By Sam McGaw
Christ Presbyterian Academy has been nothing short of dominant over the past six seasons under head coach Ingle Martin.
Since taking over the program in 2011, Martin has amassed a 67-7 record and led the Lions to three consecutive Class 3A state championship appearances, winning the title in 2014.
CPA finished last season with a 13-2 record after suffering 20-0 loss against Alcoa in the Class 3A state title game.
With only three returning starters from last year’s squad, Martin’s coaching prowess will be put to the test.
While there’s inexperience on both sides of the ball, Martin believes his team’s senior leadership is more than capable of pushing it to its fourth straight title game.
The first order of business for CPA is to find a replacement for two-time all-state quarterback and last year’s Class 3A Mr. Football finalist Zack Weatherly (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga).
Weatherly, who was a three-year starter for the Lions, was a Mr. Football finalist last season after he recorded 2,196 passing yards, 310 rushing yards, 32 total touchdowns (8 rush) and six interceptions.
Senior Devin McKnight and sophomores Ryan Eledge and Kane Patterson are battling to take the reins behind center in the up-tempo attack.
Their top weapons at wide receiver will be seniors Andrew Howard and Grey McCullough and juniors Jackson Lewis and Coleman Smith.
Howard, a returning starter, caught 11 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown last season.
Seniors Brad Smith, Drew Scott and James Deaton are in line to receive a bulk of the reps at running back.
Deaton brings the most experience to the backfield after carrying the ball 58 times for 270 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Smith is making the transition to the backfield after starting on the offensive line a year ago.
Up front, senior Rooke Young is a returning starter at center. Joining him in the trenches is senior Will Peters and juniors Joe More and Henry Proctor.
Young, Brad Smith and Howard are the lone returning starters to a CPA defense that allowed 14.93 points per game last fall.
Young (27 tkls, 1 FR) anchors the 3-4 unit at nose guard, while Smith (44 tkls, 1 sack) will play defensive end.
Peters, More and Proctor are also expected to make an impact up front.
Deaton (42 tkls), Scott, Kane Patterson, Bryce McCormick, Land Teller and Jack Edgil will all see time at linebacker.
Howard, McCullough, Coleman Smith and Lewis make up the secondary.
CPA’s schedule isn’t for the faint of heart.
It opens the season on Aug. 20 with a road contest against Parkview (GA) in the Tennessee/Georgia Border Wars.
That following Friday, it takes on defending Class 4A state champion Knoxville Catholic (11-4 in 2015) at Vanderbilt University.
After their first Region 5-3A matchup against White House-Heritage on Sept. 2, the Lions will visit Class 4A runner-up Pearl Cohn (10-5 in 2015) on Sept. 9 and host Division II-AA powerhouse Ensworth (5-7 in 2015) on Sept. 23.
They close their season with five straight region matchups, beginning with a home contest against Stratford on Sept. 30.
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