LA Football among state’s best for decade

Dewain E. Peek/OCN file photo

Coach Bruce Lamb has led Livingston Academy Football to a decade of excellence.

Just Thinking by Mac McLeod

Ever wonder just how good, or bad, our Livingston Academy football Wildcats have been over the past decade? It’s a thoughtful question, and just off the top of the heads of most fans, they would say “pretty good, I think,” while the more dedicated will quickly point out “really much better than you would think.”

The second answer is the most correct. In the decade starting in 2010, the Wildcats have been pretty consistent in their winning ways, and with only a few exceptions, have produced more winning seasons than losing ones.

In a recent posting on TN High School Football.com, writer Donovan Stewart spent over two months going through all the records and classifications of all 342 Tennessee High School teams and their records and has posted his work. As he points out, “It’s not my opinion, but the actual results of each team.”

Okay, give us the results of the Wildcats?

Hold on, not so fast. There’s a lot of ground to cover here and the first time through all 47 4A teams in the state produces a lot of familiar names, teams the Wildcats have played over the past 10 years and not only in their region, but as non-league opponents and also a lot of playoff teams as well.

So just as a tease, let’s go ahead and state that out of all the 4A teams in the state with names like Fulton, Greenville, Knox Catholic, Pearl Cohn, Maplewood, etc., our Livingston Academy Wildcats fell one team short of being in the top 10.

That’s right, the Wildcats over the past 10 years have produced a record that puts them on the list at Number 11.

“That’s pretty impressive,” said LA head coach Bruce Lamb, who has been the head coach for the entire decade plus two years. “That just says so much about our youngsters and their work ethic, determination and desire to do their best.

“Looking back over those past ten seasons, I remember a lot about the teams, their strong points and their weaknesses, but the one thing I remember most about all those teams, is that not a one ever gave up.”

Lamb went on to explain that his coaches are the best around. They have, for the most part, been around for all 10 seasons, and like the players, never accepted less than the very best from each and every player.

“It takes a lot of things to win at this level, and dedicated players and dedicated coaches are two of them,” the head coach added.

Teams in Region 3, 4A include Cumberland County, Stone Memorial, Macon County, DeKalb, and Livingston Academy, and Cumberland County is ranked at the bottom of the rankings among all 47 teams in the state at #47.

Holding down the final spot, Cumberland County has fallen on hard times this past decade, winning 14 games overall and losing 87 for a .139 percentage. In the region, the Jets have posted 6 wins and 40 losses, and have appeared only once in the playoffs, that a loss in 2015.

Macon County has been somewhat more successful in the past 10 seasons, winning 49 and losing 59 to land in 24th place. In the region, the Tigers are a respectable 22-27. The Tigers have been to the playoffs 7 times, starting in 2010 and repeating in 2011, ‘14, ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, and 19. During that time, they have only one victory.

Stone Memorial finds itself at the 18th spot, posting a 59-51 overall record with a .536 percentage. The Panthers have been to the playoffs 8 times during the decade, 2011, ‘15, ‘16, and ‘17 and were in Region 5A in ‘13 and ‘14. They have one win in the 8 tries. In region play, the Panthers have a 26-23 mark, have three region championships (2015, ‘16, and ‘18), and had two 10-win seasons in the 10-year frame.

DeKalb County finds itself one mark ahead of Stone at the 17 spot. The Tigers have a 61-51 10-year overall record and have been to the playoffs 9 times, 7 as 4A and twice a 3A. In playoff experience, DeKalb is 3-9 with one 10-win season, that coming in 2012.

At the 11the spot is the LA Wildcats. In the decade, the team won 72 games and lost 43 for a fine .626 percentage. In the region, the Wildcats have a 39-12 record for a .765 percentage. During the decade, LA has appeared in the playoffs 8 times, 2010, ‘11, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘17, ‘18, and 2019. During that stretch, the Cats have won 7 and lost 8 and have three regional championships to their credit (2012, ‘14 as 2A, and 2019 at the 4A level.

During the decade, the Wildcats have 10 or more wins three times – in 2012, ‘14, and ‘19.

Livingston Academy started the decade in 2010 with a 5-5 regular season mark then lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Giles County, 28-10.

Things picked up in 2011 as the Cats posted an 8-2 regular season mark with losses to Smith County, 19-7, and to Macon County, 19-0.

Then came the 2012 season with a star-filled veteran team that included such players as Brock McCoin, Creed Hayes, Cole Presley, Hunter McDonald, Cory Hamilton, Jordan Savage, Morgan Mayberry, Lukas Reagan, Ronnie Linder. and others. The team breezed through the regular season with only one loss, a very controversial one, at White House. That year, they were the district champs, beat Grainger 35-7 in the opening round of the playoffs, defeated DeKalb in the second round, 37-14, then fell hard to eventual state champs Fulton, 35-13.

Graduation did severe damage to the team in 2013 and the Cats could post only a 3-7 mark, but the following year, 2014, things really took shape. With Kaleb Qualls taking over at quarterback and Dylan Linder exploding out of the backfield at will, the Cats went 11-2 overall, winning two playoffs games before losing to Loudon on a freezing night in late November.

Other standout players on that team included Peter Hollars, Danial Flatt, Wade Eldridge, Hunter McDonald, and kicker Emory Duke. One outstanding mark for the team was it scored 489 points while yielding only 199.

In 2015, the Cats were “okay” posting a 6-4 regular season record and one win in the opening round of the playoffs for a 7-5 overall mark.

When the 2016 season started, Lamb decided it was time to build for the future and put freshman Will McDonald as quarterback. By the time McDonald graduated in 2020, it would be a move that paid dividends big time.

In 2016, LA went 2-8, its worst record of the decade, but in 2017 things started shaping up. Injuries were the big plague for the team that year, but with the likes of Jarrett Key, Carter Hayes, Jake Craig, Wade Neely, Briley Rich, Aubrey Hollars, Wesley Smith, and Tee Beaty and others, the team went 8-3, but lost to an unknown team from Nolensville in the playoffs, 21-14.

If there was a real disappointment in the decade, it would have to have been the 2018 team. With high expectations, things just never got on track and the Cats posted a 5-5 regular season mark and lost the first round of the playoffs to Tullahoma, 37-23.

It all came together in 2019 with all the freshmen who started in 2016 becoming seasoned veterans. McDonald led the Cats to 11 straight wins, a school record. Smith set a record with receptions. McDonald set a record throwing. The defense only allowed the opponents 74 points, the fewest ever. Beaty hit 39 of 40 extra-point tries, and Lamb became the school’s winningest head football coach, with 82.

Players on that team included Cole Spears, Dustin Parrish, Nate Neely, Dexter Wright along with McDonald, Hollars, and Smith.

“Those were some great years and we’re left with some great memories from some outstanding players,” Lamb concluded. “If I could go back and do it again, I think I probably would and do it much the same way. It all worked out.”

Coaches during that 10-year stretch include Danny McCoin, Shane Qualls, Jim Nelson, Curtis Beaty, Darrian Barlow, Derek Bush, Dale Flatt, Tyler Livingston, Brannon McCoin, Duel Johnson, Matthan Houser, Wade Eldridge, and Mark Winningham III. For nine of those 10 seasons, Shawn Moffitt was the team athletic trainer. Moffitt became ill early in the 2019 season and passed away. He was replaced by Danielle Deretchin.

11 – Livingston academy 72-43 .626

10 – Maplewood 73-50 .593

9 – Hardin County 73-41 .640

8 – Springfield 76-48 .613

7 – Jackson North Side 77-41 .653

6 – Marshall County 78-45 .634

5 – Dyersburg (tie) 79-38 .675

4 – Anderson County (tie) 79-38 .675

3 – Lexington 80-39 .675

2 – Elizbethton 101-26 .795

1 – Greenville 121-14 .896