Critical region clashes light up Friday night
Week 7 of the prep football season will certainly be full of high drama Friday night as the three county schools take to the road for big region games.
The Marshall County Tigers (5-1, 2-0) travel to Lawrence County (2-4, 1-1) for a Region 4-AAAA game after a big Homecoming win over Stratford last week where the atmosphere was electrifying at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg.
"The atmosphere was great a Preston Hopkins Field last Friday. The fans gave us a great home field advantage in a very tense battle with an extremely athletic and physical Stratford team," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. "I am so proud of our kids for being able to win a game of that nature."
Osteen and the Tigers can make huge strides towards a region title with a win over the Wildcats, who are coming off a 21-7 home victory over Loretto.
"The mood of our team has been very business like this week and we respect the fact that Lawrence County is a physical team that won its region last year," Osteen said.
"Bottom line is that Lawrence stands in the way of all our goals and we know that they are not going to give us anything this Friday."
There is much to be happy about in Lewisburg, as the Tigers have won four straight ballgames, giving up just 34 points in the stretch.
"As a coach I am happy that we have gotten better each of the last four weeks," the coach said. "I believe as a team that we are still hungry and not satisfied with where we are at."
Putting the pigskin in the end zone has been the Tigers' specialty this season, averaging 41.7 points per game.
MCHS senior quarterback Ashton Posey is in the midst of a remarkable season, completing 88-out-of 126 passing attempts for 1,356 yards with 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The top beneficiaries of Posey's passing prowess are wide receivers Tre Crutcher and Jay Howard.
Crutcher has 23 catches for 515 yards and 7 TD receptions and Howard has hauled in 28 passes for 515 yards and 5 TD. Howard, an all-purpose specialist also has 15 rushes for 166 yards and 3 TD.
That bodes well for the high-flying offense because the Wildcats defense has been suspect so far, allowing 31.2 points per game.
"We as coaches strive to keep our kids focused by stressing the fact that we have to play to our standard each week no matter who the opponent is," Osteen said. "The goal is to get better this week and let the scoreboard take care of itself."
Forrest (5-1, 3-0) travels to Watertown (5-1, 3-0) for a battle of unbeaten Region 4-AA squads and coach Matt Kriesky and the Rockets are upbeat, yet focused on the ultimate goal of winning a region title.
"The mood has been great and the boys have been working really hard this week in practice and to be honest, we have treated this week just like any other game this season," Kriesky said. "They came in on Sunday to start preparing and we have done our normal film study and practice schedule this week."
A win over the Purple Tigers would go a long way towards the goal, giving Forrest a two-game lead with three region games remaining on the schedule.
"They know what is at stake here and we have been talking about this all off season, so I have no doubt in my mind that the guys will be up and ready to play Friday night," Kriesky added. "This is a game the boys will remember 20 years from now and we hope that it will be all positive."
It's a new region alignment this year for Forrest and Kriesky is impressed with the all coaches' preparation, yet a certain amount of uncertainty prevails because of the unfamiliarity with squads such as Watertown. Westmoreland, East Robertson and Jackson County.
"We think it's a tough region for 2A with a lot of quality teams in it and all the coaches in the region are great guys, who do a good job preparing there teams," Kriesky said. "It has been a struggle at times due to the fact we have no idea how a team may line up and adjust to our formations."
How the Rockets will line up is no surprise to anyone in the state---run, run and run some more. "It all starts up front with the offensive line and that is one reason we have had so much success," Kriesky said.
On the line
"These guys have done an extremely good job for our backs this year and do not get enough credit," said Kriesky, whose squad has rushed for 1,841 yards and 28 touchdowns on the season. "We want to continue to see the offensive unit improve each week."
On defense, Forrest is simply the best unit in the region, giving up a paltry 46 points in six games.
The nearest competitor is Westmoreland, who has surrendered 107 points, while the Purple Tigers have given up 151 points in six contests.
"We take a lot of pride in our defense and set goals each week for the guys," Kriesky said. "We will have a tough task Friday night trying to stop their offense. We will need to contain the QB and wrap up well in open field. It's going to be a great atmosphere Friday night."
The Cornersville Bulldogs (1-4, 1-2) let one slip away at Mt. Pleasant (3-3, 2-2) last week and coach Gerard Randolph knows the trip to Huntland this week will be just as tough on his young squad.
"Huntland will definitely be a tough task on Friday. They are a well-coached team that will be ready to play on Friday night," Randolph said. "Huntland features one of the best running backs in 1A football in DJ Taylor and will run the Wing-T for the most part, but are capable of getting in the spread also."
The Bulldogs defense played very well at Mt. Pleasant, basically shutting down the Tigers' running game, but gave up a few big plays in the passing game that hurt them.
"It goes back to what we have been trying to do all year defensively, and that's play assignment football," Randolph said. "Friday night we will have to do a really good job of reading our keys and staying at home. If we get watching the backfield it could be a long night for our football team."
Wanted: Road win
Cornersville seemed to be on the verge of a road win last week and this could be the game that it all comes together for Randolph and the Dawgs.
"A win this week would go a long way for this group of guys, they know how important this game is and they are hungry for a win," the coach said. "A win is always good for a program with the amount of young guys that we have. It will help their confidence tremendously and help create a great atmosphere in the locker room and the program as a whole."
Second prediction for the season, Bulldogs 30, Huntland 28.