Second year head coach Justin Pressley’s no-huddle offense certainly sparked some enthusiasm around Church Hill, but it was tough sledding in the middle of the season — when the Falcons were ravaged by injuries.
Now that Pressley has had a full offseason with the kids and has several key starters returning, Volunteer will be improved.
How much will they be improved? That remains to be seen.
With utility man and senior leader Peyton Derrick being the main threat on offense along with senior quarterback Eli Dorton and junior running back Cameron Johnson, the Falcons could be one of the big wild cards in Region 1-5A.
The offense at times had trouble moving the football last year, but the defense was the biggest problem after Dawson Dykes went out for the season with a neck injury. Dykes was the leading tackler in 2017 and a leader on the defense. After he went down, the Falcons struggled on that side of the ball and seemed lost at times with all the youth that was on the field.
“We’re excited about this year. We’re pushing 70 kids out here right now and I hope this can get the community excited, too,” Pressley said. “The numbers are better than they ever have been. The offense is coming more naturally to the kids and I’m not having to explain as much. It’s more of me correcting small errors.”
All of Volunteer’s wins last year came on the road or at a neutral site, so the fans in Church Hill were without a home win again for the second consecutive year.
The Falcons have not won at home since Sept. 16, 2016 against Grainger, nearly three years ago.
The Falcons open up the season on the road against CAK, but begin a three-game homestand — starting with Sullivan Central — the following week. That could present a golden opportunity for the Falcons to finally score a home victory.
The next week offers a bout with the highly touted David Crockett in the first conference game of the season. It will be the first road game or the Pioneers after hosting both Ootlewah and Science Hill.
It presents a perfect trap-game opportunity for the Falcons.
Volunteer then hosts Sullivan East and then travels to rival Cherokee before the bye week on Sept. 27.
The Falcons will be looking to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Chiefs, which is the longest in the series history.
Three of the final five games for Volunteer are on the road at Daniel Boone, Unicoi County and Cocke County. The Falcons do have regional home games against Tennessee High and Morristown East to round out the season.