The road to the 2021 season began in earnest this past week as the Tullahoma Wildcats traveled to McMinnville for a seven-on-seven scrimmage with the Warren County Pioneers.

Coming off an undefeated regular season and a run into the quarter-finals of the state playoffs that ended with a 15-14 loss to Tullahoma nemesis Nolensville, the Wildcats return several key starters this season, including starting quarterback Ryan Scott along with an all-star cast of linemen that Head Coach John Olive candidly admits may be the best group of linemen in Wildcat history.

However, the trip to Warren County this past week was all about learning, as they locked horns with the Pioneers, who are coming off their best season in 40 years, finishing with an 8-3 record which included a 17-13 loss in the first round of the state playoffs at Mt. Juliet. This year’s Pioneer squad had the noticeable absence of Class 6A Mister Football Tennessee winner C.J. Taylor, who is doing pre-season work for the Vanderbilt Commodores after inking with the SEC school after his senior year.

“It was a great teaching time,” Olive said, noting the entire scrimmage was videoed, allowing them to go back and use it as a training tool. “Offensively, we’re able to show that if you keep the play going this is where it opens up, or if you’d thrown it a split second faster in this hole.”

The coach admitted that defensively he saw some things that need improvement after watching the film.

“Defensively, we weren’t sprinting to the ball,” Olive said. “We didn’t have everybody going to the ball, and that’s something all defensive coaches want to have happen.”

The seven-on-seven allowed Tullahoma to work four different quarterbacks, as there were scrimmages happening simultaneously on both ends of the field. Unlike a normal football game, there was no tackling, and all plays had to be passes downfield. Players were dressed in helmets and jerseys but where otherwise in shorts, as full contact was forbidden.

While the seven-on-seven was going on at the Pioneer field, the linemen competed in the big man challenge inside the Warren County indoor practice facility. More on the big man challenge will be included in later issues.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats will get another taste of the gridiron today as they head to Shelbyville for a morning workout and then, following lunch, will take part in a jamboree and a tournament where the winner advances and the loser goes home.

The event will likely be the last major event before the required TSSAA dead period, whereby teams are not allowed to work their players for two weeks in early July. The team will come back July 12 and immediately hold a youth camp until July 14 from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The team will also transition from its morning practices to afternoon after the dead period.