Farragut High School senses the target on its back.
After winning the school’s first state football championship following a 28-point comeback against Independence in the Class 5A championship game, the Admirals know that everybody is looking at them entering the 2017 season.
“There’s definitely added pressure just because everybody wants a piece of us,” senior tight end Jacob Warren said. “Everybody wants to beat us and everybody wants to be us. I think there is pressure, but I think we can handle that pressure by working hard.”
The road to winning a second-consecutive state championship begins on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Bradley Central, and the Admirals will make that trip with the intention of moving forward, not relying on the past.
“In January, we came back and talked about how that was last year’s team,” Farragut head coach Eddie Courtney said. “We always tell them that every day you either get better or you get worse — you never stay the same. For us, we have to be better than we were last year. We go back and we look at the things we built out program on and we reinforce those things every day.
“These guys have embraced the fact that nothing has changed. We play 10 opponents in the regular season — all good opponents — and right now we’re not worried about who we play Week 2. All we’re worried about is Bradley Central.”
The Admirals are missing some pieces from last year’s historic run, most notably Adam Fulton and Cooper Hardin amongst others.
In his only year as the starting quarterback, Fulton threw for 3,223 yards and 41 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions. Hardin rushed for 1,477 yards and 19 touchdowns while also racking up 116 total tackles, 21 of which were for a loss.
While those losses will be tough to recoup, Farragut returns a large majority of its roster and believes those who will step in will not miss a beat.
“We only had 15 seniors last year,” Courtney said. “That’s the smallest number of a senior class that I’ve ever had. We’re going to miss those guys, but every year you got to replace somebody. A lot of these juniors that are now seniors this year played key roles last year.
“That’s the thing I’m excited about. Our system doesn’t change. Some years, we’ll throw the ball a little more, sometime we may run the ball a little more because of the ability of our players, but we’ve always had good talent. Our kids were in that locker room last year, so they know what it takes, and that’s the difference.”
Juniors Isaiah Gibbs and Kyle Carter will fill in at running back and carry the load of a Farragut running game that amassed 2,843 yards a season ago, while senior Max Travis will replace Fulton under center after three years of being a backup — the same scenario Fulton stepped into last year.
“I always tell him, ‘Just relax, you know what to do. You saw Adam go through the same scenario — backed up for three years and then finally as a senior he got his chance,” Courtney said. “Adam helped him a lot during the offseason just getting out there and throwing. He’s been working hard. When your quarterback is one of the hardest workers on your football team, everybody else works hard.”
Farragut will be tasked with replicating last season’s success in a larger classification after being moved up to Class 6A during the offseason.
The opponents may be different, but that will not change the Admirals’ approach. All they are focusing on is themselves, regardless of what team is trying to knock them off.
“We just have to work hard and trust that what we do on Friday nights is going to work out for us,” Warren said. “Obviously we’re going to have some bigger opponents and some bigger schools that have some bigger names, but it’s just football. We all put our helmet on the same way, we all put our shoulder pads on the same way. It’s no different. We just have to go out there and do our thing.”