CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Success just seems to follow Isaac Shelby no matter where he goes.
The architect of Northeast’s football success the previous four years, Shelby decided to follow his heart, return to his alma mater and take over the Clarksville High football program last spring.
The Wildcats were in need of some revitalization after having missed the postseason the last two seasons. So it was an easy decision for the school administration to bring in Shelby, who had two state quarterfinal games and last year’s state semifinal appearance on his resume with Northeast.
This season hasn’t been easy for Shelby, but he got his team to finish the regular season strong and Clarksville finds itself back in the 5A playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Wildcats travel to face Shelbyville at 7 p.m. Friday night.
“We’ve tried to make sure the kids are ready for what is about to happen to them,” Shelby said. “Our seniors were freshmen the last time Clarksville made the playoffs, and most of them didn’t see a lot of playing time that year so this is really kind of new to them as well.”
In addition to reviewing game film of Shelbyville, the CHS coach said his staff has spent time making sure the team’s pregame ritual remains as normal as possible.
“That’s important for these kids because its about continuity,” Shelby said. “Our pregame meal is at the same time. We’ll load on the bus around the same time, hopefully we’ll make it through Nashville traffic and get off the bus and go through our pregame warmups. Kids respond better when you don’t shake things up drastically in the playoffs.”
Running back Brevon Johnson and quarterback Kyle Sickel have been impressive in Clarksville’s past two games despite CHS losing to Kenwood two weeks ago. The Knights rallied for a 20-17 victory, but Clarksville managed to drop Springfield last Friday in convincing fashion, 23-7.
“Brevon has grown up,” Shelby said. “Kyle too. But I’m impressed with Tim Wallace and Kauthar Adamson as well. Those guys have really made strides during the season and are playing their best football right now.”
Shelby said his team is prepared for Shelbyville’s high octane offense that should challenge the Wildcats’ secondary. The Golden Eagles are 7-3 and have won five of their last six games.
But Shelbyville can balance that passing offense with one of the best 5A running backs in the state in Michael Eddings. Eddings had 231 yards on 28 carries last week despite the Golden Eagles’ 21-18 loss to Lawrence County. Eddings will have to be a focal point of CHS’ defense Friday night.
“They like to throw it around, but they can kill you with their running game,” Shelby said. “You have to be ready to defend both. That’s what makes them so effective.”
Shelbyville threw for only 83 yards last week and 231 of its 305 total yards came from one player, but Clarksville knows better than to think the Golden Eagles are a one-man wrecking crew.
“They are a complete team and coached very well,” Shelby said. “This will be a very difficult game, but if we limit mistakes, we feel we have a shot.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Tennessee Class 5A
Kenwood vs Hillsboro
When: Friday Time: 7 p.m.
Records: Kenwood (5-5) Hillsboro (10-0)
Notes: Kenwood comes into its third straight Class 5A playoff appearance on a two-game win streak. The Knights have been on a roll as of late with regular-season ending wins against Clarksville (20-17) and Northeast (40-7). But Kenwood faces Hillsboro who has not lost a game all season. Add to that, the Burros lost to a Clarksville-area team in last year’s 5A playoffs when Northeast came to Nashville and thumped them. Kenwood isn’t Northeast but Hillsboro isn’t looking at the name of its opponent, but more the name of the city of its opponent.
Kentucky Class 3A
Fort Campbell vs Adair County
When: Friday Time: 7 p.m.
Where: Columbia, Ky.
Records: Fort Campbell (3-7), Adair County (8-2)
Notes: Fort Campbell got just what it needed last week as the Falcons beat up on Barren County last Friday. The Falcons have been playing better football the past month and it comes at a good time because Adair County has been playing great football all year. The Indians had a six game win streak to start the season but lately have struggled. They, too, are playing .500 football in the last four games and with Fort Campbell’s ability to score points, an upset wouldn’t be out of the question.