Cannon County’s football Lions haven’t made it to the state playoffs very often over the last three decades, but they will be in this year if they can win one of their two remaining regular season games.
The last time Cannon County reached the playoffs was in 1995. It was a short stay for the Lions as they lost to a Meigs County team which was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time, 47-0.
Prior to the 1995 appearance, the Lions had not been to the playoffs since 1978.
The Lions have two games left on their 2009 regular season schedule – this week at Smith County and on Oct. 30 at home against Upperman.
“We have to win one of the next two (to reach the playoffs), or York has to lose one of its next two,” first-year Cannon County head coach Joel Schrenk said.
Beating the Owls this Thursday (the game has been moved from Friday at Smith County to Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tennessee Tech) will be a tough task for the Lions. The Owls are undefeated in District 8-AA play and stand 7-1 overall. Cannon County, meanwhile, is coming off a non-district loss last week at Scott County, and Schrenk has not been especially happy with the performance of his offense the last few games.
“They (Smith County) are one of the best teams we will play this year across the board,” Schrenk said. “They are very well coached. They are disciplined. They do a great job over there.”
Cannon County enters the contest with a 2-1 district record, and 4-4 overall.
Offensively the Owls are exceptionally good, Schrenk said. “Defensively they are sound and their special teams are very good so we are going to have to play well to have a chance.”
Schrenk said obviously the Lions have to be better on offense, admitting they’ve struggled in that aspect of the game a little bit the last couple of weeks.
“We spent two hours looking at film yesterday (Monday) going over mistakes.” he said. “We are calling the right plays, and for the most part we’ll have eight or nine kids doing their job. But the one or two kids not doing their job, that’s where the tackle happens, and so we have to be better at execution and doing what we are doing.”
In addition to the success the Lions are enjoying on the field this year, Schrenk said he is pleased with the way the program is developing for future seasons.
“I told the kids when I got here I am not here to coach a team, I am here to build a program, and that’s all the way up from the little league, getting those guys tuned in and getting on board with us and that will come with time,” Schrenk said. “There’s a lot of excitement here in the halls and new kids wanting to come out. We want to win now, but we are also building for the future.”
The future this week for the Lions is a 7 p.m. encounter Thursday with the Owls in Cookeville, and if the past month is any indication, the Lions will be up to the challenge,
“Our kids are just tough and gritty and they play hard and have a lot of heart,” Shrenk said. “We are usually outmanned two to one. Everybody’s got 40, 50, 60, 70 players … Smith County’s going to have 80 players out there Friday night and we’ve got 33. But our kids are tough and they work hard and they play hard, and you can only play 11 at a time.”
In other district action this week, York Institute plays at Livingston and Upperman is at DeKalb County.