CLINTON — The past two seasons have not gone as Anderson County High School has planned.
The Mavericks made six consecutive playoff appearances to begin head coach Davey Gillum’s tenure, but a set of circumstances derailed that momentum with a pair of 3-7 seasons.
“It’s really been a perfect storm in terms of what we’ve been through with injuries, what we’ve been though with youth and who we were playing,” the ninth-year head coach said. “Now all of these guys have matured and have played a lot of football. We’re all healthy and ready to go.”
Anderson County has been ready since the opening kickoff of the season, coasting to a perfect start that continued Friday with a 49-7 drubbing of East Ridge.
The Mavericks (7-0, 3-0 Region 2-4A) have wasted little time getting out the gates in any of their matchups this year, but they ratcheted it up to another level against Pioneers (5-1, 1-1).
They scored three touchdowns in the first three minutes, 30 seconds, thanks in part to a pair of East Ridge fumbles, one of which was recovered in the end zone by junior Ryan Moog.
Junior quarterback Stanton Martin tacked on two touchdown passes before the end of the first quarter to make it 35-0, and Anderson County found pay dirt twice more in the second quarter to go into the halftime up 49-0.
“We’ve played pretty well all the season from the beginning, but it is always an emotional uplift to get defensive turnovers, especially when you get them for points,” Gillum said. “The way the offense is playing we feel like we would have scored whether they were punting or turning it over, but it allowed us to get scores quicker and get a couple extra possessions.”
Through seven games, the Mavericks are averaging 52 points per game and winning by an average margin of 40 points.
Martin is the catalyst for an offense that expects to score every time it touches the football, but he’s also one of the main reasons Anderson County has fallen off over the past two years, to no fault of his own.
Injuries have put a premature end to each of his first two seasons, leaving an offense built around him to falter. As a freshman, he tore his labrum against Oak Ridge in the fourth week of the season and last year he suffered a broken jaw in versus Catholic in Week 7.
The Mavericks went 1-5 in region games without Martin the past two seasons.
“Stanton Martin is a fabulous football player,” Gillum said. “We’re built to accent his abilities, and when we lost him, we took a downward spiral because it was hard to retool midway through the season and try to become somebody else.”
Martin produced one of his tamer performances this season against East Ridge, but only played a little more than a half. He completed 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 144 yards and four touchdowns.
Overall, he has thrown for 1,832 yards and 27 touchdowns on 106-for-160 passing (66.3 percent completion), while also rushing for 467 yards and four more scores.
With their biggest playmaker under center at 100 percent and a defense that Gillum said has “played just as well as the offense,” Anderson County is back to where it expects to be.
Perhaps even better.
“A game like this shows that we are one of the most elite programs in East Tennessee,” Gillum said. “Where we stack up with those programs, I don’t know, but we are in that upper echelon.”