Nolensville High and coach Will Hester are starting a football program from scratch.
Or, to be technically correct, almost from scratch.
Nolensville played one varsity game last year, and that was a 42-7 loss to South Gibson. When you’re playing with nothing but freshmen and sophomores, those things happen.
So, things are a bit easier in 2017. Twenty-four juniors comprise the Knights’ 48-man roster.
But this year, there are still no seniors. Hester chooses to see the positives in the situation, anyway.
“We’re just trying to create culture, but that’s what’s fun about it. You have an opportunity to build something from scratch, and you don’t have to change any preconceived ideas. You get to change all those expectations,” Hester said.
And, there was Nolensville’s performance in last week’s 24-minute scrimmage against Centennial, which ended in a 14-all tie.
“We held our own. It was a practice, it is what it is, let’s not call it anything different,” Hester said. “Our guys went out, they executed at a high level at times, they made some mistakes at time, and we were able to get it on film, maybe get some of those Friday night jitters out of the way.”
Wharton leads the way on offense
Hester describes his offensive sets as “multiple.”
He has a potentially special talent to build around that offense around. That’s 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Brandon Wharton II, who’s received some recruiting attention from Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Wharton has always been athletic, but he’s a much more polished passer this year.
“He’s worked really, really hard in the offseason on his mechanics and throwing the football,” Hester said. “He has a talented group of receivers that we’ve got to get the ball to.”
Hester singled out junior receiver Wesley Jones, slot receiver Zach Campbell and H-back Tim Stayskal as the best of the receivers. Stayskal missed the scrimmage due to being “banged up,” Hester said.
Colton Dooley will be the primary tailback. He had a score in the scrimmage.
“He’s a very hard, physical runner,” Hester said.
McWilliams leads young defense
The Knights will run what Hester terms “a slant-and-angle, 3-4 defense.”
Junior safety Jack McWilliams leads that defense.
“He’s the quarterback of our defense. He’s going to get us lined up and make all the calls, get us in the right position.”
Also watch inside linebacker Wesley Miller and outside ‘backers Sam Chapman and C.J. Ware to be factors.
Defensive line will be by committee, and Hester considers that a strength.
How do you set goals for a team playing its first full season?
“I think you be realistic,” Hester says. “I think you’d be remiss if (your goal) isn’t to win a championship. If that’s not a goal, why tee it up?
“But you’ve got to be realistic. It would be a successful season for us to find our way into the playoffs, and then that second season, come what may. It’s one game at a time, and you’ve got a chance to do whatever.
“We’re just trying to find our way into a chance to make the playoffs, and see what happens after that.”
Hester knows what the challenges are.
“The main thing is, you don’t have the leadership of those guys who have been there and done that,” he says. “These guys played JV last year, so they’ve not had the grind of a 10-game varsity season and what comes with that.
“Our non-district schedule is very difficult, playing a lot of schools that are bigger than us. So, it’s going to be interesting to see how we respond to those situations.”
The Knights looked more competitive than they should have during last week’s scrimmage. That, combined with Hester’s track record—he was 38-4 at Ravenwood, and won a state title in his last year there—bode quite well for Nolensville’s future.