NEWPORT—Kick off for the 2019 high school football season is just over a week away, and the Cocke County High Fighting Cocks are making the most of the lead-up to the season opener.

CCHS hosted CAK in its second preseason scrimmage of fall camp to cap last week, as the Big Red continues to make strides in their preparation for the upcoming campaign.

“We had flashes of some good things in the scrimmage,” CCHS coach Scotty Dykes said. “Still felt our effort was lacking at times, because I feel like we’re better up front than what we showed. A weekend to watch film should be a big help to us.”

Offensively, Cocke County’s ground game continued to impress with Lundon Shelton and Roman Stewart touting most of the carries. However, it was the passing game that was the most significant improvement from the first scrimmage at Sevier County.

“We have to be dominant when he have a size advantage up front,” Dykes said. “When we’re going in the right direction and going 100 miles per hour we’re pretty good up front. We have to be sure we’re doing it every play and make sure we’re executing the way we need to in order to sustain that advantage.”

Senior quarterback Tyler Venerable has made great strides over the offseason as he prepares to lead Cocke County’s offense this season.

Venerable has always possessed a playmaking ability with his feet, but his progression as a passer to help take pressure off the run game is what will be most significant for the CCHS offense on Friday nights in the fall.

“Tyler’s going to be okay,” Dykes said. “He’s been studying and getting a lot of extra reps. We’ve got receivers that are more than capable of making plays. Now it’s up to us to put ourselves in a position to do that.”

Defensively, under new leadership from first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Howard, Cocke County is also making progress as the August 23 season opener inches closer.

Up front the Fighting Cocks are solid with defensive ends Cole Gonzalez and Stiles Moore getting tremendous effort off the edge. Moore, the Western Michigan commit that transferred in from Knox Catholic, has brought with him a great amount of energy that’s elevated the play of everyone on the defensive side of the ball this preseason.

“I thought we had good intensity on defense,” Dykes said. “I think the scrimmages today and at Sevier County will set us up well for what we’ll see at Campbell County on week one.

“Stiles Moore has been a big boost to us. You don’t have guys like that come around that often. Just the addition of him has sparked our defensive line, as he’s raised the expectations and intensity of all those guys.”

Cocke County’s defensive line forced a number of disruptions in Friday’s scrimmage with CAK, but Howard is still looking for more out of his unit, particularly on the back end.

“The secondary is coming along, learning and getting better every day,” Howard said. “We’ve had some setbacks, but they know we’re going to continue to get better.”

With two scrimmages in the books, CCHS will travel for its final preseason meeting with a trip to Heritage High School on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Fighting Cocks will wrap up the the preseason at the annual IMAC Jamboree held at Morristown East High School before opening the season at Campbell County.

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