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Red Devils poised to haunt the competition

Photo by Kevin Lewter 
Germantown coaches expect big things from senior Jaylin Williams this season. Already the No. 1 cornerback prospect in Tennessee, he is expected to play on both sides of the field this year.

By Bill Sorrell

With a desire to return to the time when district and state championships were commonplace, Germantown football team’s theme this year is “Uncommon.”
“We want to be uncommon in everything we do. We feel like anybody can show up late to practice. Anybody can not make good grades. Anybody can be negative. People who are uncommon will go the extra mile. We feel like uncommon people will be successful in life. We want to be uncommon every day, in games, in the weight room. The uncommon way is the hard way. Taking the path of least resistance is common. We want to do the opposite. We want to be a little bit tougher, a little bit sharper. A lot of areas we came up just short,” said Germantown Head Football coach Chris Smith.
Coming up short included not converting fourth-and-one in big games last season. The Red Devils were tied 14-14 with state champion Whitehaven and twice could not get a first down on fourth-and-one.
They led Cordova in the fourth quarter before losing, again falling short on fourth down.
“I think once you get some wins under your belt and get on a roll, the program flips and good things start to happen. We have been so close to turning the corner. Whenever you get close you hit a big road block, you go play Whitehaven, not a good one to try to turn the corner on,” said Smith.
Germantown finished 3-8 last season.

Germantown-Varsity-Team

“A lot of people think that Germantown is not that good,” said junior quarterback Ethan Payne. “I think Germantown is one of the best programs in Memphis. I think we can prove that we are. We will probably beat whoever we want to beat.”
Calling Payne one of the most improved players, Smith said, “Ethan has been a great surprise. He can throw and get out quick. He has a big arm and has gotten a lot better. When I got him as a freshman, I would say he was 5-6, 120 pounds. He is 6-2, 200 heading into his junior year. I have been around him so much but I noticed he was growing taller and getting thicker, adding muscle. It’s been impressive.”
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Jaylin Williams said, “Ethan has one of the best arms in the state of Tennessee.”
A relief pitcher, Payne’s fastball topped 88 miles per hour with his curve ball at 72 mph and slider at 76 mph as a sophomore on the Red Devils’ baseball team this past spring. Also an infielder, his batting average was .415. He has committed to play baseball at The University of Tennessee.
“He has a lot of different talents in a lot of different spots,” Smith said of Payne’s baseball ability. “He is very versatile and, from what I hear, very explosive.”
Smith hopes the shotgun spread offense will allow Payne to be explosive.
“We are a lot more balanced than we have been throwing,” he said. “We have play-action screens, quick gains. We can throw it deep sometimes. I think we are more diverse than we have been.
“Germantown has been wishbone for over 30 years,” he added. “Now you convert to spread and catch the ball, the timing is different. You have to be extra good on timing and protecting the football.”
Smith said his staff is trying to “impose a new mentality going to spread from wishbone.”
“It’s always a risk when you run the spread,” he said, alluding to the spread’s pace, assignments, footwork and eye discipline.
Payne is up to the challenge.
“It’s exciting. It makes me push even harder in practice because I know a lot more people are counting on me,” he said.
At wide receiver is Cameron Baker, a junior, who has been a two-year starter.
“He has improved tremendously,” said Smith.
At offensive right tackle is Max Martini, a 6-6, 290-pound senior who has a scholarship offer from Toledo.
Ted Lyons, a senior who is a three-year starter, is a three-back (tight end/fullback) and linebacker.
“He is quick on his reads and can make some good open-field tackles,” Smith said.
A key addition to the offense is junior lineman Henry Castillo.
“He is going to be a good one,” said Smith.
On defense, Smith is seeing players “flying around” to the football and playing aggressively. Germantown will have a multiple base 3-4 defense with “a lot of blitzing and rolling coverage.”
Williams who will continue to go both ways. With 19 Football Bowl Subdivision offers, Williams committed to Indiana University.
Last season, Williams (5-11, 170) had 36 catches for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns. He made 70 tackles, had three interceptions, two forced fumbles and was first team offense in Region 8-6A and second team defense.
“We have the fastest kid in the state of Tennessee,” said Payne.
Williams runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
“I have been blessed. God gave me the ability and I am using what He gave me,” said Williams.
Tyler Collins, a junior, is outside linebacker.
“He played a lot last year,” said Smith.
Jalon Greer, a junior, is at cornerback and wide receiver. “He is really a talented player. I think he is going to have a lot of college potential. He is similar to Jaylin Williams.”
Another defensive leader is Devin Wright, a 6-2, 240-pound senior end.
“He has had a really good off-season, He is really strong and physical off the ball. He can do multiple things,” said Smith.
Germantown has 31 seniors, 16 with experience.
Marshall Ware, a junior who has kicked since he was a freshman, will take care of those duties.
“When you play in our league, you have to have good depth,” said Smith. “Not just good ones, good twos, good threes. You never know when somebody is going to go down.”
All four Region 8-6A teams, Whitehaven, Central, White Station and the Red Devils, will make the playoffs.
Key losses from last season were Brandon Lloyd, now playing at Henderson State), Cameron Tewari (Hutchinson, Kansas, Community College), Trey Goins (Tennessee State), Anterrious Branch (Southern Arkansas), Devin Banks (Arkansas Baptist), Trevor Herman (Central Arkansas).
“In two years we have had 15 guys playing college football. I am expecting six to eight more from the senior class and 10 from the junior class,” said Smith. “They see a lot of the 2015 guys who are playing college football. They come back and work out with them in the summer and it inspires a lot of the younger guys.”
This is Smith’s third season.
“The third year is always a big year for the program, for the culture,” he said. “Expectations are higher. Now that the dust has settled, I think these guys are ready. They believe. We have done it the right way. We have a much tighter group now than we have ever been.”
Williams said a strength is the team’s bond.
“Everybody bought in. Last year, I don’t think everybody did. This year everybody is going to be a team, we all have good chemistry.”
The players have shown resiliency and stayed the course, according Smith.
“Today is a microwave society. Everybody wants instant results. The oven takes longer but it may taste better. Our kids had some tough moments here and we fought and proved we could play with some of the best in the state. On Senior Night, they beat Arlington, outgained them, stopped one of the best offenses in the city. To go out winners on their home field despite the whole season injuries, back luck, we were impressed with that.”
A member of Trinity Baptist Church, Payne’s faith factors into his game. He uses his favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:13 as inspiration, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“I keep it right here,” said Payne, pointing to his heart and head.
“When I get down on myself or when teammates get down, I just look up and say, ‘I need some help’ and I feel a lot better afterward. I have somebody to talk to and I know He is there.”
Williams is inspired by his grandmother Christine Williams. His uncle Jimmy Williams is a pastor. His favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
“She is a good, Christian lady. She prays for me every day and instills faith in God,” he said. “Faith has been a big thing in my life. I pray that God will get me through. This is going to be a good year, a break-out year.”