1st-year coaches enter 2nd season
When you enter the postseason, a new season or second season begins and for the county's two first year head football coaches Joe Moos (Forrest) and Aaron Pitts (MCHS), a road trip is in order for the first round of the TSSAA post-season.
A 140-mile one way yellow bus trip to AP Top Ten No. 3 East Hamilton High School in Chattanooga will be the destination for the Tigers (6-4) as they open up the 4A playoffs versus the Hurricanes (9-1).
The Tigers punched their ticket to the playoffs with an impressive 28-0 shutout win versus East Hickman last week and Pitts would like a repeat performance Friday night.
Total effort needed
"The toughness they played with (East Hickman) we will need against East Hamilton, they are a good opponent. We will have to play every down with heart to win," said Pitts.
Pitts had little time to implement his system when hired just before the season started, but has seen his squad grind out a 5-5 record to advance to the school's 46th playoff game.
"It is very satisfying to make the playoffs especially with it being my first year and how everything happened," said Pitts. "We had a lot of ups and downs but I think as the year went along and as we got comfortable with where kids should be playing we made adjustments as the year went along. I also think the kids started to buy in around game six or seven so they played better and understood what we were doing."
Nothing for granted
On the other hand, the Hurricanes will playing just the second playoff game in their four-year existence, but Pitts is not taking anything for granted.
"Playoff games are tough, so you have to prepare with a mindset that whoever you are playing are a good team, so be prepared and do your best in practice, so the game is easy because the atmosphere in playoff games makes the best or worse come out of you."
Asked about the long trip and the negative effect it might have on his team, Pitts said, "I don't think so, we will break the trip up and let the kids relax and have some down time before we play so they won't have to take that long ride and then get off the bus and play."
The talented Tigers have bought into the Pitts plan and this could be a watershed moment for MCHS as they seem to have put the past behind them and are ready to make a move to future successes.
Marshall Co. way
"I think our kids are starting to understand what we expect from them. They are starting to believe that they are supposed to win," said Pitts. "They are also starting to understand what we call the Marshall County way."
Look for Pitts' Marshall County way to pay off in a Tigers' 27-24 upset win in Chattanooga Friday night.
Moos' entrance to Forrest football was much smoother as he took over for former coach Kyle Stacey after last season and the Rockets turned in an impressive season-long effort on their way to a 6-4 record.
The Rockets went down to the last game of the season with a chance to win their district before a loss to Moore County, coupled with an Eagleville win over Cascade sent them to third place in the final 9A standings.
"I am very proud of these seniors. They have allowed me to change new systems, new ways of doing things and have adjusted and bought in. I am indebted to these seniors," said Moos. "I tell them all the time they have laid a foundation for Forrest football."
The Moore County setback also sent them on a short road trip to Mt. Pleasant (6-4) for a Class 2A opening round game versus the Tigers.
Moos was not happy after the regular season ending loss and said about what wrong in the defeat and what the squad will do to hopefully come away with a win Friday night in Maury County.
"I have a rule that when you lose you must learn. I learned that I need to do a better job of getting our special teams ready each and every Friday night," said Moos. "Friday night our special teams hurt us twice. One was obviously the kickoff return TD and the other was the punt over our head, which gave them great field position. I take full responsibility for those errors and I am going to correct those things this week."
It will be the third meeting between the two schools in the post-season with Mt. Pleasant winning 35-21 in 2006 and the Rockets winning 7-6 in 1992.
Last year, Forrest was just seconds away from advancing to the quarterfinals before a miracle last second 14-10 comeback win by Decatur County-Riverside ended the Rockets' season.
Moos does not think there will be any residual effect on the Rockets from the heartbreaking defeat, saying, "No sir, I think this is a new team."
"We have to learn to hate to lose and I think we are getting there as a team," added the coach.
The hate to lose attitude will pay off as the Rockets come away with a 21-7 road win and a berth in round two at top-seeded Adamsville.