Prior to the start of the 2012-2013 basketball season, Scott's Jared Laverdiere called his former coach and mentor, Mark Eldridge. He knew the season was going to be a learning process for he and his young and inexperienced basketball team.
"I respect Coach Eldridge a lot," Laverdiere said. "I called him that first day just to talk to him."
Eldridge has Scott County ties — marrying a Huntsville girl (Karen Beaty) and doing a coaching stint at Oneida. Laverdiere played for him at Anderson County High School, where Eldridge spent eight seasons and where Laverdiere was a standout guard, and later coached for him at Maryville before accepting the Scott High job.
Eldridge's advice? "He said some of the best years you coach, you'll go 5-25, because of the things you learn," Laverdiere said. "And some of the worst years you coach, you'll go 25-5."
As fate would have it, Scott went 5-23 in 2012-2013, losing its final 14 games of the season after winning two straight just after Christmas.
And Laverdiere has no doubts: he learned a lot as a coach.
"It was rough," he said of last season. "(But) I think it made me a better coach."
The atmosphere around the Highlander basketball program is a little different this year, as Scott prepares to open the season Tuesday in Clinton. Every day, Laverdiere has his players look at the championship banners on the walls of Highlander Gymnasium before starting practice. The district championship banner has not been added to since 1997. That's when Laverdiere himself was playing Junior Pro ball, and before some of the current SHS players were even born.
Laverdiere says there's no reason Scott can't add to that banner, and he believes his players feel the same way.
"This year we're going to be able to compete and compete at a high level," he said. "Our goal is a district championship and these guys have got it engrained in their mind."
WHEN ONEIDA GOES to Karns Friday to face top-ranked Grace Christian Academy in the second round of the Class 2A state football playoffs, the Indians will encounter one of their former coaches, John Brewster.
Brewster, an Oneida alum, is offensive line coach for the Rams, where he is in his second season after leaving Oneida after the 2011 season. This year's juniors and seniors played for Brewster at Oneida. The Indians won the District 4-A championship in 2009, Brewster's first year as head coach — he spent two seasons on Tony Lambert's staff before Lambert left after the 2008 season to accept a job opening at Anderson County.
This will mark the second time this season that Oneida has played a team with a former Indian head coach on staff. Coalfield head coach Keith Henry was co-head coach from 1999 through 2004 (following a long stint as an OHS assistant), a position he held with current Oneida offensive coordinator Jimmy May.
ONLY A SELECT FEW seasons saw Scott High School lay claim to as much success on the gridiron as this year's Highlander squad, which finished the season 7-4 after a narrow 27-20 loss at heavily favored Elizabethton in Friday's opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Scott won seven regular season games, marking just the seventh time that's happened, and the first time since 1999.
The Highlanders' first two seasons with 7+ wins came in 1979 and 1980. Scott was 8-2 each season. Bill Hall was quarterback on both of those two teams — a sophomore in 1979 and a junior in 1980. Hall also coached the 1999 team, which was the only other Scott team to win eight games, going 8-2 in the regular season and finishing 8-3. Hall, who is currently Scott's director of schools, was not directly involved with this year's team, though his son, Billy, was a freshman on the team.
Scott went 7-3 in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Like 1979 and 1980, those teams were coached by Jack Diggs. The '83 team failed to make the playoffs, but the '84 team won the District 2 championship and advanced to the postseason, finishing the season 7-4. The '85 team did not go to the playoffs.
The 1994 and 2010 Scott High teams also won seven games, but that included a playoff win. The '94 team, coached by Gary Sexton, finished 6-4 in the regular season and advanced to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs before falling to Knox West (22-18). The '10 team, coached by Keith Shannon, finished 6-4 in the regular season and advanced to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs before falling to Gibbs in overtime.