Collierville, Germantown, Houston football previews | Collierville Independent



Collierville Standout Seniors - Running back Peyton McCay & Linebacker Tyler Garvey

Collierville Standout Seniors  Running back Peyton McCay & Linebacker Tyler Garvey

By Bill Sorrell

Growing up in military families, Tyler Garvey and Matt Connors learned how to be part of a close-knit group.

“It’s been tough always moving,” said Connors, Collierville quarterback. “The only people you can count on to be there is your family because that is who you are with the whole time. You don’t stray from them. That is a kind of discipline. You have got to be close to them.”

His father, Tim Connors, is chief petty officer at the Millington Naval Base.

Garvey, a senior middle linebacker whose father John Garvey retired after a 23-year career in the U.S. Air Force, said that he appreciated the military work ethic.

Both players are on what Collierville coach Mike O’Neill calls a “close-knit” team with a “strong” work ethic.

“We have a lot of diversity with a lot of different backgrounds. We treat it as a brotherhood. Not everybody gets along 100 percent of the time but we certainly respect one another. We are trying to teach our guys to play for the guy next to you. These guys have been extremely focused. They try to get better every day.

They lean upon one another to get things done. The work ethic has been incredible with those two (Connors and Garvey) and it has filtered through the team,” said O’Neill.

One thing O’Neill wants to get done is to see his team learn how to win.

“We were in every game except one last year,” he said. “Immaturity was part of that last year.” There were seven sophomores starting at one point.

The Dragons lost a first-round playoff game to Mt. Juliet in the last minute to finish 5-6.

A three-year starter, Garvey said, “Just finishing games is what we struggled with last year.”

While the team does not have “super stars” or “tremendous amount of ego,” there are playmakers.

One is 6-4, 190-pound Connors, a junior who started as a sophomore last year. Because of injuries, the Dragons have started a freshman or sophomore at quarterback the last four years.

Photo by Kevin Lewter

Photo by Kevin Lewter


St. Benedict at Auburndale @ Collierville High School


Collierville @ Center Hill


White Station @ Collierville


Millington Central @ Collierville


Cordova @ Collierville


Collierville @ Arlington


Collierville @ Houston


Germantown @ Collierville


Collierville @ Whitehaven


Bartlett @ Collierville

Connors’ reads have improved. That will lead to loosening up the passing game said O’Neill. The team is also deep at running back.

“You are going to see a team that moves the football more consistently on the ground. We are stronger up front than last year.”

The offense is a high-tempo, one-back spread with two-back set. There are six returning starters.

Leading the offense along with Connors, will be running back Peyton McCay, lineman John Hassell, deep-threat wide receiver Marcus Bersoza and lineman Ahmad Malone, a 6-4, 275-pound senior.

Malone moved from Indianapolis two months ago. Indiana State and Alcorn State have offered him scholarships.

“I think the O-line is going to be a whole lot better this year,” said Hassell, one of the team’s 24 seniors.

There are seven returning starters on defense.

“We will be good in the box and really solid and really big up front,” said Garvey.

The defense will have a multiple four-man front combining a 4-2-5 and 4-3. Defensive leaders will be Garvey, tackle Elijah Holcomb, free safety Zach Mitchell, end Justin Ragin, tackle Devan Reynolds.

A 5-10, 215-pound senior, Reynolds is the strongest player O’Neill has coached. Reynolds is in the 1,400-pound club. He squats 600 pounds, bench presses 400, power cleans 400.

“He is almost unblockable because he is so strong,” said O’Neill. “He is quick. A lot of college coaches may say he is a little small but he is going to be a surprise for somebody. He can play at that level.”

The Dragons have one of the best kickers in the state in Dylan Scott, a senior who has hit 24-of-28 career field goals with 47 yards his longest. He is also the punter.

“He is a dual threat. He puts the ball in the end zone consistently. The kicking game should be fantastic,” said O’Neill.

With strengths at quarterback, running back, linebacking, solid seniors up front, the Dragons’ weakness is their secondary which O’Neill said is a work in progress.

O’Neill begins his fifth season as head coach. “I am pleased in the direction we are going,” he said.

Hassell said, “I expect us to work together and win as many games as we can and hope we get a state championship at the end.”

Said Connors, “I think we are capable of that. We have the talent and work ethic to do it.”

Key losses: Chris Parrino, Seth Wiley (walk-on at Central Arkansas).

O’Neill’s Most Memorable Coaching Moment: “The night we upset Ridgeway (in 2014) on a pick-six. We were severe underdogs. We caught a team looking past us. Our guys played a great football team and took it to the fourth quarter. Ridgeway decided they wanted to throw a pass and we called a blitz. Our outside linebacker took it 65 yards. It doesn’t get much better than that. That is my favorite, number one moment.”


Germantown Senior quarterback Myles Guyton

Germantown Senior Standout – Quarterback Myles Guyton

By Bill Sorrell

3-2-1. It’s time to go.

With 3:21 left to play and 88 yards from scoring, Germantown trailed 14-13 to Collierville last season.

The Red Devils drove down the field, scored a touchdown with three seconds left, went for a two-point conversion and won 21-14. Then kicking off the game was over.

“We used to joke ‘3-2-1. It’s time to go,” said Germantown football coach Chris Smith. “It was a great win for our kids and our program.”

Along the way to a 5-6 record, including 4-3 in Region 4-6A, the Red Devils defeated all four principality high schools before a first-round playoff loss to Nashville Overton.

“We worked very hard to get that 4-3 last year. It’s a tough league. I think Memphis football is on the rise,” said Smith.

In his second season as head coach, Smith expects Germantown to be on the rise.

Players who were injured last season are back. The team is more unified and well-rounded and have adjusted to a second-year system.

“This is a tight-knit group. They have ben resilient. I have been impressed with their work ethic to be able to get through obstacles with a positive attitude. They are more of an encouraging group instead of being discouraging,” said Smith, who was offensive coordinator at his hometown Blytheville, Arkansas, high school before taking the Germantown job.

There are 15 starters returning, seven on offense, seven on defense, plus sophomore kicker Marshall Ware, who last year kicked a 28-yard field goal with 42 seconds left to tie Overton in the playoffs. The Red Devils lost on Overton’s time-expiring field goal.

“I think he will kick touch backs this year and obviously that is going to be a weapon if you play field position,” said Smith. Ware will also punt, taking over duties for graduated Cooper Foreman.

Germantown quarterback Myles Guyton, a senior, expects big things.

“I don’t believe we have the same athleticism as last year but this year I feel as if we have much more heart with some key players who can do some big things,” said Guyton, who passed for 488 yards against Arlington in a 49-35 victory that secured home-field playoff advantage.

Guyton will quarterback a two-back shotgun spread offense.

“I feel as if my arm has gotten stronger. I’m able to analyze the defense better to make more consistent throws,” he said. “My running ability has also improved allowing me to be a dual-threat quarterback.”

Photo by John Collins

Photo by John Collins


Lausanne Collegiate @ Germantown


Germantown @ St. Benedict at Auburndale


Houston @ Germantown


Germantown @ Briarcrest


Germantown @ Whitehaven


Germantown @ Cordova


Bartlett @ Germantown


Germantown @ Collierville


White Station @ Germantown


Arlington @ Germantown

Protecting Guyton will be an offensive line that is averaging 263 pounds per player compared to 210 last season.

“You saw in the playoff game we came up fourth and inches several times. I don’t think that will happen this year,” said Smith. “We are going to be bigger up front and be able to run the ball a little more successfully.”

Senior Cameron Tewari will be at running back and wide receiver. Seniors Jalin Robinson will be at slot receiver and Xavien Hughes at outside receiver.

“I bring big-play making abilities and my goals are to help my team and take us as far as I can. Receiving I want to have 10 touchdowns and go for no less than 1,000 yards and 500-plus yards on the ground,” said Tewari.

Smith’s expectations are also high.

“The expectations for us are to play a lot more as a unit, play smart-sound football, no turnovers, try to create turnovers, play great on special teams and execute to the fullest of our ability,” he said.

A 4-3 defense will be powered by Trey Goins, a 6-1, 310-pound senior lineman with Division 1 offers; Ted Lyons, a junior linebacker; Anterrious Branch, a senior safety getting looks from colleges; Jaylin Williams, a junior defensive back who moved from Texas; senior lineman Brandon Lloyd who has D-1 offers.

“Defensive strength is that we are going to have big-play potential. We are going to have three guys up front who will be really tough and two backers who are going to be really tough,” said Smith, who is in his eighth season coaching.

Said Goins, “People don’t know how strong, fast and physical we are on both sides of the ball. The potential of our team excites me most. We have too much talent not to have a great season.”

In the games the Red Devils lost last season, they did not make three plays of more than 30 yards. In games they won, they had three plays of more than 30 yards.

“We were a little inconsistent last year. We had a couple of good games then we had a couple of bad games. You can learn more from losses than you can wins a lot of times. In those losses we evaluated and changed some things,” said Smith. “The whole time we never stopped loving the game, never stopped loving our kids. It brought us together. I think we are going to be a lot better for it.”

Seniors: 26

Key losses and schools where they are playing: Rodney Williams (University of Tennessee at Martin), Jacob Ivey (Eastern Illinois), Marcus Mitchell (Southern Arkansas), Davinci Leavy (Arkansas Baptist), Joshua Puryear (Henderson State), Torion Hunt (Belhaven).

Most improved: Guyton, Branch, Isaiah Hayden (offensive guard), Kameron Walker (running back).

Smith’s most memorable coaching moment: Beating Houston in the Mustangs’ homecoming game. “Our group of guys had not beaten Houston so it was big to send those seniors out with a win.”


Senior running back Carson Blackfan beats the Arlington defense for a Mustang touchdown during the Aug. 12 Football Jamboree.

Senior running back Carson Blackfan beats the Arlington defense for a Mustang touchdown during the Aug. 12 Football Jamboree.

By Bill Sorrell

One of the players who exemplify an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude is Houston senior Hardy Anderton.

Houston coach Will Hudgens told Anderton, a tight end, that he may have to move to the offensive line, a position that is away from Friday night lime lights.

Hudgens said that Anderton’s reply was while it may not be the best thing for him, if it were best for the team he would do it.

“He is a versatile guy to go from a position that can get a little bit of acknowledgment to one that you only spotlight the bad things they do up front. Getting a chance to catch balls would be taken away from him. He would go inside and play an ugly position, one that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” said Hudgens.

“The biggest thing, this group has shown they are willing to sacrifice for each other. They want to win. The ultimate goal is to win a state championship. We have to go at it one week at at time. There is a willingness to give up something for each other. If you ask them if you would give a kidney to so-and-so, they would all say ‘Yeah.’ It doesn’t matter who it was they were giving it to,” said Hudgens.

Last season’s 1-10 record, which Hudgens said he would not wish on his worst enemy, led to an “uncanny bond” between players this season. The team was 10-2 in 2014.

“I don’t want anybody to go through what we went through last year, It was rough week in and week out,” said Hudgens.

Anderton said, “It’s a giant chip on our shoulder for sure. Nobody has forgotten about it. You can’t forget that feeling.”

Senior running back Carson Blackfan said, “It was really, really tough on the whole team. We had the mindset that we weren’t very good. It’s hard to bounce back from that but I think we will. We have a better mindset this year than last. We are growing together as a team. We are just working together as a family, loving each other as one, getting each others’ backs.

“We have a lot better senior leadership. We have a big group of guys that we are going to base our team around. Younger guys are going to count on us.”

A key to a turnaround season will be senior leadership.

“Our senior leadership has done a tremendous job of leading the young guys and not so much of a yelling-type leader, show- up- and- work and lead by example-type group,” said Hudgens.

Anderton said, “The key to success is going to be attitude up front and attitude in the locker room. I feel like me and seniors embody a big attitude.”

Houston has 19 seniors and eight returning starters, four each on offense and defense.

Blackfan and Anderton are among offensive leaders.

“Carson had a tremendous year,” said Hudgens, who expects an improved and experienced offensive line to provide more rushing yardage. The offense will be a spread with multiple sets.

“I like to throw the ball but that depends on if we can catch it or not,” said Hudgens.

Photo by Holland Studio

Photo by Holland Studio


Ridgeway @ Houston


Houston @ Henry County


Houston @ Germantown


Christian Brothers @ Houston


Bartlett @ Houston


Houston @ Whitehaven


Collierville @ Houston


Houston @ Arlington


Cordova @ Houston


White Station @ Houston

Stopping the run with a 4-man defensive front with multiple looks in back is a goal. Linebacker Jackson Little, a junior, leads a good group up front. Junior defensive lineman Bruce Brown and sophomore defensive lineman Kip Frankland will lead the defense. Frankland also starts on the offensive line.

“We are more physical at the point of attack,” said Hudgens. “Our defense will swarm the ball a little bit better. Overall they are much more aggressive. The proudest thing, every body’s work ethic has improved,” said Hudgens, in his fourth season as head coach.

Pride in their work and holding each other accountable has also led to weight room gains. Desires to get bigger and stronger has made “vast improvement” said Hudgens.

“We are pumped for it,” said Blackfan of the season.

Special teams will have to play smart.

“Special teams is one of the key things that we are going to have to take advantage of because we are not going to be as big and fast as a lot of teams. I think our intellect will be a big advantage on special teams,” said Hudgens.

The Mustangs’ greatest weaknesses are size and depth. “We will be outweighed up front probably every game,” said Hudgens, who hopes his team will stay healthy and win turnover battles.

“There will be no quit in this team. They are going to go after it every chance they get. We have to understand that we want to be playing our best football week 11.”

Key losses and colleges where they are playing: R.J. Meyers (Howard University). Chance Pullen (Naval Prep Academy), Kennedy Sanders (Mount Union, Ohio), Jamal Cox (North Alabama).

Hudgen’s most memorable coaching moment: “The Hail Mary that Arlington caught on us two years ago in the second round of the playoffs has been the one that has stuck in my head the longest. I question myself every day whether I should have called a time out there or not. We had a really good group that year, a really good group of seniors. It is one of those you wish you could go back and do over again. You could throw the ball up there 100 million times and they would probably catch it once. It was their night. It is the one that sticks with me and burns in the back of my head every night.”