CROSSVILLE — The Crossville varsity football team returned to campus in early June for its first workouts since the COVID-19 pandemic halted all on-campus activities in mid-March.

Crossville head coach Dusty Darnell has insured his team abides by the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines issued by the AHSAA.

“Most kids have given me a heads-up if their parents have corona or they’ve been exposed to it,” Darnell said. “If any had been exposed to it, we gave them two weeks off.

“We’ve had 45 to 50 kids who have been coming all summer long.”

Darnell and his staff have been conducting morning workouts at 5 and 7.

“Those guys who have to be at work early usually come at 5 a.m., and we get them out of here by 6:30,” he said. “I’ve had as many as 13 here in the mornings at 5 a.m. You’ve got to be crazy to get up at 5 a.m. and come lift weights, and my hat’s off to them.

“Most of the time, I have kids waiting on me here at 4:30. To be here at 5 o’clock in the morning says a lot about their character.”

Crossville launches preseason practice Monday. The Lions’ season opener is Saturday, Aug. 22, against New Hope at Crossville Memorial Stadium.

Lions coaching staff

Two members of Darnell’s 2019 coaching staff aren’t returning.

Brian Poole stepped down to become Crossville High School’s assistant principal, and Michael Davis transferred across Skirum Creek to Geraldine.

“Coach Davis decided to go back home to Geraldine, and I understand that completely,” Darnell said.

“We did get to pick up Riley Edwards, a longtime Collinsville coach. I think a lot of him, and we’ve been friends for a while. He’s a high character guy, and I’m glad to have him on staff.”

In May, Darnell added former Fyffe standout Ethan Jones to his staff. Jones serves as youth minister at Nazareth Baptist Church.

“Coach Jones is an outstanding young man,” Darnell said.

Chuck Dutton returns as the Lions’ defensive coordinator. Darnell is going to call the offensive plays in 2020, and he said assistant coach Kent Colvin will have an expanded role with the offense.

Jonathan McGill, Johnny Chacon and Edwards will coach on the defensive side of the ball. Jones will coach the offensive line, and Danny Smith returns to assist with both the offensive and defensive lines.

Darnell said he and Colvin will coach the Lions’ junior high team.

“Me and Coach [Jon] Peppers have set out to hire high character people,” Darnell said. Peppers is Crossville’s principal.

“The guys he hired as teachers, there are several youth ministers, and Mr. [Jacob] Malone is the pastor at Lathamville Church,” Darnell said. “He teaches history. We’re getting good, quality teachers in here. I guess they see teaching as a ministry more than they do as a profession.

“[Varsity girls basketball coach] Jesse Martin is the youth pastor at [Crossville] First Baptist. I think it says a lot about our school, hiring high character people. That’s what we look at.”

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