Pitts enters second season with high hopes for Tigers

Friday, August 30, 2013
The 2013 Marshall County Tigers pose for the team photo on Media Day at MCHS on Aug. 22. Photo by Anthony S. Puca

Aaron Pitts enters his second season as head football coach at Marshall County High School in 2013 and he feels good about the team chemistry and the Tigers' chances of having a solid season and a deep playoff run.

"The major difference this year is I have my system in place and the kids know what's expected," said Pitts. "I feel like we have some depth and the competition is good, it always brings out the best. We have a lot of young kids pushing the older kids, who have to come to practice and play hard every day because if you don't, you won't be first on the depth chart and they have bought into that system."

Hard schedule

MCHS coaches from left, Pedro Holiday, Chris Johnson, Jordan Turner, Danny Pickle, David Orr, and head coach Aaron Pitts. Photo by Anthony S. Puca

MCHS is coming off a 5-6 season, including a 38-0 first round playoff loss to East Hamilton and things do not get any easier for the Tigers this season as TSSAA realignment has made District 12-AA a tough road to hoe with Giles County, CPA, Cascade, Page, and Spring Hill on the schedule.

The combined 2012 record of CPA, Giles County, Cascade, and Page was 40-12 as all four teams made it to the playoffs with Giles County and CPA making it all the way to state semifinals before losing.

Page, CPA, and Spring Hill all have to come to Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg in 2013, while the Tigers will have to travel to Cascade and Giles County.

Cheerleaders, front row from left, Brittney Yumul, Hollynn Brown, Olivia Selvey, Delanie Gillespie, Cortni Beardsley, and Hailee Walls. Middle row from left, Courtney Neil, Tadezja Maxwell, Yazmin Allen, Grace Medley, Amber Crutcher, Jacey Perryman, Sheldon Broadway, and Takaila Davis. Back row from left, Haley Hartley, Marti Sullivan, Glyndon Wicks, Savannah Gipson, Madison Perryman, Megan Hollingsworth. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

MCHS lost their season opener to non-district foe Shelbyville 34-21 and has games at Independence and Franklin County, plus another pair of non-district home contests versus Columbia Central and Stratford in Lewisburg.

Wide-open plan

On offense, the Tigers have an experienced quarterback in senior Austin Stacey, who has been under center for two full seasons, plus a few games in his freshman season.

The Marshall County Band will be ready to support the Tigers at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg. Photo by Fidelity Studios

The Tigers will run a pistol-spread offense and Stacey is excited about the opportunities that come with the wide-open style.

"I like this offense a lot and I feel more comfortable with it," said Stacey. "I like the opportunities this offense presents in both the run and passing game. We feel like we can go deep in the playoffs and I feel coach has the team headed in the right direction."

Pitts said about his experienced signal caller, "Austin is the perfect kid to run this system and we are excited to have him. We feel we have some athletes to get the ball to in space and our quarterback is a runner and a thrower, who can see the mismatches and get the ball to those athletes."

Managers from left, Breanna Hodges, Allison Robison, Madison Newberry, Jamie May, and Hannah Stewmon. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Backfield battle

Some of those athletes are in a war for the running back spot, including Forrest transfer Dontae Baugh, Quante Alderson, Blake Darnell, Quinnie White, and Bennielle Hill make up the players battling for touches in the backfield.

"We are excited to have that many kids at running back and they all can run, move laterally, and have great agility," said Pitts. "Based upon who is producing the most, will get the most reps and we are just waiting to see who is going to do that."

Jay Murphy (57), who recently made a verbal commitment to attend TSU on a football scholarship next year, will anchor the Tigers' defensive line and will also play on the offensive line this season. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The Tigers have a trio of explosive receivers in Walker, Kacey Pleas, and talented freshman Jay Howard.

"To have three guys like that on the field at one time, plus Austin at quarterback could make for an exciting season," said Pitts.

Offensive line

Staffing the offensive line will be standout Logan King, Steven Clemmons, Murphy, Hunter Hobby, Tyler Hale, and Jonathan Johnson.

MCHS is a relatively young squad with only 13 seniors on the 69-man squad, but all will play an important role on both sides of the ball for the Tigers, especially 6'3, 333 lb. lineman Jay Murphy, who recently made a verbal commitment to attend TSU next season on a football scholarship.

Jay Murphy will follow in the footsteps of his brother Michael, a former MCHS standout and current senior defensive lineman at TSU.

All-state candidate

Murphy said about his verbal commitment to the Nashville University, "I knew since day one I was going to be a TSU Tiger, I believe in their system, I believe in what they are going to do in the future, and I want to be part of that."

Murphy has plenty on his shoulders this season and will play both ways for the Tigers, but will be a sure-fire candidate for all-state honors on the defensive line.

"We are going to be good, down the road we are going to be a team to be messed with," said Murphy. "We have been through the fire and the seniors here know that we have to come together and we know what we have to do to get a state championship."

Tough in the middle

Defense up the middle will be the strength of the defense this season for MCHS and Murphy is confident that new Defensive Coordinator Chris Johnson has pushed all the right buttons in camp to install his 4-3 defense.

"That is all coach Johnson has us work on every day is stopping the run and stopping the pass," said Murphy. "His philosophy is stop their top five run plays and stop their top five pass plays and then when they have to flip in the book, they are in trouble."

Johnson, who came over from Warren County to join Pitts' staff said about the defense, "Big "Murph" is definitely anchoring that line, but we have a lot of good young guys that are contributing and buying into the system."

Johnson added, "I got here last January and these guys have taken well to what we are trying to do, they have given me nothing but great effort. We are going to be hard-nosed with all eleven guys swarming to the football, we will bring a lot of guys and I am looking forward to the challenge and I think these guys are going to respond well."

Lots of help

Helping Murphy on the defensive line will be Payton Hood, Peyton Williams and Bryson Alexander, while Cain Hendrix will be a beast at the linebacker spot for Johnson.

"Cain is going to give you effort every play," said Johnson. "In one past scrimmage, he had 13 tackles, so he will be all over the field."

Johnson also likes his other two starting backers in Antonio Shelton and Sven Jorgenson, who Pitts called "the smartest player I ever coached."

In the defensive backfield for the Tigers will be Steven Dangerfield, Chris Walker, Quante Alderson, and Payne Smith, who was injured in the summer, but is expected to return.

Fantastic foot

The extra weapon for the Tigers will be University of Tennessee signee Aaron Medley, who is currently the number four-ranked kicker in the nation.

Medley routinely boots the ball out of the end zone and is an accurate short range and long-range place-kicker, and he is an outstanding punter as well.

"When you talk about field position, kicking it out of the back of the end zone is huge, because you keep it out of the playmakers' hands," said Johnson, who is also the special team's coach. "If we get it close enough, he will stick it through the uprights and that is a perk a lot of teams don't have."

Key to playoffs

The outlook for the Tigers is all-dependent on how they perform against their district opponents and if they can protect the home field, they will certainly make a run towards the playoffs.

"We know we have to win on the road in this league," said Pitts. "But you have to protect home at all costs and we plan to that and I think the kids are ready and we will have a good season of football at Marshall County High School."

Early on, the Tigers may struggle, but as the season progresses look for Pitts' squad to rev it up and finish the season with a winning record and a playoff spot.

"Yes we are playing up, yes we are going to be outnumbered and the schools we are going against are bigger," said Pitts. "We don't make excuses, we are a hart-hat community, a hard-hat town and we are going to mix it up and we have worked hard in the pre-season and I think we are ready."

2013 Tiger Schedule

Date Venue Opponent

8-23 Away Shelbyville

8-30 Away Independence

9-6 Home Page

9-13 Home Columbia Central

9-20 Home (HC) Spring Hill

9-27 Away Franklin County

10-4 Away Cascade

10-11 Bye

10-18 Home CPA

10-25 Home Stratford

11-1 Away Giles County

Roster

No. Name Grade Position

1 Antonio Shelton 11 LB

2 Dontae Baugh 11 RB

3 Quante Alderson 12 DB/RB

4 Jay Howard 9 WR

5 Blake Darnell 11 RB/DB

6 Payne Smith 12 WR/DB

7 Cain Hendrix 12 LB

8 Bryson Alexander 12 DL/LB

9 Chris Walker 11 WR/DB

10 Kacy Pleas 11 WR

11 Montrel Harris 10 WR

12 Dontae Horton 12 DB

13 Ethan Evans 10 WR

14 Steven Dangerfield 10 DB

15 Keevon Maxwell 9 DB

16 Austin Stacey 12 QB/DB

17 D'Andre Brown 9 DB/RB

18 Darius Mckenzie 9 TE

19 Ashton Posey 10 QB

20 Cale Shelton 10 DB

21 Josh Franklin 10 DB

22 Alex Swain 11 K/P

23 Zach Johnson 10 WR

24 Bennielle Hill 9 DB/RB

25 Tre Crutcher 9 WR/DB

26 Dillion Proffit 10 WR

27 Quinnie White 11 RB

28 Devin Martinez 10 DB

29 Gunner Southerland 10 LB

30 Sven Jorgensen 12 LB

31 Donathan Tears 9 WR

32 JQ Haislip 9 DB

33 Noah Jorgenson 9 LB

34 Aaron Medley 12 K/P

35 Dayveontae Brown 9 WR

36 Michael Barnwell 9 WR

37 Quinton Holman 9 LB

38 Dathan Achord 9 WR

40 Bryan Westmoreland 9 DB/LB

41 Shane Crane 11 LB/LS

43 Prentiss Davis 10 TE/DL

46 Damian Richard 11 K/P

47 Tommy Cameron 10 LB

49 Peyton Williams 10 LB

50 Trent Richardson 9 LB/OL

51 Nathan Fuller 10 DL

52 Rhad Stephens 9 DL

54 Hunter Hobby 11 OL

55 Bradon Harden 12 DL

57 Jay Murphy 12 DL/OL

58 Eric Endsley 12 OL/DL

59 Tyler Hale 12 OL

60 Payton Hood 10 DL

61 Hagan Holland 10 DL

62 Chad Page 11 DL

63 Austin Starling 11 OL

64 Blair Conger 9 DL

65 Peyton Brown 10 OL

67 Hayes Crosslin 9 OL

70 Steven Clemmons 10 OL

71 Dartavious Lyttle 9 DL

72 Allen Alderson 12 DT

73 Logan King 12 OL

74 Triston Maxwell 9 DL

75 Tommy Crabtree 10 DL

78 Micajah Gold 9 OL

79 Jonathan Johnson 10 OL

80 Jerry Underwood 11 WR

84 Justin Dunkle 11 TE/LB

88 Iendi Biggers 10 WR