Resurgent Farragut boys basketball program energizes rivalry with Bearden


Sarah Altshuler

Walker Kyle hits one of his four 3-pointers in Bearden’s 54-50 win at Farragut.

Walker Kyle and Elijah Bredwood were among those watching on Dec. 7, 2018, when future state champions Bearden beat rival Farragut 77-21.

As seniors, Kyle and Bredwood now face a much different situation when they meet up with the Admirals. Three of the past four games between the two programs have been two possession games, and both regular season games this year came down to the wire with one going into overtime.

It’s safe to say this rivalry has been revitalized recently, and it is certainly not due to a decline in Bearden’s program, as the Bulldogs made it back to the state tournament a year ago and are hoping for another trip this season.

Heading into the Dec. 3 matchup with the Admirals this year, Bearden had won 10 in a row over the Admirals and were looking to continue their recent dominance over their arch rivals. However, Farragut had different plans and after a back-and-forth game, the Admirals stunned the Bulldogs 62-57 in overtime on their home floor. 

With that win, Farragut put the area on notice and proved that it had a team that would be able to compete in the postseason this year.

“I really feel like this team that Farragut has right now is a product of those kids playing early,” Coach Jeremy Parrott said. “Oftentimes kids at Bearden don’t get a chance to play early. 

“Freshmen and sophomores don’t get in lineups here, and those kids got hardened and took their lumps and they’re seeing the fruits of their labor now getting to play as seniors. They’re battle-tested, and they got a good group and they’ve done a good job with them.” 

In Saturday’s district semifinals at Heritage, No. 1 seed Farragut will see William Blount, while No. 2 seed Bearden will need to beat Hardin Valley. If the Bulldogs and Admirals both avoid upsets in those games, they’ll meet for the third time this season on Tuesday at 7:30 in the district championship game.

“I think this year’s [Farragut] group has a mission that they’re on and I feel like they’ve definitely stepped it up compared to the past couple of seasons,” Bredwood said.

This year’s Farragut team is led by juniors and seniors who have spent time in the program and had the opportunity to get early playing time. 

“When kids play early and they have to go through those growing pains of playing against older kids and better teams, then eventually that comes around, and I feel like that’s the crux of the matter with them right now is they’ve got a team that’s played a lot of years together,” Coach Parrott said. “They play well together, and they’re going to be a tough out.”

When the two met up a month and a half later, Bearden got its revenge. Behind 17 points and a go-ahead bucket with 8 seconds to go from senior wing Darian Bailey and 16 points and four 3- pointers from Kyle, the Bulldogs got a 54-50 comeback win on the road.

Bearden has played a challenging out-of-district schedule this year with matchups against Greeneville, Alcoa, Hamilton Heights, a trip to the Arby’s Classic and Rockvale Classic, among many other stern tests. 

The tough regular season schedule can not only help prepare a team for a potential rivalry game in a high stakes tournament, but it also helps with postseason success in general. 

“It’s not just playing Farragut in the postseason; it’s playing anybody in the postseason,” Coach Parrott said. “You can structure your regular season to be whatever you want it to be. 

“But if you have a team that’s capable of playing a rough schedule, it prepares you for those rough times and those tougher tests in the postseason, it builds depth. To structure a regular season schedule that isn’t tough, that’s fools gold, man. You have a record that is not an indicator of your potential or how hard and battle tested you are.”

Along with a tough regular season schedule, there is a different type of preparation needed for the postseason especially with playing familiar opponents.

“Really just watching the first two games against them, just figuring out what we did well and how to hang with them and not let them get ahead like the first few times,” Kyle said.

With Bearden and Farragut splitting the regular season games, the two are tied atop the district standings. However, the Admirals earned the top seed due to drawing a higher number in the preseason district coaches meeting.

“That’s the only way you win a rivalry game is you control what you can control and you stay in the moment between the lines, anything outside it will rob you of your moment,” Coach Parrott said. 

With the games becoming recently competitive again, the players have enjoyed getting to play in a close game against their rival and have the ability to make big plays in the game.

“It’s always just a good rivalry game, it’s always so much better when it’s close,” Kyle said. “It just makes the environment that much better.”

Added Bredwood: “It’s exciting for us as players, but we have to be able to ignore everything outside of the lines and get the job done.”