By Kris Freeman for The White House Connection
WHITE HOUSE – Expectations are nothing to fear at White House High School, for a football program which has built its pedigree on postseason success.
The departing senior class left quite the shoes to fill with back-to-back District 9-AA championships and four straight trips to the Class 4-A quarterfinals. White House finished 10-3 with a loss to state runner-up, Giles County.
“This school takes pride in putting everything on the table every Friday night and we know that this schedule is not going to provide any breaks,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. Entering his 28th season, he ranks among the state’s active best with 240 wins and has advanced to the third round of the playoffs six of the last seven seasons.
The Blue Devils open the season at Portland on Aug. 29, beating the Panthers 31-0 to take a one-game lead in the overall standings in the team’s 45-game rivalry history. Portland will be celebrating 100 years of academics and athletics to start the season, and the game will be followed by a Saturday night alumni contest.
“Everyone in this area knows what it means when Portland and White House step onto the football field at the same time,” Porter said. “This is no longer a district game, but these kids grow up knowing the rich tradition of this rivalry and playing for pride matters, and winning your non-district games are critical preparation for postseason success. This is a higher classification school and we are going to get their best effort and have to be ready to play.”
The Devils have five returning starters on offense and one player who started on defense and will now be counted on to help anchor the offensive line. Senior Josh Mullins is the team’s leading receiver with 18 catches, and fellow senior Chris Baldwin caught six passes for 51 yards.
Junior Logan Trimmer averaged 32 yards per punt and was the second tight end in a deuce package will become the primary starter. Right tackle Kyle Cantrell and right guard Tyler Gardner are back with James Whitby backing up right guard after starting last year. He will be counted on more for defense, while defensive tackle starter Blaiz Phillips moves to left guard.
“We lost a center, and Lukas Hodges has big shoes to fill stepping up on the offensive line, as does Brennan Harshaw who is new,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Hamilton. “But we’re working our tails off and we’re a little smaller on the line but not much. Each kid is different but we got a lot of experience last year and that’s helping us this season.”
Kicker Dillon Anderson continues a long line of placekickers from White House to win the District 9-AA special teams award. He’s a senior, and will handle all kicking duties except punting. He hit 12-of-15 field goals and 24-of-27 PATs. Anderson was named to the preseason All-State team for Class 4-A by Murphy Fair’s Tennessee High School Football.
“His leg is a little stronger and he knows how important field position is to us,” Porter said. “When we can kick off and constantly have teams backed up then that gets us halfway to our goal of winning two out of the three key parts of the game every Friday night, including offense and defense.”
Junior Denis Schaffer was an aggressive and physical safety who will take his skill to the SAM linebacker position in 2014, making 88 stops. He, along with Whitby and junior Trey Hyde are the starting linebackers with senior Troy Raymond being counted on in a key backup role.
It’s tough, considering they replace Taylor Wood, the leading tackler in school history, who graduated.
“James Whitby is a player who can do it,” said defensive coordinator Chad Broadrick. “Taylor is a really hard player to replace but James is a lot like him. But we are going to have to create a little more depth at linebacker.”
Trimmer and Harshaw line up at defensive end with Zack Baldwin expected to make a key contribution at end after a breakout freshman season as a reserve. Senior Emmett Cannon is a returning starter at defensive nose tackle, with Drezmond English and Phillips at tackle.
Baldwin and Josh Mullins are the corners with Tanner Jordan and Brian Mullins at free safety and Luke Hopkins at strong safety. Hopkins played considerable time in 2013.
“Honestly, we’re young, but we know more what to do and it’s just a matter of getting more effort and getting to the football,” Broadrick said. “We have to get takeaways, we have to be physical and we know exactly what to do and have to do it at full speed.”
If great rivalries are the hot ticket, then White House is getting its money’s worth in the first two weeks. After playing Portland, the Devils make the road trip to Greenbrier to kick off the 9-AA schedule before a home opener with Lipscomb Academy in week three. It took overtime to beat the Bobcats last year, and then the Mustangs handed White House its first loss.
“There are really no off weeks, and we do not play a week zero game, so once this schedule begins, we are relying upon game experience and getting better every single week,” Porter explained. “The week zero is really a catch 22 situation. We have always felt like being off in week zero was better than a bye week, but at the same time other coaches know that is a week off without game experience, so to each their own.
“But this is a tough schedule.”
White House travels to Sycamore, then hosts Springfield for Homecoming. The second meeting between White House and White House Heritage will be at Vanderbilt Stadium on Thursday, October 2. A similar affair last year left White House a 26-7 winner, but this time the Patriots will be the home team on the neutral field. An estimated crowd of 6,000-7,000 people watched last year’s game live.
“A lot of times we preach no distractions and focusing on the game at hand, but there was no doubt that our kids were fired up to play on that field and really stepped it up,” Porter said. “This is a rivalry no one wanted to have to face, but enrollment figures of both schools made that inevitable.
“Our community really had a lot to be proud of, with great fans on both sides in Sumner and Robertson County. It was a great showcase for our city and it will be again.”
The Devils finish the year with a home stretch of Harpeth, Westmoreland and Cheatham County, then travel to Pope John Paul II for the first time in varsity action in week 10.