Tough foes challenging local teams
Summers gone and fall has arrived quickly, marking the midway point for a lot of prep gridiron teams that have not had a bye yet, including Marshall County High School and Forrest, which both sport identical 4-1 records.
Both squads sit atop their respective region standings and both have tough challenges tonight.
The Tigers, ranked No. 5 in this week's Associated Press Poll are coming off a huge road win at Giles County last week and host 3-A Stratford in an interesting non-region matchup. MCHS faces the potential pitfalls of Homecoming distractions.
"We want our kids to enjoy the week but always have the end in mind and that's getting better this week and earning the opportunity to give ourselves a chance to beat an extremely athletic football team," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. "We have talked about playing to our standard all week and respecting our opponent. Our kids know how good Stratford is. They are a 4-1 football that does not even resemble the team they put on the field last year."
Stratford has scored more points than any other team in its region this year and has a load of athleticism on both sides of the ball, something that has not slipped by Osteen who said, "They are an "old school" smash mouth football team and have run over many of their opponents this year, but their speed is tremendous."
Speed and a very good quarterback in 6-foot-5 Josh Truehart, who has thrown for 633 yards and seven touchdowns.
It's hard to post better numbers than that, but the Tigers sport on of the best quarterbacks in the MidState in senior Ashton Posey, who easily bests Truehart's numbers, throwing for a 1130 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
"On defense they have probably the best defensive line that we have played to date," said Osteen. "It will be very hard for us to move the ball."
The Tigers have out-scored their opponents 212-79 this season and the only thing that can derail the offensive juggernaut is injuries, several of which makes this week's task a little tougher.
"We are extremely beat up as a football team right now, but that is really the price we have paid for having really physical practices all year with 1 vs.1 live contact periods every Monday and Tuesday," said Osteen.
"However, I believe that's the culture we have to set as a program if we are going to get to the next level of being able to physically dominate our opponents. D'Andre Brown, Dave Roberts, Tristan Maxwell, Tre Crutcher and Dagon Stacey will all be unavailable this week in addition to the many other bumps and bruises we have. But our motto is always "Next Man Up."
Crutcher, who has 23 catches for 515 yards and seven touchdowns is a big loss at wide receiver, but the slack will be picked by all-state wide out Jay Howard (3TD), Montrell Harris (2) and Darius McKenzie (1), all capable of breaking the big play in the passing game.
In its three previous wins, the MCHS defense has allowed just 14 points total and coach Jerry Cobb's unit have no plans to let the Spartans get going.
"Coach Cobb and our defensive staff has done an outstanding job," Osteen said. "Our defensive has made great strides this whole season and it is no surprise to me of their improvement. I knew it might take a couple games to get comfortable with our new defensive scheme."
Although it's a non-region contest, Osteen and his crew will not look past this Strafford team, coming off a 35-20 loss at home last week to White House Heritage.
"We are happy but are not satisfied," the coach said. "Our goal is to again be 1-0 at the end of this week."
Forrest made it past the Homecoming trap last week, blasting the Community Vikings 62-8 in front of a packed house at Chapel Hill.
The Rockets have no significant injuries to speak other than the normal bumps and bruises that comes with playing five weeks of smash mouth football.
The Rockets have the best in Class A, surrendering a paltry 29 points in five games.
We cannot have a letdown this week on the defensive side of the ball and Friday will be a huge test for us," Forrest coach Matt Kriesky said. "One of the things is that we are creating turnovers and that is something we did not do last year. We put a lot of emphasis on it in the offseason and preseason and it's starting to pay off."
Community suffered five big turnovers last week with Forrest capitalizing, especially at the end of the first half when the Rockets scored 21 points in less than two minutes to put the game out of reach at 49-0.
Focus on now
Hopefully Forrest, who jumped two spots to No. 6 in the AP poll after the shellacking, will not be looking behind at the big win or looking ahead to next week's big game at Watertown.
"As coaches we have to make sure there is no let down between each game and we've prepared this week like every other week so we do not expect a letdown Friday night," Kriesky stated. "Also, our seniors have to show some maturity and make sure we are practicing at a high level each week."
The Rockets travel to Cascade where the Champions will be in
a very bad mood after five losses in five games when greeting their longtime rivals.
"Cascade will be ready to play Friday night and coach (Jake) Tyre will have his boys prepared," said Kriesky. "We will have to wrap up and run to the football well on defense to be successful Friday night. Offensively we will have to play mistake-free-football and all 11 guys will have to do their correct assignment on each play."
Forrest will run the football and use everyone available to do it. Last week, the Rockets broke out of a passing touchdown drought when quarterback David Andrews and tailback Jake Elkins both threw for one score apiece.
The rushing game has accumulated 1,405 yards and accounted for 20 touchdowns with the workload spread out over at least seven players.
"We've done some good things up to this point of the season but we cannot be satisfied with our accomplishments so far," Kriesky said. "Like I have said before we have to continue to get better each week.
The Cornersville Bulldogs, coming off a bye week travel to Mt. Pleasant this week in hopes of making a fresh start after losing three out of their first four games this season.
"This a very important game for us and we know what is at stake if you can win a game of this magnitude," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "It not only helps you get closer to the playoffs, but it helps tremendously with confidence."
It is not a lack of effort that is hurting the Bulldogs, it is mental mistakes and turning over the football.
"The guys are working really hard to get better each day, but my main concern is that everyone sticks with the process and continues to buy into the system," Randolph said. "This is a great group of young men that will do some good things here at Cornersville."
The bye week came at a good time for Cornersville, who got a chance to heal up, re-group and get down to the basics of running the football and not giving it away at inopportune times.
"The good thing is that we've had an extra week to get some guys healed and the guys have done a good job this week of taking the businesslike approach and putting in extra work," Randolph said. "This group of young men are learning a lot about how to practice and prepare during game week."
The Bulldogs face a dangerous Mt. Pleasant squad that is also off to slow 2-3 start and a win by either team could go a long way to establishing some momentum down the stretch.
"When you think of Mt. Pleasant, what automatically comes to mind is athleticism, and it's no different this year, they have about four or five kids that can flat out play," Randolph said. "Our guys have seen them on film, and the've accepted the challenge of going out there giving it their all to win a football game."
Randolph kept preaching the turnover battle and how important it is to hold on to the football and when possible, take the football away from your opponent.
"We will have to eliminate the mental mistakes and play really well at all three phases of the game to be successful," the coach said.
It will be a tough test for the Bulldogs, who have lost 12 straight to Mt. Pleasant, dating back to 2002.