There are many similarities between the two football teams that will do battle Friday night at Cannon County High School in the opening round of the TSSAA Playoffs. One of them involves the respective coaches of each team.
Both head coaches, Cannon County's Joel Schrenk and Harpeth's Doug Loope, spent many seasons as assistant coaches, working their way up through the ranks, before landing head coaching jobs.
And, while each saw their teams make it to the playoffs during their stints as assistants, this Friday's matchup marks the first time either has taken a team into postseason play as a head coach.
Loope has been coaching at Harpeth since 1991, taking over the program in 2005. Schrenk spent 11 years as an assistant before becoming head coach at Clarksville Northeast three seasons ago, and is in his first season as leader of the Lions.
The Indians of Harpeth last made the playoffs in 2003, while the Lions are making their first appearance since 1995.
"It's an exciting time for both programs," Loope said. "This is my first trip to the playoffs, and his (Schrenk's) too.
For a time this season it seemed a long shot that either team would see playoff action. Harpeth (5-5) started out the season struggling, losing four of their first five, while Cannon County (6-4) lost three of its first four outings.
"We came together as a football team and we all began pulling the wagon in the same direction," Loope said of his team's second-half turnaround. "That made a huge difference."
Loope said up until the midway point of the season the Indians "were not all working in the same direction as a team. When we started working together as a team and not going in different directions as individuals, everything began to fall into place."
Loope said that while he has only seen film of Cannon County play this season, he has been impressed by what he has learned about the Lions.
"They appear to be strong in all aspects of the game," Loope said. "Their offense looks really strong, and so do their defense and special teams. I'd say the biggest strength I see in them is that they are a well-rounded team.
Loope will bring some offensive firepower of his own to Woodbury Friday night for the Lions to contend with. Indians senior wide receiver Perry Horkins ranks among the state's all-time leaders in both touchdown catches and receiving yards.
"He runs really good routes, catches the ball well and has above-average leaping ability," Loope said of Horkins. "He's been playing together with our quarterback (Jeremy Roark) for four or five years now, so the chemistry between them has really developed."
Loope said that in order for his team to be successful against Cannon County, they will have to gain and maintain the edge in field position, keep turnovers to a minimum, and avoid costly penalties.
"Those may seem like simple things, but they always seems they go a long way in determining who wins a football game," he added.
Kickoff for Friday's game at Fred Schwartz Field at CCHS is set for 7 p.m. Tickets are $8. They can be purchased in advance at the high school Wednesday and Thursday, and at the gate Friday night.
On Thursday, the Lions Boosters Club will be holding a pep rally for the football team at the Public Square in Woodbury beginning at 7 p.m. and is encouraging everyone in the community to come out and show their support for the Lions.