By Maurice Patton
News that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Board of Control voted during its two-day meeting that concluded Wednesday to allow “normal” preseason activities for the 2021-22 school year was of no surprise to local football coaches.
“We took some proactive steps and went ahead and scheduled our scrimmages, 7-on-7 dates, anticipating this decision,” Columbia Academy coach Charlie Lansdell said. “We didn’t want to be stuck. We knew as soon as they made that ruling, everybody would be calling and filling up their schedules pretty quick. We actually started that back in the spring, making plans for this coming summer.
“We didn’t want to be caught with the opportunity to do it and not have the opportunity to do it.”
Among the guidelines established last summer because of the pandemic were that athletic programs were unable to participate in any activities involving another team prior to regular-season competition. Wednesday’s vote clears the way for a return to passing tournaments, scrimmages and jamborees prior to the Aug. 20 start of the 2021 gridiron campaign.
“I’m just glad we have an opportunity to do a better job of preparing for the season,” Columbia Central coach Jason Hoath said. “Last year, going in and not seeing another team until Game 1 – that’s difficult.
“Seeing them in live competition against other schools really helps you determine a lot before Game 1.”
And there’s much to determine for most area football programs. Both Columbia Central and Spring Hill will debut new starting quarterbacks, while Kit Hartsfield at Mt. Pleasant is one of three new coaches locally.
“This gives us a chance to compete before the season actually starts, with 7-on-7 and scrimmages,” Hartsfield said. “We were concerned with that, basically starting from scratch and not being able to put the kids through a competitive environment.”
Spring Hill will host a 7-on-7 event on June 24, with a number of area teams participating. Columbia Central will hold a gathering two days prior, with various squads also set to compete at Shelbyville and at Giles County prior to the two-week dead period that begins June 28.
“Last year was the best reason why it’s a good thing,” Raiders coach Ben Martin said regarding the return of preseason work. “Our first scrimmage, seeing a team with a different jersey, was Game 1 when it counts. You’re trying to get two scrimmages and four or five 7-on-7s in one game, that’s going to count on our record.
“It seems like everything gets turned up a notch when you’ve got a different opponent going against you – not the same guys you see every day. You can practice, but you can’t simulate that going against another team, the speed, the timing with the receivers.”
The Board of Control also voted to remove restrictive probation for the Franklin County and Shelbyville football programs, making them eligible for postseason play. Both were sanctioned last fall following an unsportsmanlike incident during their Week 10 contest and were ineligible for the 2021 state playoffs as a result.
Minutes from the meeting also acknowledged Zion Christian Academy’s departure from the TSSAA. Zion Christian intends to participate in the Tennessee State Independent Athletic Association for at least the next two years.
In other board action:
● A request from members of Region 6-AAAA to hold their basketball tournament at a central site was approved, as the Region 6-AAA tourney has previously been conducted. The new region will consist of Brentwood, Centennial, Franklin, Hillsboro and Overton from District 11-AAAA and Columbia Central, Independence, Nolensville, Ravenwood and Summit of District 12-AAAA.
● A proposed two-year extension to contracts with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce for the Division I girls and boys basketball tournaments and Spring Fling was approved. Those events will remain at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center and at locations in and around Murfreesboro, respectively, through the 2022-23 school year.
● A number of adjustments to the bowling competition and postseason formats were approved, including the addition of sectional tournaments as qualifiers for individual state tourneys.