SELMER – Year 1 didn’t start as planned. One win in five games wasn’t what then-first year McNairy Central head football coach Chad Hodge was used to.
He’d been a part of coaching staffs and programs that generated wins in big games and long playoff runs. Adapting to losing streaks and trying to catch up to neighboring district rivals was something he hoped the Bobcats would complete before the season began.
“Last year was a long one at times,” Hodge admits.
But then the second half of the season did show some progress. The one win early was over Fayette-Ware. The Bobcats won two more games in District 14-AA play over South Side and Bolivar to put themselves in position to compete for a top-two spot in the league and an automatic playoff berth, which would’ve been the first for the program since 2008.
The offensive production improved from not being able to get into the red zone early in the season to scoring multiple touchdowns behind the running of guys like Kintevious Newsome. The defense showed the most improvement, holding its last five opponents to an average of 14.2 points per game. The first five opponents averaged 33.2 points.
The Bobcats fell just short in the season finale of beating Chester County and forcing a three-way tie for the district championship.
Year 2 officially begins on Aug. 21. There are wholesale changes on both sides of the ball for the Bobcats, and some of those Hodge has had to get used to himself.
“I’ve always been a 3-4 defense guy, but we just don’t have the personnel for that,” Hodge said. “So we’re putting four guys up front and see how that goes.”
Hodge likes the gains the Bobcats have made in the weight room.
“There are some guys who have bulked up this offseason, and that will help us tremendously to go against those teams in our region that are typically strong – Dyersburg, Westview, Milan … teams like that,” Hodge said. “The thing is now can our team make that improvement matter on the field.
“I felt good about what the kids had done last year when I got here in April, but it still took a few games for everything to really take effect. We can’t afford do that this year starting with a couple of teams that made the playoffs last year.”
Scotts Hill and Chester County are the first two opponents for the Bobcats this year before getting into Region 7-3A play.
“We’ve got to be ready to come out and play, and I think we will be,” Hodge said.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751