Matt Williams is well aware of how dominant Smyrna High has been in the La Vergne-Smyrna football series.
Williams, who is in his fifth season as Smyrna’s head coach, has been a part of the series as either an assistant coach or head coach over the course of 12 meetings. He was an assistant coach in 1999 when La Vergne defeated Smyrna 28-0 for the Wolverines’ lone win in the 25-year series between the two schools.
Smyrna owns a 24-1 series edge over La Vergne since the rivalry began in 1988. That includes the 2006 season when the Bulldogs beat La Vergne in the regular season and in the second round of the playoffs.
The two teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Robert L. Raikes Stadium in Smyrna.
“I was an assistant the one time we did lose to La Vergne,” Williams said. “It’s not something you want to be a part of. I’ve been through a lot of these games. It’s a game where the communities are right next to each other. It’s a bragging rights type game. A lot of them played with each other in the Smyrna Youth Football League.
“The kids know each other. It makes for a special rivalry.”
And this may be one of the few years that La Vergne enters as the favorite to win.
La Vergne enters 1-3 overall, 1-0 in 7-AAA play. Smyrna is 0-4, 0-1. Smyrna’s four losses come to opponents with a combined 15-0 record. All four of the Bulldogs’ opponents — BGA (9), Brentwood (10), Riverdale (2) and Olive Branch, Miss. (2) are ranked in this week’s Associated Press polls in their respective state and classification.
“Nobody has played a tougher schedule, I don’t think, than us,” Williams said. “Our kids have played against a very high level of competition.
“We feel like we’ve played a really tough part of our schedule. My message to the kids have been to keep fighting and keep scratching and they’ll see the fruits of their labor.”
La Vergne’s three losses come to teams with a combined 11-1 record.
Third-year La Vergne coach Stanton Stevens acknowledged that his team enter as the favorite. But, he’s not ready to accept that.
“I hear that,” Stevens said. “But I don’t know if I believe that after watching them play against Olive Branch. They are struggling a little bit. But it’s kind of like I saw them last year. They were struggling last year, and ended up finishing strong.
“I think they have the capability of doing that this year.”
Both teams have been ground oriented this season.
La Vergne is led by running back Daryl James, who has 378 yards on 69 carries this season.
“Smyrna sophomore Kyle Smith had his first career 100-yard rushing performance in the Olive Branch loss. He has made good strides since starting slowly because of dehydration issues in the preseason.
“Kyle is extremely talented,” Williams said. “We knew he’d have a chance to be something special. He probably could have emerged quicker, but had an issue with dehydration in August and missed about three weeks in practice. We really limited his carries at the beginning of the season.
“As it starts to get cooler, his carries will go up.”