matchup with Brentwood.

Senior Donte Davis has stepped up with a 100-yard effort against Beech and junior Jayden Kendall had a two-touchdown performance last week against Dyer County. Junior Jermarcus Johnson has given the Patriots power and speed when he has seen action in all three games.

Counce said the Patriot defense has been getting solid line play from seniors Davy Harrod, Jackson Boyd and Duncan Bennett every game. Strong depth at inside linebacker has allowed Mekhi Sanders to see extended time at fullback on offense and Colton Wiser to see action at outside linebacker, too.

“We knew coming into the season that our defense might have to carry us a little early on and that unit has been playing well. The offense put them in some bad situations in the first two games but they battled through it,” said Counce.

When Brentwood has the ball, Graznow will throw passes to Garner Jones, Aaron Walton and running back Luke Walters. Walters had a rushing touchdown and caught a pass for a long touchdown last week. Walton hauled in two scoring passes.

Defensively, the Bruins are led by preseason All-State linebacker Xiere Howard and defensive back Bryce Bergholtz is another preseason All-State pick. Punter Tabor Miller joined the two defenders on the All-State team and kicker Thomas Day is also very good.

Counce is counting on the Patriots continuing to receive a boost from the home crowd at Patriot Stadium. A near capacity crowd filled the stands last week against Dyer County and the noise was considerable throughout the game.

“I really want to thank our student section in particular. It was a big crowd down there with them and they were very loud and involved in the game. That is very important for us. The kids on the football team react very well to all that and it is why we love to play at home so much. Our opponents tell us every year how hard it is for them to come here and face that kind of crowd with the horns blowing. We all love it,” said Counce.

Counce told me earlier this week that the Patriots certainly weren’t afraid to play against the Bruins and in fact, were looking forward to it.

Fans, you should be looking forward to an exciting night Friday at Patriot Stadium. The Patriots will be expecting to see you there.

Go Big Red!

 

TOMMY PRIDDY is a Paris native who has been sports editor at The Post-Intelligencer since 1985. He can be reached by email at sports@parispi.net.

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