. Clarksville Academy football has had two Friday’s off in the past three weeks. The Cougars played McEwen in the District 10-A finale, a week after having their bye.
Academy followed the McEwen win with a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs last Friday, but the perceived rust from that much inactivity in three weeks leading up to Friday’s second round playoff game with Nashville Christian is the least of the Cougars’ worries.
What head coach Todd Hood has been struggling with is illness that has ravaged his team, as well as the private school.
More than 110 students missed school Tuesday, including 11 staff and faculty members, according to Hood, and his team has also been affected.
Hood said 30 percent of his team was sick this week, including six starters and two on the coaching staff.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Hood said. “I’ve been around coaching for a long time and I’ve seen kids get sick but nothing that’s this widespread.”
Hood said his players have suffered from flu-like symptoms, stomach viruses and strep throat. His team has been so devastated by the bout of sickness that he canceled practice for the first time this season Wednesday.
“I’d never guess I would be canceling practice a couple of days before a playoff game,” Hood said. “But I had to, to keep the guys away from each other and give them a chance to get better.”
Hood, who admitted he had been sick this past weekend, also acknowledged conventional wisdom is his team could come into Friday’s 7 p.m. second round playoff against Nashville Christian rusty after having so much down time, but he wasn’t sure it would be a negative.
“I haven’t been a head coach long enough to be able to tell you for sure if that will be a bad thing,” Hood said. “Who really knows?
“I guess it helps if you’re banged up, but we also got a lot of good work in and we’ve had a chance to really get ready for what’s going to be a really tough game.”
Nashville Christian (9-2) has already felt the sting of losing to Academy when the Cougars knocked off the Eagles 29-14 in the third week of the season. It’s the last time Nashville Christian lost. The Eagles are riding an eight-game win streak and have been lighting up the scoreboard. The Eagles are averaging 36.1 points, however, they’re allowing 22.1 points a game. Their lowest offensive output during the stretch was a 21-8 win over Houston County, which is also the least amount of points given up.
“Beating a team like Nashville Christian once is hard enough,” Hood said. “Beating them twice is going to be much more difficult. They’ll have that revenge factor working for them, but we don’t have anyone on this team that is willing to back away from this challenge.”
One incentive for the Cougars is that its potential playoff state championship road starts out much easier than a year ago when their half of the bracket included 10-0 Wayne County and two 9-2 teams. Wayne County beat the Cougars in the second round and went on to win the 1A state championship. But Hood knows Nashville Christian’s familiarity with his offense could lead to a stalemate.
“You have to come up with a little bit of a wrinkle here and there,” Hood said. “But I still don’t think you change things drastically. You’ve got to continue to do what got you here and that’s our approach.”