Winning a state championship at one Williamson County school wasn’t enough for Will Hester.
Building a program from the ground up and winning one is an even more exciting challenge for him.
The head football coach at the new Nolensville high school has hit the ground running with his first team this fall, comprised only of freshmen and sophomores from the school of just over 400 students. The Knights will play a junior varsity schedule with only one official varsity game.
“We’ve got a good mixture of kids who are experienced and others who are trying (football) out for the first time,” he said. “The best part of it is getting to build the culture from the ground up; getting to make it exactly what you want from the beginning.”
Offensively the Knights will be led by sophomore quarterbacks Colton Dooley and Brandon Wharton, both of whom transferred over from Ravenwood, where Hester coached a year ago. Both will see action, Hester said, and both will have a large role in the offense, both running and throwing.
“They’re both physical runners, and that’s a big part of what we do offensively,” he said.
Since Hester will employ basically the same system he used at Ravenwood, the makeup on offense will see a lot of different faces touching the football on any given play.
Carrying the football the majority of the time will be sophomore Jy’Don Greene, while Brandt Hopper and Grant Stockmaster, a sophomore and freshman respectively, will back him up, along with sophomore Tyler Hammonds.
Ex-Riverdale and Hillsboro coach Ron Aydelott joins the Nolensville staff this fall and will add his experience with the Wing-T offense to what the Knights do offensively, Hester said.
Split out wide will be sophomores Wesley Jones, Zach McWilliams and Connor Kerr, along with freshman Tim Coutras. Those four will get the majority of passes thrown their way, but others will rotate in as well.
Up front on the offensive line will be a host of options, led by center Holden Collett, tackles Wesley Miller and Samuel Chapman and guards Nick Yoshihara and Gabe Bauman, all sophomores. Freshman Will Sparks and sophomore Josh Poston also will see action on the line for the Knights.
“That group is still a work in progress,” Hester said. “You can’t rush the chemistry of the group. You’re always trying to tweak it and see if you can make it better.”
With just over 50 players on the roster, several will see two-way action this fall. Chapman, Yoshihara and Bauman will turn around and play on the defensive line, along with freshmen Brayden Clark and Jordan Walker.
At inside linebacker will be Miller, Stockmaster and sophomores Grayson Wallace and Connor Rigsby, while Dooley and Tim Stayskill will anchor the outside with freshmen Bryson Chambers and Ryan Pistulka.
In the defensive secondary will be sophomores Luis Abud and Justin Le at the corner spots, while Coutras and freshman Manny Scott will rotate in there as well, Hester said.
At safety for Nolensville will be Jones, McWilliams, sophomore Colby Anderson and freshman Aidan Young.
Two players will share specialist duties for the Knights, with sophomore Ethan Shanklin and freshman Luke Jenkins handling both punting and place kicking. Scott, Coutras, Kerr and Jones will return kicks.
“We don’t truly yet understand what it’s gonna be like to build this thing,” Hester said. “We haven’t faced any adversity along the way. There’s gonna be growing pains along the way. The unknowns are more of the challenge than the knowns at this point.”