SODDY-DAISY, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Justin Barnes picked his team to finish last in the District 5-AAA preseason coaches poll last month.
"Until we prove something, that's where we belong," the first-year coach said at the league's media day.
Well, the Trojans' new boss has his team in position to prove something.
Upstart Soddy-Daisy will put its 2-0 record on the line when it opens district play against rival Ooltewah in this week's Friday Night Football Game of the Week.
The Trojans finished 2-8 in 2012 and decided to part ways with head coach Kevin Orr, opening the door for Barnes, a former Red Bank and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga quarterback, to return to the area.
In two weeks, Soddy-Daisy has already matched its entire win total from last year.
"It's more just the mentality, but we still have a lot to prove," said Barnes. "I told them Ooltewah doesn't care that they're 2-0, and really, I don't either. I'm just trying to get them focused on getting that next win."
Under his direction, Soddy-Daisy opened the season with an 25-7 upset of District 6-AA favorite Hixson before following it with a 21-7 win over arch rival Red Bank last Thursday. However, the Trojans have had to overcome several mistakes in each game.
"We may not be the most athletic or the biggest or the fastest, but we are definitely a team with the biggest heart," said linebacker Austin Goins. "We overcame adversity in both the Hixson and Red Bank games, and I think we'll be able to do it in any other game, too."
Barnes will see a very familiar face on the opposite sideline in fellow first-year coach Mac Bryan, who took over the Owls over the winter. Bryan was on the coaching staff at UTC when Barnes was the quarterback, and has been a great resource for Barnes while the young coach tries to rebuild the Trojans.
Bryan's Owls (1-1) have had little trouble scoring in their first two games, piling up 42 points in a Week 0 rout of Brainerd before putting up 47 in last week's 11-point loss to Siegel.
Running back Desmond Pittman has been the workhorse with 337 yards rushing through the first two weeks, but the Owls have proven capable of scoring from all areas of the field in all facets of the game.
"(Desmond) has had a really good start to the year with 220 yards or so against Siegel last week, but we had about 615 yards total as an offense on about 89 plays, so we were moving it around pretty good," Bryan said.
The problem with those impressive offensive numbers is they may have factored in some concerning defensive numbers. The Owls gave up 58 points in the loss to the stars, though Bryan notes his unit played better than the stats.
"They hit two hail mary-type passes and we had a botched punt snap on our own end, so that certainly played into it," Bryan said. "I really think our defense is going to play well. We still have some young people on that back end, but they are talented and they will play better."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at Soddy-Daisy's newly-dedicated Robert Talaska Field. Paul Shahen and Jordan Tippit will have live coverage on Channel 3's Friday Night Football starting at 11:10 p.m. ET.
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