BRISTOL – Tennessee High won its seventh straight V-T Game last season, defeating Virginia High 42-21.
Kelvin Coleman’s memories aren’t so sweet.
“Just the fact that they were tied with us at halftime, that kind of upset me,” said Coleman, a senior linebacker and running back for the Vikings. “I just want to blow them out of the water and hope they don’t score.”
The 107th installment of the historic series will take place tonight at Gene Malcolm Stadium, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. The Vikings hold the all-time advantage 73-29-4.
Coleman will be ready to go for his final game against the Bearcats, who are 0-2, falling a penalty short of a possible victory last week against John Battle.
“I am just excited to play in their stadium and hopefully thrash them because of last year,” he said. “We are hoping to put a big score up and make it an eventful game for the folks.”
Tennessee High (1-1) enters having rebounded from an opening season loss with a 35-0 beating at Daniel Boone. Jaden Keller and Cole McBrayer accounted for two touchdowns apiece, while Coleman added a score and the defense held the Trailblazers to just 106 offensive yards.
“It was just taking it serious more because that first week we weren’t as focused as much so we just had to make more adjustments and play with a better mindset,” said Coleman, whose Vikings didn’t have to play against Daniel Boone star Charlie Cole, who was out with an injury.
“I feel like even if he was there it would have been a tougher game, but I think we would still would have came out with the win just because of the changes on offense and defense as well.”
Coleman has been an integral part of Tennessee High success in his three seasons as a varsity member of the Vikings.
“It has been eventful, a lot of memories,” Coleman said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I love this team, love the coaching staff too. Just a lot of memories and a lot of fun.”
ennessee High head coach Mike Mays, who will coach in his 21st V-T Game tonight, is certainly glad Coleman is on his size.
“He has got really good feet, redirects well, excellent tackler, plays the pass well, a great leader, comes and practices hard every day with a solid attitude and works hard in the weight room and in the classroom,” Mays said. “He is just a good kid all around.”
A linebacker and running back for the Vikings, Coleman enjoys both. He just wants to be on the field.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Coleman, who shares his favorite part of playing football. “Just running out with the fans there, and hitting.”
The 175-pound Coleman isn’t the biggest guy, but makes up for it with strength and desire. He is also part of the Tennessee High track team and plans to wrestle for the first time as well.
“It doesn’t bother me because of my strength,” he said. “That helps a lot so I can get off the blockers and just make a play.”
Both teams enter tonight with plenty of speed. The Bearcats have talented running backs, including Stevie Thomas, Ajaani Delaney and Dominic Norris, and they are known for using creativity to get points on the board. Delaney scored Virginia High’s lone score last week on a 67-yard run. A 44-yard scoring run in the final minute was nullified by penalty.
“I think we just need to watch around for the trickery plays that they have with all the motions and jet (sweeps) and how they have all the switching around and they have the wildcat formation,” he said. “We just have to be ready and not take them lightly...
“I think we can handle (their speed), but it is still something we have to make a major key for.”
Tennessee High is playing its third straight game away from the Stone Castle, with the Vikings finally returning home next week against Morristown East.
The goals are set for the Vikings.
“Conference champs is a goal and make it past the second round of the playoffs,” he said. “It has been a tough road, but hopefully we can get that conference championship.”
First up is Virginia High. Coleman would like nothing better than another win over the Bearcats, and a touchdown would be nice too. He scored on a 4-yard run last week to cap off a 21-point third quarter for the Vikings. He also crossed the goal line three times last season.
He certainly likes that feeling of scoring six points.
“It is a huge satisfaction after a long drive,” said Coleman, with a big smile. “It is just happiness.”
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The schedule doesn’t get any easier after this one for Virginia High. The next four games include three unbeaten teams in Wise County Central, Chilhowie and Abingdon, followed by defending Class 2 state champion Graham.
No wonder Virginia High head coach Michael Crist is concerned with just one game at a time, with Tennessee High simply being the next one.
“It is an important game because it is the next one so I don’t know if you can prepare any different just because it is a rivalry and how traditional it is among the community,” said Crist, whose Bearcats last defeated the Vikings in 2011. “As much as anything, if you prepare more for this week than you do for other weeks then you are not doing your job the other weeks.”
Crist does like the speed on his side of the field, and has seen improvement since practice began last month.
“I do think our speed is there. We have got to progress in terms of our blocking. Football 101, you have got to block well and you have got to tackle well to have a shot,” Crist said. “We are getting better, but that is an area we need to improve on.
“We feel like we have some skill at running back, we just have to find a way to get them going and break them.”
The Vikings will be looking to keep that from happening.
“They have got some speed over there. Anytime you have got to speed on that side of the football and their scheme they run, Coach Crist does an excellent job with what he has got every year,” said Mays, who has moved ETSU commit Nolan Wishon from tight end to tackle, and the Vikings added athletic Isaiah Smith to the roster after he set out the opener. “He is always prepared for us and when somebody has got speed and they can break tackles, you have just got to be able to fit on defense where you are supposed to fit and then wrap up and make tackles.”
After watching the film from Tennessee High’s opening game loss at Dobyns-Bennett, Crist wouldn’t have been surprised if the Vikings entered this one with an unblemished mark.
“If not for two or three plays they would have had D-B on the ropes. I saw the score and then I looked at the film and the film doesn’t tell the story of the score,” Crist said. “They were in there with D-B, don’t let that score fool you.
“They are good, they are talented, they have got more speed than they have had in the past couple of years and they are playing with a little chip on their shoulder.”
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