East Nashville has an experienced football team this year, and it showed in a preseason scrimmage against Springfield Friday night at J.J. Keyes Stadium.
The Eagles scored on their first four possessions and finished the varsity portion of the contest with a 35-0 shutout of the Yellow Jackets.
“I think we came out with the right type of attitude and the right type of energy that you want to see out of your team,” East Nashville coach Brian Waite said. “We’ve had a long camp, so we were ready to get after somebody and try to get those kinks out.”
The Eagles turned three early Springfield fumbles into touchdowns. A 10-yard touchdown run from Yukari Blanchard was sandwiched between two short touchdown runs by junior Rontavious Gregory.
East Nashville backup quarterback Kwanzee Jemison later threw a 60-yard bomb to Arondai Thompson, the team’s starting QB. One drive later, Thompson made it 35-0 with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eastern Illinois commit Lester Shaw. That final score was set up by a 50-yard run from Demick Starling.
“Arondai has done an outstanding job,” Waite said of his quarterback. “We moved him around a little bit. He’s doing a great job of leading the guys and really taking charge of the team. It all goes through him and the offensive line.”
The Yellow Jackets scored a touchdown in the junior varsity portion on a short run by Jalen Jones. But Springfield’s offense was out of sync most of the night as it continued to adjust to new personnel, including first-year starting quarterback Kevontez Hudson.
Yonel Rodriquez and Christian Trujillo each had long receptions to set Springfield up for potential scoring chances, but neither drive turned into points. Backup QB Austyn Day also saw action in relief of Hudson.
Springfield’s defense showed signs of life late in the game after an on-field scuffle between the two teams. The Yellow Jackets prevented East Nashville from scoring on the final drive of the contest.
“We came out here tonight looking a little starstruck,” Springfield coach Dustin Wilson said. “It was good stuff, it just took us way too long to get ready. But we ended on a positive note. I think our boys started coming together and rallying around each other a little more (at the end).”
Springfield also scrimmaged Division-II powerhouse CPA last week. Wilson said scheduling difficult scrimmages and non-region games is part of his strategy for getting the team ready to make another playoff run.
“If you want to compete with the best, you’ve got to prepare for the best,” Wilson said. “That’s why we always schedule strong.”
East Nashville is hoping its experienced roster can make a deeper playoff run this season. The Eagles lost second-round playoff games to Pearl Cohn and Fairview in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“I believe this team is capable of taking the next step,” Waite said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of focus. We’ve done an outstanding job of getting to the second round, but now we’ve got to get over that hurdle and really make a push.”