Region games kick off real season
The "real" season begins tonight when all three county schools face region foes for the first time this year.
Marshall County (1-1) travels to Tullahoma (0-2), while Forrest (2-0) hosts Westmoreland (0-2) at Murrey E. Holton Field in Chapel Hill and Cornersville (0-2) entertains Franklin Grace Christian School (1-0) at Frog Bottom.
"As a staff and football team, we're still positive and look forward to getting a chance to get back on the field in region play on Friday night," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said.
Cornersville needs a win over the Eagles, who are in their initial season of varsity football.
"After seeing Grace on film, they're a talented, young football squad," Randolph said. "Offensively they're a spread team that will try to line up and get players out of the box. Defensively, they will be a 4-3 Cover 2 defense."
Franklin Grace came up with a big 28-21 win at McEwen last week and will be fired up when they travel for the 7 p.m. game.
Benefits of win
"They (players) know what's at stake as far as this being our first region game and getting off to a good start in the region standings," Randolph said. "Once again, our focus is to get better from week to week and a win on Friday would go a long way as far as our guys getting more confidence at this level."
Randolph saw marked improvement from the first week to the second saying, "Each day brings a different situation that the guys have to adapt to. Despite our first two games that we've found ourselves on the losing end, our guys have come in hungrier each week wanting to watch more film and stay after practice to get extra reps to get better as a football program."
The Bulldogs have to look to their upperclassman to lead the bevy of youngsters, and Randolph pointed out some of the leaders that have emerged.
"We have a couple guys that have taken the initiative to be leaders and that's Dillard Hatchett and Kolbe McMahon," Randolph said. "Neither are real vocal guys, but have really allowed their play to do the talking. Dillard and Kolbe both were vital in a hard-fought game against Collinwood last week."
Marshall County is coming off a heartbreaking loss at John Overton, but has not lost any confidence entering the matchup at home with the Wildcats.
"We've had a good week and a very physical week of practice," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "These kids are itching to get the bad taste out of their mouth and I expect the game to be a dogfight."
Tullahoma has lost to Coffee County and Franklin County by a combined score of 83-31, but Osteen will not let his team overlook a talented Wildcats' team.
"They're a young team that's gotten better each week and our kids are only concerned about playing to the 'Tiger Standard' this week, and have committed themselves to not taking one day for granted," Osteen said.
On the road again
Two road games in a row could test the Tigers' mettle early in the season.
"It's always challenging to go on the road, but as a coach I believe you always learn more about the character of your team on the road than at home," Osteen said. "It's our first region game and it's the next game, so they're all big."
Asked about the keys to coming out with an important win on Friday night, Osteen said, "We have to gang tackle on defense and get off the field on third down. Offensively, we must protect the football and get off to a faster start. We must play with energy and passion the entire game and play as one team."
For Forrest, a 3-0 start and a region win in its first home game of the season would be huge.
"It seems like forever since we've been at our stadium," Forrest coach Matt Kriesky said. "The kids are excited to be able to play in front of our home crowd and hopefully it'll be a big one."
The Rockets have been superb on defense, posting consecutive shutouts.
"The defense played well Friday night and it's a joy to see all 11 guys flying around trying to make plays," the coach said. "We have to continue to keep playing like that and not have a letdown this week."
Line of strength
The strength of the Rockets is the linemen, who've played together for a few years now and will have to come up big again this week against the Eagles.
"The guys up front have done a great job and they're the strength of our team this year," Kriesky said. "It's a special group and I have to give a lot of credit to Coach (Kyle) Stacey and Coach (Eli) Stephenson, who do a tremendous job each week preparing these young men."
It's been running back by committee so far for Forrest with as many as 11 players carrying the ball at least once in the past two weeks.
"We're able to rotate a lot of guys this year in the backfield and not just have to rely on one back," Kriesky added. "These guys are very unselfish and just want to see the team succeed. We'll continue to keep rotating them and keep fresh legs in the game."
It'll be a mirror matchup on both sides of the ball Friday night with both teams running the Wing-T on offense and employing a 50-style defense.
The Eagles opened the season with losses to Trousdale County and Macon County, but Kriesky isn't at all overlooking Westmoreland, which is very capable of coming to Chapel Hill and upsetting an unprepared Forrest squad.
"They're big and physical on both sides of the football," Kriesky said. "Their quarterback runs the offense well and the backs hit the hole quick when they get the ball."