CHURCH HILL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Just like the rest of the high school football teams in Northeast Tennessee, the Volunteer Falcons are just a week away from opening the 2023 season.

The Church Hill squad took some tough losses a season ago, including two by a single point (19-18 to Cherokee, 21-20 to Sullivan East) to close the season. The program finished with a record of 1-9, but there is optimism about a new group this year.

Head coach Jesse McMillan believes he may end up starting a handful of freshman from the jump, but he’s been pleased with the underclassmen, as a whole.

“They just get after it, man,” he said. “I mean, you know, we got a couple of those guys that are young that are just football players and I mean, they’ve got instincts. It’s very, very hard to teach. I mean, they’ve got those things.”

“They just want to be coached,” he continued. “They just want you to get them better.”

“Well, I think mainly they bring an energy that they don’t have the mentality that Volunteer is just going to get rolled over,” senior defensive end and tight end Grant Winegar explained. “You know, like a lot of groups in the past. So they just they’re willing to win.”

McMillan knows a young team will still come with some growing pains, but a smaller group of seniors is ready to step up and show them the way this season.

“Leadership is very important, especially here in football,” senior safety C.J. Faysier said. “When I was a freshman, I ended up starting at corner and, you know, a lot of the seniors helped me out and showed me a lot of things. And I feel like, you know, just returning the favor, helping them out.”

The Falcons open the season at home against West Ridge on Friday, August 18 at 7 p.m.