Down to the final two
Critical contests ahead for county high school teams
Two weeks to go, how time has flown by in the high school football season with Forrest and Marshall County sitting atop their respective region standings, while Cornersville is fighting for playoff hopes.
Forrest, coming off a bye week, entertains Eagleville this week at Murrey E. Holton Field, and the Rockets can clinch their first region title in 29 years with a win.
"We had a great week of practice last week and started preparing for Eagleville on our bye week and the guys have been really focused on what they've set out to accomplish," Forrest coach Matt Kriesky said. "In the offseason one of our goals for the year was to win the region."
The Rockets (7-1, 5-0) have been a focused club all season and Kriesky knows the Eagles (4-4, 3-2) would like nothing more than to travel the short distance to Chapel Hill and upset the Rockets.
"Eagleville has improved throughout the year and we know we'll get their very best effort Friday," Kriesky said. "Coach (Steve) Carson and his staff will have his guys up and ready for this game.
Kriesky and the fifth-ranked Rockets would like to turn the tables with a big win and take the region crown in front of a packed house and a special group of former Rockets.
The 1975 team that went 10-1 and won the Crockett Bowl will be honored at halftime for its 40th anniversary of that great season.
"It would be really neat if we were able to accomplish this in front of them and we hope that everyone in Chapel Hill will come out Friday night to see these guys get recognized and also to watch some football," Kriesky stated. "It should be a great atmosphere with Eagleville coming to town."
Marshall County is the No. 4 ranked team in the latest Associated Press Poll and it is well deserved as the squad has reeled off six straight wins.
"I think we're growing and maturing as football team each week and our upper classmen are doing a great job setting the standard for how we go about our work each day," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "But most importantly, I believe our team is still hungry to get better and not satisfied with where we are."
The Tigers (7-1, 4-0) will make their second road trip of the season to Nashville to take on the Maplewood Panthers (2-6, 1-3) in a non-conference game that will be no easy task.
"Anytime you play a team from Nashville you're most always going to be challenged by their speed and physicality," Osteen said. "The mantra this week is to correct many of the mental mistakes in preparation that we made during our last trip to Davidson County."
The Panthers beat Portland last week 28-14 after dropping five in a row, but have the daunting task of stopping a potent Marshall offense that has no intention of slowing.
"We'll prepare for Maplewood like we do ever other week," the coach said. "It's a 'huge' game because it's the next game and another opportunity to get better."
The big next game will be for all the region's marbles when the Tigers host Page next week to settle the championship.
"As exciting as looking ahead to next week may be, our staff and players have committed themselves to being process-centered and only looking day to day to improve," Osteen said.
Cornersville sits in fifth in Region 4-A and is coming off a loss to first-place Columbia Academy.
It doesn't get any easier this week for the young Bulldogs, who host Fayetteville for Homecoming at Frog Bottom.
"It doesn't get any easier this Friday night also as we'll get the opportunity to face a very talented Fayetteville City squad," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "We'll have to do a really good job on defense of reading our keys and getting a lot of Cornersville jerseys to the ball carrier.
"Not only that, but we'll have to do a really good job of tackling in space also. When we get the chance to get them to the ground we have to make sure that happens."
Randolph's Dawgs have shown no quit in them as they continue to fight for a playoff slot as they work to the future.
"The mood here is positive this week and the guys are really working hard because even though we know its homecoming, our ultimate goal here is to win a football game," Randolph said. "The guys are excited about it being homecoming which is understandable, but they also understand what the task at hand is."
Homecoming week always has its distractions, but Randolph is confident that the team will be able to enjoy the festivities, while working hard to stay alive in the post-season race and maybe, just maybe, hand the Tigers a nice upset loss.
"There are several things that could pose a distraction this week because of homecoming, but our main objective is to stay focused and keep a business-like approach to the game," he said. "I want our guys to enjoy the true meaning of homecoming, but they also have to know what's at stake, and that's trying to win a big football game."