Austin-East coach Jeff Phillips faces a stiff challenge in the 2019 football season.
He’s seen a decline in roster numbers over the past couple years, and it was never more apparent than during spring practices May 6-24.
Phillips had 23 players taking part in spring practices.
“Honestly it was kind of rough,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of numbers. It was a little rough not having a ton of guys to do a lot of stuff, but we tried to do the best we could do with it.”
Austin-East had 20 seniors on the 2018 team that finished 9-4 after a 24-6 loss to eventual state champion Alcoa (15-0) in the Class 3A state quarterfinals. They were 5-1 in Region 2-3A with a 31-8 loss to Alcoa.
The Roadrunners went 10-3 in 2017 with two losses to Alcoa – one during the regular season and another in the state quarterfinals. When they were in Class 2A in 2016, the Roadrunners finished 12-2 after a loss at Marion County in the state semifinals.
Phillips said his program had 55 seniors combined during the past three seasons, but his freshmen classes haven’t come near replacing them.
“We get freshmen come in, but unfortunately at Austin-East we just never know what freshmen we’re going to get,” Phillips said. “Like we don’t have a commitment like other schools have, where they’re going to get these freshmen. We’ve got kids that are still talking about choosing between Austin-East and Powell or Austin-East and Central or Fulton and all those schools. We never truly know.”
Phillips knows of six incoming freshmen who will be on his roster this fall. There may be more, but not near enough to get the roster where Phillips wants it.
“We’re about 33 kids off from where we really would like to be as far as getting the kids back in to play,” Phillips said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Austin-East faces a demanding non-region schedule starting with its Aug. 23 opener at Webb.
The Roadrunners also play non-region games against Fulton, Greeneville, and Chattanooga Brainerd.
“We’ve got a pretty brutal schedule this year,” Phillips said.
As they prepare for it, here are some takeaways from the Roadrunners’ spring practices:subscribe to read full article