The 10th ranked Monterey Wildcats have enjoyed a fast start to the 2020 high school football season but are preparing for a big test Friday night when they will travel to Gainesboro to take on the Jackson County Blue Devils.
The Wildcats (3-0, 2-0) have steamrolled through their first three opponents, but those opponents have a combined 2-12 record. The Blue Devils, however, enter the game at 4-1 and are coming off a 16-6 win at East Robertson.
“It’s a huge test,” said MHS head coach Scott Hughes. “(JCHS) Coach Loftis… is a great friend of mine, and he’s a phenomenal football coach. His teams are always very competitive. I think he returned something like 98% of his roster from last year. All those young men have played a lot of football. That makes their team very dangerous.”
Hughes went on to compliment the Blue Devils’ size up front and skill-position players.
“They’re huge,” said Hughes. “They’ve got some monsters up front. I’m very impressed with their skill guys. They’ve got a very talented core of skill guys. I’m very impressed by what they do.”
While the Blue Devils boast an experienced lineup, the Wildcats roster features only four seniors. While MHS has played good football, outscoring opponents 141-38 through three games, Hughes said that inexperience has shown up at times during practice.
“It’s been a little bit up and down,” said Hughes on his team’s week of preparation. “We’re still not a very mature football team in some regards. We have our moments in practice when we’re really good, but then again, we have our moments where we have our lapses. I think a lot of that just goes back to the maturity level and understanding the purpose of practice and understanding what you’re trying to accomplish in practice.”
The Wildcat offense has impressed through three games, averaging 47 points per game. Sophomore tailback Mason Bowman has garnered headlines for his play, but sophomore quarterback Matthew Montgomery also tossed several touchdowns in the team’s 47-12 week five win over Pickett County.
Hughes said he believes in having a balanced offense and his young receivers are working hard to improve.
“I’ve always been a big believer in being balanced, and I want to be a balanced play caller,” said Hughes. “This group is pretty versatile. We’re starting to make some strides.”
“In our receiving core, we’re playing a ton of young guys. For them, that maturity of understanding it’s important to run a route hard on Monday, if we’re going to throw it on Friday. We’re starting to see some growth there, but still not where we need to be. Those guys are working extremely hard.”
The MHS-JCHS matchup is considered a rivalry by many in both Monterey and Gainesboro, but Hughes said his team is approaching the matchup the same as every other non-region game and taking it one week at a time.
“For me, I treat each game the same, as far as non-region games, and I always put an asterisk next to region games,” said Hughes. “I don’t know if there’s any more meaning to this game than there was to the Harriman game to me. It’s still competition, and at the end of the night someone’s going to get a tally mark in the left-hand column and someone’s going to get a tally mark in the right-hand column.”
“My mindset is it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side… it’s another night to compete. In football you only get a small amount of those nights, so you’ve got to take advantage of each one of them.”
Kickoff between the Blue Devils and Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Gainesboro.