PLAYOFFS ON THE LINE
Friday's games are critical for Marshall County teams
With only two games left in the regular season, all three county football teams are still in the running to earn spot in the upcoming playoffs. The Marshall County Tigers and Forrest Rockets have likely done enough already to qualify for the postseason, while the Cornersville Bulldogs are fighting to grab one of the final at large spots in their classification.
Despite losing to private school powerhouse Christ Presbyterian Academy last week, Marshall County still sports a 6-2 record and are in the best position of the three local teams to earn a high seed in the playoffs.
The Tigers are currently sitting in second place in the District 12-AA standings heading into their nonconference road game against the Stratford Spartans (1-7) this Friday and have a chance to earn home games in the first two rounds of the playoffs if they can win their final two regular season games.
Although the Tigers were held to a season low 14 points and 228 yards by CPA , the Tigers are still averaging 41 points per game and should be able to exploit a porous Stratford defense that has yielded 43 points per contest this year.
Needing just 161 yards to reach the 1,000 yard mark, senior tailback Chris Walker leads a potent Tiger ground attack that has averaged 202 yards per game this season.
Marshall County quarterback Ashton Posey and his crew of fleet footed receivers, meanwhile, have a chance to pad their already impressive stats. So far this season Posey has completed 125-of-180 passes for 2, 048 yards and 19 touchdowns while tossing only five interceptions.
Sophomore wide out Jay Howard has emerged as Posey's go to receiver and has caught a team leading 41 passes for 798 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Kacy Pleas is also enjoying a very productive senior campaign and has tallied 31 receptions for 657 yards while scoring eight TDs.
Foes' weak offense
The Spartans, conversely, are averaging just 15.5 points per game. That should come as a relief to a banged up Tiger defense that has recently lost senior defensive end Hunter Hobby and sophomore defensive tackle Blair Conger to injuries.
Having defeated the Spartans 32-20 last year, Marshall County can take the wind out of Stratford's sails early if they can get off to a fast start, which has been a regular occurrence this season under first-year MCHS head coach Thomas Osteen. Expect the Tigers to score early and often on Friday and roll to a 49-7 victory over Stratford.
The Forrest Rockets still have an outside shot of grabbing a share of the District 9-A title if they can knock off an undefeated Middle Tennessee Cougar squad this Friday. Forrest (5-3, 3-1 District) has likely locked up an at large bid for the playoffs, but can earn a first round home game if they win their final two contests.
Although the Rockets have won the last three meetings against MTCS, the Cougars (8-0, 4-0 District) have been one of the surprise teams in the mid state after posting just a 7-24 record over the three previous seasons.
Forrest has leaned heavily on their running all year and has rushed for 308.6 yards per game this season en route to averaging 29.5 points per contest. The Rockets will pit their punishing ground attack against a stingy Cougar defense that is allowing just 13 points per game.
Senior running back Zach McClendon has been the lynchpin of the Rockets' offense and has rushed for 1,385 yards and 18 touchdowns on 168 carries while also catching six passes for 132 yards and two TDs.
Linebacker Blake Leonard, who leads Forrest with 53 tackles, headlines a Rocket defense that must find a way to slow down an explosive MTCS offense that is averaging 39.8 points per game. Coming off a timely bye week, Forrest welcomes back several starters to their defense that were forced to miss their last two games against Huntland and Community due to injuries.
Cougar quarterback Justin Winn has been a thorn in the side of opposing defenses all year and has accounted for over 1,800 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. Along with rushing for 617 yards and seven touchdowns on 103 carries, Winn has completed 84-of-104 for 1,246 yards and 20 TDs while tossing only three interceptions.
Running back Tanner Green has averaged nine yards per carry this season and leads MTCS ground game with 656 yards and 10 touchdowns. Peyton Buckner has been Winn's primary receiver and has snared 28 passes for 418 yards and six TDs.
While beating MTCS for a fourth straight year will be a difficult task, the Rockets will pull out a hard fought victory with the help of their home crowd and defeat the Cougars 24-21.
The Cornersville Bulldogs (2-6) are on the outside looking in according to the TSSAA's current playoff projections, but still have a chance to earn an at large bid to the postseason if they can win their final two games.
This week the Bulldogs make the long journey to East Robertson to face an Indian squad that they defeated 30-22 last year. Not much has gone right for East Robertson this year, as they have stumbled to a 1-7 record while being outscored 230-73 in their eight contests.
Chance to shine
Having already rushed for 996 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, Bulldog tailback Chance Dyer should have another big night against a leaky East Robertson defense that has been gashed several times this season by opposing running games.
Cornersville quarterback Jamie Crowell also hopes to end the 2014 campaign with a flourish and has completed 77-of-155 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns through CHS' first eight games this year.
After turning in one of their better efforts of the season in a 14-8 win over McEwen in their last outing , the Bulldog defense had a bye week to heal up and hopes to replicate that performance when they take on a Indian offense that has averaged slightly over nine points per game.
One to watch
Tailback Brenden Moore is East Robertson's best offensive weapon and is a fluid runner when he gets into the open field. The Indians' offensive line, however, has had trouble creating holes for Moore and East Robertson quarterbacks have struggled throwing the ball for much of the year.
Since Cornersville needs this game more, the Bulldogs should be the hungrier team on Friday and claim a 28-13 victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.