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When Rockwood’s Hayden Freels walked off the field following a 27-19 loss at Boyd-Buchanan, it appeared that the senior TE/DE had played his last game as a high school football player.
Since then, the awards have been rolling in for Freels as he was named District 3-A Defensive Player of the year along with being the first Rockwood player since 2009 to be named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class 2A All-State Team.
Freels’ latest award lets him continue his playing career as he will be playing this Saturday in the 6th Annual Border Bowl game between Tennessee and Kentucky at James H. Taylor Stadium in Williamsburg, Ky.
“I’m very excited. This is a big honor for me, especially coming from a small school like Rockwood” Freels said. “I was nervous at first, but now it’s almost time to play and I’m looking forward to it. It’ll give me a good idea of what college life will be like.”
“I’m very proud of him,” Rockwood head coach John Webb added. “He’s had a really good year and good career for us. This is a great opportunity for him to play against some great competition.”
Freels was chosen from more than 200 players and is just one of 51 players that will be representing Tennessee this weekend. Freels plays both ways at Rockwood, but will be playing defensive end on Saturday.
“He’s relentless,” Webb said of Freels on defense. “He can play effectively on either side of the ball, but he gets off the ball so quick on defense and he’s got a great motor. He’s a game-changer.”
“I get off the ball good and I’ve got pretty good quickness,” Freels said. “I’m pretty good at getting to the quarterback, and I’d say there will be a lot off passing on Saturday so getting a pass rush will be important.”
While Saturday’s game is expected to be a lot of fun for all the players involved, it is also the culmination of a busy week for Freels.
Freels and his Tennessee teammates will check in at the University of the Cumberlands Wednesday afternoon and will practice later that day. The teams will practice three times Thursday and twice more on Friday before playing Saturday at noon. They will also attend a team banquet Friday night.
“They’re going to keep us busy,” Freels said. “Our days are planned out from mornings to lights out.”
While the trip will keep Freels busy, he also know it will give him a chance to make a chance to make an impression as coaches from more than 20 colleges are expected to attend practice and attend the game.
“I’ve already committed to Tennessee Tech and I like it there, but I haven’t signed anything yet so anything is possible,” he said. “I’m hoping I play well and get some exposure.”
“It’s going to be a good week for him,” Webb added. “He’s going to get to see what kind of athleticism he’ll see at the next level.”
Perhaps the only negative to Freels’ playing in the Border Bowl is that he will have to miss Rockwood’s District 3-A basketball game Friday night at Tellico Plains.
“I hate not being there Friday, especially since it’s a district game,” he said. “But I have a lot of faith in my teammates. I know they’ll go down there and get a big win.”