While Clarksville High-Rossview may be the rivalry of the past 10 years in Montgomery County, the more traditional include schools like Northeast and Northwest.
Clarksville High will get a second shot at winning one of those city rivalries as it travels to face Northeast at 7 p.m. Friday at the Eagles Nest. After losing a lead in the final quarter against Rossview two weeks ago, the Wildcats are in desperate need of a victory after starting this season 0-4 (0-1 in District 10-AAA).
“I wouldn’t say desperate,” Clarksville coach Ken Busbee said. “Do we need a win? Yes. But our biggest thing is that we need to play 48 minutes of football. We can’t play 45 minutes or 46 minutes or 47 minutes. We have to play a full game, and we haven’t done that yet.
“We’ve been close. We’re actually not that far away from having our record completely different, but our record is what it is at this point, and we’ve got to change that.”
Part of that change came Monday before practice. Busbee said he met with his seniors and talked about what needed to change in order for the Wildcats to get on track.
There is still time for Busbee’s team to make a legitimate run at the 5A playoffs — a goal CHS missed last year for the first time in eight seasons. But with each loss, those chances diminish significantly.
“We talked about what it is they need to do as players, and they tossed out some ideas,” Busbee said. “We also talked about what we need to do as coaches, and we threw some ideas at them as well. I think the meeting was productive, and when we relayed that to the rest of the team they were all receptive to it.”
Clarksville is only six points shy of being .500. Its season-opening loss to Goodpasture was by only a point, and the Hawks rallied in the fourth quarter for a 33-28 win against CHS two weeks ago. That fact is something that isn’t lost on Northeast coach Isaac Shelby.
“That’s still a dangerous team,” Shelby said. “You can’t expect to just walk all over Clarksville. They’ve never been that kind of program, and the coaching staff and players have a lot of pride. They’re still a team that can beat you at any point.”
Both coaches spent the late afternoon and early evening Thursday at Cheeseburger Charley’s participating in an eat-off. Players and fans from both schools gathered at the restaurant on Tiny Town Road to cheer on Busbee and Shelby as they competed to eat 21/2 pounds of hamburger (five patties with the bun included) with a basket of french fries and a drink.
The winner was to receive $1,500, but the food was too much for both coaches. Shelby and Busbee could finish only three of the patties. The fries and bun sat untouched as both were awarded $500 for participating. The celebration also was a part of Northeast’s Homecoming week.
“I think anytime you can get out here and help support these two schools’ communities, you do it,” Busbee said. “There’s so much more going on in these kids’ lives than just football. This is an opportunity for us to get together and share an experience before Friday when coach Shelby is going to want to beat my team just as much as I’m going to want to beat coach Shelby’s team.”
For that to happen, Clarksville will have to contain the speed Northeast can bring. Quarterback Montrell Pardue has been solid this season, and he’s surrounded by weapons like Dontavious Fort-Merriweather and Marquez McCalpin. But costly penalties have held back the Eagles in their two losses, including last week’s 35-13 loss at Smyrna.
“We have a lot of things we have to clean up,” Shelby said.
“But we also have a situation where we have kids coming in and out of the program with military families, so we’ll have some first-year seniors. Every year we have to deal with issues like that, and that’s not normal for a lot of schools.”
These next two weeks for Northeast will be telling. After Friday’s game against the Wildcats, Northeast will travel to face Rossview. The Hawks sit atop the district but face No. 1-ranked Henry County Friday. Next week’s game will help the winner keep pace with the Patriots.
For Clarksville, a win against the Eagles could help boost it through the next couple of weeks with games against Northwest and West Creek, who have a combined two wins.