STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY ANDY COLLIGNON
A year ago, the Brentwood Bruins had a sophomore quarterback who’d never started a game under center and a green defense with no guarantees as to how they’d mesh.
That young Bruins squad would go on to defy expectations and win the always-tense Region 6-6A, besting archrival Ravenwood in the regular season Battle of the Woods on the road in the process.
The Raptors would ultimately have the last laugh, though, trouncing the Bruins on their own turf in the quarterfinals.
This Brentwood team proved a lot in 2018, but in 2019 gives them more opportunity to grow, and quite a difficult run of games to sharpen the iron on.
That sophomore quarterback is now a junior, with Cade Granzow etching his own history at the position. He’s a dual-sport talent, with a commitment to Auburn baseball already in the books.
But Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford still feels his QB has a lot of room to grow on the gridiron, as evident by the growth he’s already made.
“I think, last year, getting thrust into it, no matter how much you develop him, the jump from 6-A freshman football to 6-A football is quite a jump,” he said of Granzow at a July WCS media event. “We’re a big run-pass option football team.”
Crawford and his coaches checked back into the 2018 season to see that they ran 389 run-pass option plays, which gives the quarterback the autonomy to either throw the football to an open receiver or keep it and become a runner to get yards on the ground.
He said Granzow threw the ball 138 times of his decisions there and had a 79% accuracy on the throws.
“That was something he built confidence in early,” he said. “We hope he can expand his game now and be really concept-oriented in our drop-back game.
“He’s worked hard this summer. I think he’s taking more ownership because he understands it more. He’s been a great energy-giver in the weight room and on the field as well.”
Granzow will be getting his snaps from a new face. Longtime defensive lineman Stone Roston will be transitioning over to the center position primarily this season to replace Chris Moore, now with Birmingham Southern.
Roston says he’s played some center long ago when he was with the Brentwood Blaze youth league, but knows high school presents a whole new world of challenges for the position.
“It’s become such an athletic position,” Crawford said, complimenting Roston’s athleticism to help him find success in the move. He hinted that the recruiters felt Roston would potentially be helped for his post-high school career if he learned the center position.
The offense returns a Power Five recruit receiver in Walker Merrill, two-sport athlete and receiver Clay Hanley and slot receiver Garner Jones. Luke Walters and Scotty Collins will run the ground game as running backs. Karson Dreier will be in the game plan as well at tight end.
On defense, the formerly young squad will have an entire year of growth under their belt and return nine starters.
Standouts like linebacker Xiere Howard, corner John Howse and safety Davis Witt will be back in action, as will guys like defensive lineman Keyshawn Gallon and outside linebacker Jack Wells (who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks last season), among others.
The fall ahead for the Bruins is a tough one, with visits from defending D-II AA state champs Christ Presbyterian Academy (Sept. 27), perennial D-II AAA power Montgomery Bell Academy (season opener, Aug. 23) and East Tennessee D-II AAA heavyweight Knoxville Catholic (Oct. 25) on the home slate.
That’s not to mention the team’s treacherous region schedule. They get Ravenwood at home this year for 2019’s Battle (Sept. 20), but face Franklin (Oct. 18), Centennial (Nov. 1) and Independence (Oct. 4) in away bouts.
They’ll also face Cane Ridge (Aug. 30) and Henry Co. (Sept. 13) away from the friendly confines, making this one of the more difficult maps to navigate for any Williamson County team.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge, but like I tell our guys, they also have to play us,” Crawford said of the slate ahead. “Hopefully we added some challenge to their schedule as well. It should be a fun Friday night at Brentwood High School.”