It has been a void on the local sports scene for years, since the old Knoxville City Schools and Knox County Schools systems switched from junior high schools to middle schools in the early 1980s.
“Tennessee has middle school football in 93 of its 96 counties, but Knox County isn’t one of them,” said Meeks, head coach of the Bearden MAC team and a longtime youth football coach for the Bearden and West High School feeder programs. “We wanted to give these kids a chance to play middle school football.
“We are independent of Knox County Schools and we’re independent of the Knox County Recreation and Parks Department,” he added.
Meeks team is fed by West Valley, Bearden Middle and Cedar Bluff middle schools
Among the eight MAC schools, Hardin Valley Academy had to suspend registration early due to high interest. The Hawks have 69 players in their program.
“We started to go on the decline,” head coach Jason Lay said. “Since we joined, we picked up 25 additional kids. We had 44 kids last year.
“We did that because these kids think they are playing for their middle school team,” Lay added.
“The community has really gotten behind us. Every other day, my wife and I get a call from somebody in the community wanting to know what they can do to help us.”
The league also stresses community service and academics. Players and cheerleaders can pick up service hours by working for the Scarecrow Foundation.
MAC players will be recognized for academic achievement and will receive tutoring throughout the season.
The league officially kicked off Saturday with a MAC Jamboree at Bearden High School’s Bill Young Field. The Bulldogs beat Karns 14-6 as Connor Ruth had a 54-yard touchdown scamper and Drew Parrott threw a scoring strike to Ethan Garza. Hardin Valley downed Gibbs 8-6 on the strength of a touchdown run by Brady Hogrefe.
Bearden opens its season at 7:30 p.m., tonight, Thursday, Aug. 8, versus Alcoa. The MAC Hawks will host a scrimmage against Elizabethton at 6:30 p.m. tonight.