Cole blooded

Governor big hitter receives rare honor

William Blount’s Cole Lail (43) makes the stop on Dobyns-Bennett’s Justin Sylvester earlier this season.

William Blount’s Cole Lail (43) makes the stop on Dobyns-Bennett’s Justin Sylvester earlier this season.

Cole Lail is one of the county’s most feared tacklers.

In January, the Governor junior linebacker is taking his show on the road.

William Blount coach Scott Meadows was notified on Tuesday that Lail has been extended an invitation to U.S. Army All-American Junior Combine in Dallas. Coinciding with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl for high school seniors, the combine invites only the nation’s top 200 prep juniors each season.

“He’s quietly having a great year,” Meadows said. “I’ve had a lot of great players in my time, but I’ve never had one invited to that.”

Lail and his Governor teammates enter Friday’s regular season finale at Heritage as the state’s top-ranked Class 5A team in the latest Earl Nall Prep Performance Rating computer poll. A win, coupled with a Farragut loss at Oak Ridge, would secure for William Blount (7-2, 5-1 Region 2-5A) the league title and No. 1 seeding for the upcoming playoffs.

The Governors, though, aren’t looking that far ahead.

“We’ve got to win,” Meadows said. “We’ve got to take care of our business and not worry about what’s happening over in Oak Ridge. If we’re fortunate enough to win, we’ll worry about it then.”

Friday’s other games will see Alcoa’s top-ranked Tornadoes (8-1, 5-0 Region 2-2A) visit Loudon (8-1, 4-1) in a battle for the region crown. Maryville’s top-ranked Rebels (9-0, 6-0) clinched the Region 3-4A title with last week’s win over Halls. The Rebels welcome Lenoir City (0-9, 0-6) to Shields Stadium on Friday before turning their sights to next week’s playoffs.

All kickoffs Friday are at 7:30 p.m.

Meadows isn’t just playing nice when cautioning the Governors not to overlook Heritage. The Mountaineers (2-7, 2-4) are a hot team of late.

Led by the resurgence of senior quarterback Dylan Morgan, Heritage pushed 2-5A playoff contender McMinn County to the limit last week before falling in the final seconds, 28-27. The Cherokees handed Farragut its lone loss earlier this season. The Admirals are the only team to beat the Governors in region play.

Morgan, with eight interceptions his first three games, has been picked only five times in his last six outings.

With a productive backfield of Michael Cermak, J.D. Baker and Justin Caines and a proven playmaker in receiver Michael Haynes, the Mountaineers, eliminated from postseason contention with last week’s loss, are a dangerous team.

“We believe we can put points on the board; we believe we can stop people,” Heritage coach Tommy Rewis said. “I wish we could play some of those early games over again.”

The Governors feature a defense where Lail has plenty of competition when it comes to star power. Senior T.J. Walker is one of the county’s top prospects at one of the ends. Junior Brock Gordley is much overlooked at the other.

A deep linebacking corps is highlighted by Lail and seniors Will Irwin and Aaron Garland. The secondary is first-rank in seniors Tyler Burstrom and Chase Helton and junior Don Cope.

Up front at nose guard, Danny Schrimscher, David Kenny and Jacob Brackett enable William Blount to play a three-man defensive front like few teams can.

The Mountaineers would like nothing better than to play spoiler.

“This is our playoff game,” Rewis said.

It will also go a long way in determining where the Governors will be next week.

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