Versatility. Value. Whatever it takes to win.
Combine all those attributes, and you have a sense of Jamonte Graham. The Father Ryan quarterback used all his skills in the Irish’s 19-6 season opening win over Overton on Friday.
Last year, he sprinkled occasional turns at quarterback with time at split end, running back and defensive end. It appears coach Bruce Lussier plans to leave him at quarterback almost exclusively this season – at least on offense. He still plays defensive back and punt returner.
Against Overton, Graham rushed for 65 yards and hit three of four passes for 28 yards. His biggest play of all came in the final quarter when he broke a punt return for a 71-yard touchdown. He also left the contest briefly in the fourth quarter after he rolled his ankle.
“I’m OK, and I’ll be ready next week [vs. Cane Ridge],” Graham, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior, said. “I just try to do whatever I can to help the team win. I’ll play wherever they want me to. I try to make the tough yards. I was able to make a few good runs because of the blocks my linemen threw.
“On the punt return, there was little seam to the left, and I cut through.”
Last year in his multiple roles, Graham rushed for 536 yards and three touchdowns, caught 36 passes for 386 yards and completed 10 throws for 89 yards. On defense, he had 80 tackles, four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, and two sacks.
“Jamonte is getting better each practice, he’s very skilled, and he showed his athletic ability on the punt return,” Lussier, who is starting his eighth year as Irish coach, said.
Graham’s older brother is former Whites Creek and Vanderbilt star Jamie Graham, which finished his college career at UCLA. The two are quite different players.
Jamie was lightning fast, had speed to get to the corner and was an excellent pass defender because he was quick to the ball. Jamonte is a strong, elusive runner who is shifty and very hard to bring down, particularly one-on-one.
• Kicking game in good hands: Ryan’s line of top-notch kickers will be extended, if Friday’s game is any indication.
Luke Strebel kicked field goals of 46 and 37 yards, booted three kickoffs into the end zone and had one punt roll out of bounds at the 6.
He follows a line of stellar Irish kickers like Nick Pollard, a 2009 TSSAA Mr. Football winner and red-shirt sophomore at UT-Chattanooga, and last year’s standout John Arnold, a walk-on at Indiana.
“Both Pollard and Arnold have worked with me and encouraged me,” Strebel said. “It’s just trying to keep calm and relaxed. My holder Paul Stejskal does a great job.
“… I’ve kicked one 48 before, and I feel like I can get one through from 55 or 60 in game like conditions.”
Said Lussier: “He’s worked hard and is turning into a dependable kicker.”
• BGA sparkles: Battle Ground Academy continued its winning ways at the Clinic Bowl Kickoff Classic on Friday when it trounced Smyrna 23-7.
The Wildcats are 4-0 in the contest (formerly the Clinic Bowl, a postseason event) with victories in 1960, 1961 and 2010.
The 1960 and 1961 Ralph Brown coached-teams went a combined 21-1 and were one of the few early non-Nashville teams to be invited. The 1960 game, when BGA defeated Litton 13-0 (the teams were both 10-0), drew a then state high school record of 28,000 fans.
“We were very excited to be invited to be in the Clinic Bowl Classic. It has a long history of tradition and we were honored to be a part of it,” BGA coach Roc Batten said.
Junior Tucker Beathard, the younger brother of last season’s star C.J. Beathard (now at Iowa), made his debut as starting quarterback, passed for 54 yards and rushed for 38.
“Tucker did a nice job of running the offense,” Batten said. He’s been given the opportunity and he’s stepped up. Defensively, we made some key stops.’’
BGA beat Smyrna 29-26 in overtime in Batten’s debut last year.
• McGavock avenged its season-opening loss at home to Tullahoma last year in a big way. The Raiders went on the road and crushed the Wildcats 34-13 Friday as Reginald Batey scored three touchdowns, one on a 59-yard pass from quarterback DeAnthony Patrick. Patrick scored two touchdowns of his own and the Raiders rolled up 388 yards total offense.
• Montgomery Bell Academy might want to try opening the season with Kingsbury every year. The Big Red have outscored the Falcons 93-6 the past two openers, including 51-0 this year. MBA racked up 22 first downs and 383 yards of offense with quarterbacks Dylan Hall and Cole Euverard splitting time.
• Former Hillwood and Whites Creek coach Mose Phillips is currently the head coach at E.A. Cox Middle School in Columbia. He is a former standout back at Hillsboro who played college football at Tennessee.
• Pope John Paul II standout Joshua Phillips has committed to play basketball at Middle Tennessee State. The 6-foot-8 Phillips averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds per game last season.