Tomcat Football – Building Winners

The descriptive words used as examples of success in the sport of football are often like the sport itself – full of weight and force. Words like dynasty, dominance, and champion bring to mind scenes of physically superior individuals or groups of people who have discarded their opponents on a battlefield or an athletic field in such a way that leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind regarding who the best competitor was in that particular event.  

Last week, the Haywood Tomcats won their first round playoff game against Kirby High School by a score of 67-0.  The numbers that were displayed when the clock ticked down to 0:00 were a reflection of what took place in L.Z. Hurley Stadium over the course of an hour and half on the first Friday in November.  But like the sport of football itself, there’s a bigger story to be told than the results of one game.

Since the 2019 season, the Tomcats have compiled a record of 46-7. That’s a winning percentage of .867. To break that down even more, based on this short history, the Tomcats win nine out of every ten times they take the field.  No matter the context of the level or sport being played, a success rate that high is limited to only the top programs in the state of Tennessee.  It’s safe to say that Haywood High School football consistently finds itself in the upper echelon of programs year after year.  

Two weeks ago, the Tomcats defeated Obion County to close their second consecutive undefeated regular season. In fact, the Tomcats have not lost a regular season football game since September of 2020 – that’s more than two years of winning regular season games without a loss.  Moreover, since that loss, the Tomcats have compiled a record of 32-2, winning 94% of the time they play.

This season, the games they played haven’t really been close.  The Tomcats have won by an average of 40 points a game and have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 537-108.  In four games this season (including last week’s first round victory), the Tomcat defense completely shut out their opponents.  That alone is almost unheard of in high school football. 

According to the Tennessee Secondary Athletic Association (TSSAA) rulebook, if the point differential reaches at least 30 points in the second half of a given game, the clock will not stop running except for timeouts or injuries.  This is what is known as the mercy rule and is enacted as a way to keep players safe as well as not letting the score get too far out of hand.  In 10 of the 11 games the Tomcats played this year thus far, the mercy rule has been enacted because the lead was so large in the second half. 

While it’s easy to see the success stories on the field – the points, the yards, the touchdowns, the wins – it’s also easy to overlook the important work being done off the field.

At the end of the First Quarter of the school year, the Haywood Tomcat football team had a collective grade point average of 3.2. In other words, if one were to be taking a letter grade and applying it to the team, the team would have a B average overall.  The GPA speaks to the success in the classroom that is emphasized by the coaching staff of the Tomcats.  

Since the 2019 season, five players from the Tomcat football program will have signed to play at FBS Division 1 colleges including Florida State, Tennessee, and Arkansas.  Many high school programs never have players sign Division 1 scholarships, but Haywood has had five in the last four years.  In fact, only 2% of high school football players ever play Division 1 football. The Tomcats are producing at least one Division 1 player per year.  

Beyond Division 1, however, college football opportunities abound.  Football can be a gateway to future success for a student who may not be able to attend college without the sport.  Over the last four years, over ten Tomcats have played football at the collegiate level not counting the five FBS players.  Like many other post-secondary options at Haywood High School, football is another avenue for success beyond high school.  

Like every season since 2019, the Tomcats are poised to make a deep play-off run.  Tonight, they face South Gibson – the team that handed the Tomcats their last regular season loss two years ago. The game will be intense; the game will be hotly contested.  Last season, it took overtime for the Tomcats to make their way past the Hornets and advance to the next round.  Whatever happens tonight, though, will only be another chapter in a story that’s had the same running theme for the last several years – preparing student-athletes for winning on and off the field.