Chip Bilderback and Chuck Robertson were once fellow assistant coaches and remain good friends these days.
Friday night, the two will lead their respective undefeated high school teams onto the football field ion New Augusta for a Class 2A showdown.
“We both coached together at Jones (County Junior College), and we’ve had a good time with it this week,” said Robertson, Taylorsville High School’s head coach. “We’ve given each other a hard time with it, going back and forth on the phones.
“When we scheduled it, we both thought we’d have a chance to be pretty good. But there’s no way we thought we’d both be 5-0."
But that’s exactly the mark that Robertson’s Tartars and Bilderback’s Perry Central High School Bulldogs both carry into this evening’s game.
“It is unusual, both of us unbeaten, but they’re a very good football team,” Bilderback said. “They’ve got a kid playing, a freshman quarterback, but he doesn’t play like a freshman.”
No, he hasn’t.
Ty Keyes, who last year as an eighth grader played point guard on Taylorsville’s basketball team and in the outfield for its baseball team, has thrown for 1,335 yards and 10 touchdowns, completing 70 of 114 passes.
Keyes, who also has rushed for 186 yards and four scores on just 14 carries, has averaged 19.1 yards per completion and 267 yards passing a game.
Two receivers, senior Malik Strickland and junior Letreal Jones, are averaging more than 25 yards a catch. Strickland has hauled in 13 passes for 395 yards (30.4 yards per reception) and a team-high five touchdowns, while Jones has 11 catches for 302 yards (27.5 yards) and two scores.
Senior Perry Keyes leads the team with 25 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown, while junior Raven Arrington has eight catches for 113 yards and a score.
“They have four explosive receivers, and you put that with a quarterback with a live arm, and you’ve got the potential for big plays,” Bilderback said. “It’s going to be some kind of test for us, for sure.”
The Bulldogs have passed every test faced so far this season, grinding down teams with a bruising running game powered by senior running back McKail Sumrall and senior quarterback Tijuane Bolton.
Sumrall has run for 632 yards and 12 touchdowns on 103 carries, averaging 6.1 yards a carry. Bolton has 181 yards and five scores on 32 carries, averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
Bilberback said the return of junior receiver Nekylyn Moody has provided a boost to the Bulldogs’ passing game.
Robertson said Perry Central is more than handful, period.
“The best thing about this is win, lose or draw, it doesn’t hurt you,” Robertson said. “It doesn’t hurt you in (region), it doesn’t hurt you going forward. It’s going to be a good ballgame, a good measuring stick for both teams.
“But we know we’re going to play a well-coached team, a great football team, and like I said, it’s going to be a good measuring stick. It’s going to let us know where we are going into our (region) play (nest week).”