Quick Start

Christ Presbyterian Academy's record so far this season has opened a few eyes in Tennessee high school football. At 3-0, the Lions are ranked among the top 15 teams in the state.

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Actually it's how they've gotten there that's been more of an eye-opener. They were projected all along to be a good team again. The first week CPA, a Class 3A school in Nashville, upset 6A Brentwood 17-14. The next week it was a 35-7 win over 5A Hillwood.

Last Friday night in what was supposed to be a district battle of major proportions turned out to be a rout as CPA defeated Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's alma mater, Giles County, 38-10 after building a 38-0 lead at halftime.

The Lions appear to have a load of talent, especially for a school its size. Two seniors are already committed to a Southeastern Conference school as offensive lineman Paul Adams and wide receiver Thomas Richard both have verbally committed to Missouri.

The quarterback starting spot came down to two players, junior Jay Hockaday and sophomore Zack Weatherly. It wasn't known until August practices who would get the nod, which eventually went to Weatherly, the son of former Ole Miss quarterback Jim Weatherly.

"I'm pretty pleased so far," said Zack Weatherly of his performances through three games. He had played sparingly in some games with the varsity as a member of the freshman team last season.

"I'm only a sophomore, so I think the best is yet to come. I think so far I've done my job. We're 3-0, and that's what matters."

Hockaday and Weatherly were the favorites to replace graduated quarterback Albert Mitchell, now at Samford University in Birmingham, who passed for 2,117 yards with 28 touchdowns for the Lions.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Weatherly, who turned 16 last month on Aug. 4, has drawn interest from schools in the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC already. Regarded, as he continues to grow, for his footwork, quickness, passing ability, and decision-making, the early stages of his varsity career have been with a "get the job done" approach.

Against Brentwood, Weatherly had a 67-yard pass play for a touchdown and later led his team downfield in the fourth quarter to set up a 36-yard game-winning field goal by JR Osborn. Weatherly finished the game 9-for-12 for 137 yards with the one touchdown and also an interception.

Zack Weatherly
File Photo

In game two against Hillwood, a lot of Lions reserves played in the second half. Weatherly was 10-for-21 with a touchdown and an interception.

In game three, the same type thing happened against a much stronger Giles County team on the road in Pulaski. Up six scores in the third quarter, the Lions got a lot of players into the game. Weatherly was 8-for-12 for 122 yards and a touchdown.

"Brentwood was our first game, and we had a lot of mistakes we shouldn't have. Brentwood is a power team," said Weatherly, whose dad played on two SEC title teams at Ole Miss, a national championship team, including two Sugar Bowls and a Bluebonnet Bowl. "Giles County is a really good football team with a lot of athletes."

Ingle Martin, the former Florida and NFL quarterback, is head coach at CPA. He has led the Lions to the semi-finals of the state playoffs the past two seasons. Martin was the Gator starter early in the season in 2003, but by the time Ole Miss and Eli Manning won 20-17 in the Swamp, Florida was going with Chris Leak. Martin transferred to Furman for his final two seasons of college football before spending time in the NFL.

"We have a really good coaching staff. Our offense is really up tempo. No huddle," Weatherly said. "Just get on the ball and go. We're the best conditioned team in the state. Our fitness coach is unbelievable. We get teams real tired, and they can't stay with us."

Hockaday is in games much of the time on short yardage plays or other running situations.

"We'll run it up the middle with him or do a read run with him. I'm more of the passer, but I can run as well," Weatherly said. "I never really have any called runs, but if I have to pull the ball down and run, I will. My mobility and quickness allow me to be able to run."

Weatherly, who was clocked this summer at 4.73 in the 40, said he continues to learn and develop daily.

"Definitely maturity," he said of his development from last season as a freshman. "I understand the game a lot more. Obviously speed and arm strength come with growing up. I'm not there yet, but I'm heading that way. I'm focused on gaining weight and getting bigger and stronger. I'm continuing to work hard in the weight room.

Weatherly has state title hopes for CPA
File Photo

"My focus is on my development and helping my team. Mostly my goals are team-oriented. I want to win a state championship. Go undefeated. We've got a really good team this year, and that's really all I'm focused on. I'm just taking it one week at a time."

He's heard from a lot of colleges so far, including Ole Miss. He's camped at Ole Miss (twice), Duke, and Vanderbilt to date.

"I'm mostly wide open," he said of his interests as far as college football. "I'd definitely like to keep it in the South. I've heard from Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Penn State, Cincinnati, Duke, Missouri, Clemson, and Nebraska."

Zack's mother, Cynthia, went to Tennessee, but he hasn't heard from the Volunteers' new staff. If there is a top of the list, the Rebels are likely to be found there.

"I love Ole Miss. My dad went there, and we have a lot of family there. It's definitely up there," said Weatherly, who hopes to be on campus for the next home game against Texas A&M when his father's 1963 SEC title team is honored. "I know the campus better than any. I've grown up loving them, but I'm wide open right now with anything."

Jim Weatherly played at Pontotoc High before his Ole Miss career. He was named second-team All-SEC as a senior behind Joe Namath of Alabama.

"I've seen some stuff on him. I'm not really good at comparing us," Zack said, having watched film and seen stats of his father and the Rebels back then. "My dad says we're a lot alike. He says I'm ahead of what he was when he was my age. I don't know. But he ran the ball a lot more than I do. He didn't throw it all that much."

His dad spurned football offers from teams like the Patriots and Cowboys for a career as a singer/songwriter. Zack said music isn't an option for him, however.

"I can't sing to save my life," he said.

For now, being a high school sophomore quarterback trying to help lead his team to a state title is quite enough.

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