Justin Williams is hoping this football season goes a whole lot like the one in 2008, rather than last year’s model.
Davidson Academy’s senior tailback was one of the key members of a Bears’ team that won the DII-A state championship at MTSU two years ago.
After a monster 2,800-yard, 38-touchdown sophomore season by Williams, which propelled the Bears to the crown, the team fell short last year. That was in big part due to his missing most of the season with an ACL knee injury.
As a sophomore, he was named a Mr. Football finalist. On Tuesday, he was accorded the same honor as one of the three finalists.
“Being named a finalist again is a certainly a blessing,” Williams said before practice earlier this week. “But it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates blocking or without the preparation of our coaches.
“As a sophomore, it was a great honor to be one of the finalists. This year, I honestly didn’t even think about Mr. Football – it’s not one of my goals. My main goal is to win state.”
Williams has returned as a senior to again become one of Nashville’s most feared rushers, slashing enemy lines for 1,229 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“The knee is 100 percent,” he said. “I suffered a sprained ankle in our homecoming game, and they held me out the following week. But since then, I’ve been as strong as ever. The 1,200 yards is a result of our O-line blocking so well.”
Following a three-week layoff, Davidson (7-3) hosts Southern Baptist Educational Center (5-5), located outside Memphis, in its playoff opener Friday. It’s something Williams is eagerly awaiting.
Asked about SBEC, he said, “they have quick defense, which seems to get to the ball really well. But we’re preparing well, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Williams is well aware that from this point on, each game could be his last.
“This year and really, ever since my sophomore year, everything went by too fast,” he said wistfully. “I’m going to go into each game and give it everything I’ve got so when it’s over, I know I will have no regrets.”
The Bears certainly should be rested.
“I’m a little concerned that it’ll be three weeks since we’ll have played last (the Bears got a week 10 forfeit over St. Andrews-Sewanee, then an opening-round bye last week),” said coach Bill Alexander.
“Hopefully our timing and being rusty won’t be an issue. On the positive side, it’s given guys like Justin and (tight end/defensive back) Brett Hardaway to heal up,” Alexander said. “Justin is as injury-free as he’s been all season.”
About the award, Alexander said, “we’ve been very fortunate here to have had a number of Mr. Football finalists. I’m very happy for Justin, he’s worked so hard to get back into action. He has such a passion for the game. As he’ll tell you, it’s team award.”
About SBEC, he said, “they are a young team, a lot like us, a few sophomores in the O-line. They are well coached. It will be a big challenge for us.”
• ‘Different’ MBA-Ensworth rematch: Even though they played each other barely two months ago, MBA coach Daniel McGugin said Ensworth will be a different team than the one the Big Red edged 21-14 over Labor Day weekend.
“They had a physical, bludgeoning style of offense, but after they lost Antonio Richardson (who transferred to Pearl-Cohn), they’ve become a little more diversified – although they can still pound the ball,” McGugin said. “They have great athletes everywhere. I believe that from the time we played them earlier that (Ensworth’s) Corn Elder is the most improved player we’ve seen all season. We cannot simulate his speed in practice.”
Elder, a stellar all-around athlete, is one of the DII leaders in punt and kickoff returns and interception return yardage.
An overflow crowd is expected for the game whose winner will advance into the state semifinals.
The teams split last year’s two games, with an 27-24 MBA playoff win in November dousing the top-ranked Tigers championship hopes.
• Morrow signs with Jacksonville: Standout Glencliff High basketball/volleyball star Briana Morrow signed Wednesday to play basketball at Jacksonville (Ala.) State.
“It (Jacksonville) just felt like it was the place I was supposed to be,’’ the 5-11 Morrow, who led the Colts in scoring and rebounding last season, said. “I really felt a sense of closeness to both the coaches and players.”
“I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t start her freshman year,” Glen Falls, who has reassumed coaching the Colts this season, said.
Morrow was recruited by UT-Chattanooga, LMU, UT-Martin and Memphis before she decided on the Gamecocks. Foregoing volleyball, she will concentrate on basketball.
Last year’s teammate and close friend Audrehona (Cupcake) Mingo is a freshman at Lemoyne-Owen where she signed last spring to play volleyball.
• DCA’s Hickman to Belmont: Star Donelson Christian Academy senior catcher Neil Hickman will sign with Belmont on Monday morning. Hickman, 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, batted .491, with 10 home runs last season as he helped the Wildcats reach the state DII final four. A three-year letterman, Hickman made the TBCA all-state team last year and all-district three straight years.
• Middle School Championship game Thursday: J.T. Moore will battle Donelson Thursday at 5:15 p.m. in the Nashville Metro Middle School championship game at Hillsboro High.
Playoffs, second round
Franklin at Blackman
Mt. Juliet at Smyrna
Red Bank at Maplewood
Lipscomb at Giles County
Sequatchie County at Goodpasture
Pearl-Cohn at Smith County
Nashville Christian at Wayne County
BGA at Memphis CBHS
MBA at Ensworth
Brentwood Academy at MUS
FRA at St. George’s
SBEC at Davidson Academy