South-Doyle High School entered the season with high expectations, ones that had them thinking about winning a state championship in Cookeville this season.
Injuries, however, have tempered those expectations for the time being. Instead of displaying itself as a state power, the South-Doyle has limped to an 0-2 start with losses to Heritage and Cherokee.
“At the high school level — not to make excuses because it is a team game — if you lose a few players to injury, it can have a huge impact in the outcome on a Friday night,” South-Doyle head coach Clark Duncan told 865 Preps. “Over the last two weeks, we’ve played without our starters at eight positions.
“That’s quite a bit when it comes down to injuries and being able to compete at the level we want to compete at.”
The Cherokees do not anticipate any of those starters to return Friday when they host Gibbs (0-1) in their first Region 2-5A matchup of the season, but there is still an opportunity to get back on track without them.
“We’re resilient and we come to work every single day with a mindset to get better,” Duncan said. “We’ve been like that since January. They have high expectations of themselves and this team. Right now, we’re hitting some adversity, and how do we respond to that? The only way to respond is to go back to work and believe in the system and hope that things will work themselves out.”
If any team is capable of working things out, it’s South-Doyle.
A year ago, the Cherokees started 4-5 thanks in part to a few injuries that hampered them in the middle of the season. By the end of the year, they were celebrating the best finish in program history after reaching the state semifinals for the first time ever before falling to the eventual state champions, Farragut.
“I told our team (last year) that I hated going through what we went through, but if we got healthy at the right time, we could make a run,” Duncan said. “I told our guys the same thing the other day. I believe that with all my heart and we intend to do that.”
South-Doyle will have its best chance to reel off a similar run when it gets its player back at full health.
On Friday, though, the Cherokees have a chance to get a jumpstart on getting to that point by their first win against one of their main regional adversaries.
“This is not the deciding factor on the outcome of the season, but we all know winning breeds confidence,” Duncan said. “Most importantly, it’s a region game and we want to be in the middle of the pack when it is all said and done.
“Last year, they won the district and we had to beat them in the second round to advance (in the playoffs). Both games it was a dog fight and I don’t expect it to be any different this year.”