The Catholic Rams defeated Dayton City 36-6 to complete a “perfect” season, finishing 11-0. It was the Rams first undefeated season in a half-century, the last coming in 1966 under legendary coach Don Waters.
Catholic is a middle school program with players from Our Lady of Perpetual Help of East Ridge (“OLPH”) and St. Jude of Hixson. Following the contest, Catholic coaches told the team that to go undefeated takes three things – – “a tough and talented group that puts team first, an incredible amount of hard work and discipline, and good fortune.”
OLPH has one of the richest football traditions of any middle school in Tennessee. The program dates back to 1948. In the 67 years since, OLPH has a winning percentage of over 73% and has claimed 24 championships. The Rams refer to their past as a “tradition of excellence.” The Rams have 17 one-loss seasons since 1966, which makes the undefeated campaign all the more special.
The Dayton victory was like many this year, with Dallas Brown leading the way. Brown ran for a 24-yard score, completed a 54-yard touchdown pass to Sean Collyer for another, and then scored on a 54-yard reception from C.J. Petrin. Catholic’s Dilon Farmer and Reeve Mullinax had rushing TD’s in the contest. Jason Oliver added a successful conversion. Tucker Berry and Brendan Greene scored a safety when the duo tackled a Dayton runner in the end-zone.
The Catholic coaches stressed that football is the ultimate team sport, and the undefeated season was a total team effort. Brown, the team captain, had an incredible season, finishing with over 2,000 yards of offense and 24 touchdowns.
“Dallas is one of the best players this area has seen” stated Catholic coach Billy Dearing. “However, to win every game, we needed several others to step up and play tough – – and many answered the call, especially Brendan Greene, Reeve Mullinax, Maverick Tucker and Ben Bambrey among others – – this was a team accomplishment, and each player should be proud.”
Coach Bucky Dearing spoke of the many long practices and hard work the players sacrificed during the season.
“These young men are to be commended for their effort,” Bucky Dearing said. “Our practices are not easy. Winning is nice, but for us the focus isn’t on winning or losing, it is competing at your best, and playing focused, fundamental football – – that is the goal.”
Coach Bucky gave accolades to his brother for a few “tweaks” during the season. “Early on there was a desire to enhance the players’ bonding beyond the playing field, so a bowling outing was put together,” he said. “Later in the season, the coaches sensed a few players were a little too interested in their own exploits and playing time, so the coaches arranged a ‘service’ where the focus was on doing for others, not just oneself.
The team emerged all the stronger after the outings according to Coach Bucky. “X’s and O’s are vital, but having strong team camaraderie is what separates championship teams from others,” he said.
Catholic enjoyed a high flying offense and a stingy defense. Offensive line coach Matt Madron was impressed with the line play “the execution and effort exerted by the line allowed plenty of openings – – Berry, Cooling, Farmer and the whole line played well. We also had a good passing game, River (Stump) and Sean both displayed great hands.”
On the defensive side Catholic relied on solid tackling. “We go through tackling drills every single practice. We are 100% committed to having each player be a good tackler,” provided defensive Coach Billy. It’s gratifying when small guys like Michael Howard and Eric Lindsey step up with big tackles and great confidence. In eleven contests, the Rams starting defense gave up only 5 touchdowns. The Rams have two starting linebackers returning next season (Andy McGann and Bennett Brinson).
The coaches point to victories over Boyd Buchanan and Silverdale as highlights of the season.
“Boyd’s program is second to none,” noted Coach Bucky. “To win against them is impressive. Great players play big in big games – – Dallas had over 360 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns against Boyd.”
The Silverdale game was an instant classic. Two tough, physical teams duked it out – – with the final series being played in virtual darkness. The Rams took a 14-8 lead with just 1:32 left. Silverdale’s last drive had everyone on the edge of their seats – – in a little over a minute Silverdale drove from their own end of the field to Catholic’s 10 yard line.
“Following a Silverdale timeout, we decided our best bet was to blitz Dallas, while spreading our D-line to the left – – it worked as the Silverdale QB rolled right to avoid the blitz – – into the charging arms of Tucker and Greene. It was a well-played game, a shame either team had to lose,” Coach Bucky said.
The Rams have four previous undefeated seasons, the first in 1949 (2-0-1). The 2015 Rams can add their year to the short list.
Coach Billy concluded “we will remember this team and season for a long time. We were blessed with a great group of players, parents and supportive schools.”
Perhaps the best summation of the season was provided by defensive end Bradley Summitt, Catholic’s emotional leader. “Our team has worked hard since May to get to this point. We were always motivated and ready to play. Sad to see the season end, but so glad to have been a part,” Summitt said.
Story by _ L. Scott