By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Last time the Cardinals were on the gridiron, the Brighton players were walking off the field in Hendersonville after a 21-3 defeat courtesy of Beech.
Despite the disappointment in the moment, the Cardinal players and coaches just accomplished the best season in school history by reaching the Class 5A State Semifinals. The 2017 Brighton team racked up several awards and titles like the Region 8-5A championship and the most college signees.
Those players, like All-State Aaron Alston and Lance West, have moved on and Head Coach Robin Jacobs has the challenge of defining the Region title and trying to better last season with some new faces.
Upperclassmen like Bailey Howard, Nick Johnson and Robert Latiner are ready to step up and lead the 2018 Cardinals to success.
“There is a whole lot of pressure,” Latiner acknowledged. “They’re big shoes to fill. We do have some big shoes to fill but we have to come out and compete and just play our best.
“You just come out and play your best and hope to end up on top,” he added. “We’re going to come out and give it our all.”
Howard said that starts with line play. Brighton graduated most of its defensive and offensive lines with players like Jordan John, DJ Barker, Spencer Cartwright and Cameron John playing on Saturdays now.
“We have whole new lines — offensively and defensively,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to get ready and try to come out on top. We have to reload.
“Our mindset isn’t who has the most tackles or who has the most sacks,” he continued. “It’s about coming out to do your job and do your thing. Try to come out on top. It’s not about you, it’s about the team coming out on top.”
Howard hopes to be a force on defense alongside his teammates taking on a tough schedule featuring Houston, Dyersburg and Covington. Then in league play, the Cardinals have the task of stopping offensives like Southwind, Ridgeway, Kirby, Bolton and Munford.
“You can’t come out thinking you’re going to get them because they’re going to be bigger, stronger,” Howard said. “You have to come out with the right mindset of if you do your job, you’ll come out on top.”
For Brighton to come out on top in 2017, the offense had to produce a lot of points.
Signal caller Malik Jackson was the primary guy behind center. Now junior quarterback Johnson will be the man in charge of the Cardinal offense.
“We’ve just got to try to be our own,” he said. “Yes we do have some big shoes to fill. But we’ve got to be our own player. We can’t try to be like Cam, Jordan, Malik or any of them. We have to come out and play our own game.
“I’m more of a pocket pass than Malik was,” Johnson added. “I will try to be more calm under pressure. I’m going to try to do what our coaches ask me to do in practice to get the game plan done.”
Johnson said he has full faith in the Cardinal defense having a better season. But he said the offense should expect to surpass the levels of the 2017 squad in order to have another shot of advancing pass the State Semifinals.
“We’re going to try to score every time,” he concluded. “That’s going to be our goal. If you’re not trying to go out there and score every time, then why are you out there? Our goal is to score every drive and I think a lot of those drives we will.”