BRISTOL, Tenn. — Longtime Tennessee High defensive coach Mike Mays has taken over as head coach of the Vikings.
“These kids know what to expect of me,” Mays said. “We’ll continue to teach the same things we’ve done for the past 12 years. We want them running to the football.
“What we have to do is bring that same intensity to the offensive side of the ball. I want us to put just as much pressure on opposing defenses.”
The big difference now is Mays will be making all the final decisions.
“I’m sure I’ll be nervous that first game,” he said. “You never really know how you’re going to react until you have to make that first big decision.”
The Vikings return six starters on defense and four on offense.
“We had a good summer with our workout sessions,” Mays said. “And we’ve gotten a lot accomplished in our preseason practices.”
Despite the change at the top, the Vikings’ on-the-field approach is similar to last season.
“It’s more of a philosophical change,” Mays noted. “We’ll keep a lot of the same plays, but we will run the ball as our first option.”
The Vikings’ offense is led by 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior quarterback Peyton Henley.
Henley has an impressive receiving corps led by seniors Adam Mitchell (6-3, 190), Zach Kitzmiller (5-10, 165) and Travis Clark (6-1, 165), a transfer from John Battle, and juniors Dallas Fields (6-3, 180), Christian Gibson (6-0, 170) and Austin McReynolds (6-2, 190), who transferred from Sullivan North.
“Peyton has proven his ability as a passer,” Mays said. “What we will want is for him to run the ball more this year. We need that dual threat.
“Where he will be most valuable is with leadership,” Mays added. “Everyone will be looking to him.”
The top running backs for Tennessee High include sophomore Sir Shuff (5-11, 190), senior Chris Brooks (5-8, 160) and junior Kauhlil King (5-10, 155).
The offensive line is anchored by senior Josh Pendleton (6-0, 255), senior Eric Sampson (5-11, 210), junior Eric Frye (6-0, 285) and junior center Austin Blackwell (6-2, 250).
“We added an offensive line coach this year,” Mays said. “We want the line to be a dominant force for us.”
On the defensive side, 6-foot, 200-pound senior Bryce Gibson moved from tackle to defensive end.
“His speed is outstanding so we wanted to get him out where he could take advantage of it,” Mays said.
“Bryce has a great nose for the football. He may be one of the purest football players we’ve had here in a long time.”
Senior Zach Bunch (5-9, 165) starts at cornerback. Sophomore Donald Felix (6-0, 220) and Shuff head the linebacking corps.
Underclassmen are playing an important role again.
“We had a lot of freshmen who played last year,” Mays said. “They’ve grown up and should help us more this season.”
Many see Tennessee High as a much improved team this year in the Big 7 Conference.
“I think, based on what I’ve seen, that Science Hill should be very good,” Mays said. “Of course, everyone says Dobyns-Bennett is down, but down for D-B is still up for us.”