PICTURED: Nolensville QB Brandon Wharton II
By SAM McGAW
The Nolensville Knights are ready to turn their game up a notch.
The second-year program makes the transition to the varsity level this season after spending its inaugural year battling junior varsity teams. With a squad that doesn’t feature a senior class, the Knights have worked throughout the offseason to offset any challenges they may endure with their youth.
“The speed of the game is more than likely going to be the big difference [at the varsity level],” Nolensville head coach Will Hester said at Williamson County Schools Media Day. “We saw it last year, which is why we’ve been competing against the Brentwood Highs, Brentwood Academies and Independences of the world in 7-on-7. That’s why we invited all the teams we did to our 7-on-7, just so we can start getting a little taste of the speed of the game.”
The Knights went 8-0 in junior varsity matchups and 0-1 against South Gibson’s varsity squad last fall.
While the 42-7 loss against South Gibson wasn’t ideal, it gave Nolensville a glimpse of what to expect this season.
“We took one on the chin that night,” Hester said. “We learned what it’s like to play varsity football.”
Prior to his arrival at Nolensville in 2016, Hester spent three seasons as Ravenwood’s head coach. He guided the Raptors to a Class 6A runner-up finish in 2014 and a state title in 2015. He went 38-4 during his tenure.
One of the keys to Ravenwood’s success over that time was Hester’s up-tempo, spread attack on offense. The unit averaged at least 36 points per game in each of his three seasons.
Hester brings his high-powered approach to Nolensville, and he has the ideal quarterback to direct it in junior Brandon Wharton II.
Wharton II is a dual-threat that has received interest from a handful of FBS college.
Colton Dooley, who split reps with Wharton at QB last season, will start at running back.
Wesley Jones, Zach Campbell and Tim Stayskal have been working at receiver, while Bryson Chambers is playing H-back.
Wes Miller is a key cog on the offensive line.
“He’s a physical presence and a great leader in the locker room,” Hester said. “It’s like having another coach in the locker room, the way he holds these guys to a high standard.”
The Knights will also lean on Miller at linebacker and Jack McWilliams at safety in their 3-4 defense.
“Jack McWilliams is the quarterback of our defense,” Hester stated. “Jack makes all the calls and gets us lined up. He’s a smart guy.”
While Nolensville will have to battle its youth this year, it doesn’t mean its players will be heavily used on both sides of the ball.
“In a perfect world, we’d have 22 starters,” Hester said. “I personally think it makes your team stronger to have as many guys starting as possible. But when you’re playing August 18th…it’s going to be warm. And when you’re starting a bunch of kids both ways — I don’t care how young they are or how old they are — the fatigue, dehydration and cramping is all going to be a possibility. We’re going to do everything we can to build depth.”
Nolensville will compete in Region 4-4A. The league includes Lawrence County, Maplewood, Marshall County, Spring Hill and Tullahoma.
“We’re excited about what this season holds,” Hester said. “Obviously, we’ve got the state semifinalists from last year in 4A in Marshall County, so things aren’t going to be easy. We also have Spring Hill, which has two dynamic players who receive a lot of attention, nationally.”
The Knights open the season at home against Fayetteville on Aug. 18. Their other out-of-region opponents are Page, Summit, Brentwood and Lincoln County.
Sam McGaw is the sports editor for Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page, Nolensville Home Page and Spring Hill Home Page. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGaw_ .