From playoffs to next year, much is on the line tonight
The high school football regular season ends tonight and Marshall County High School and Forrest are playing for present success, while Cornersville continues to hone the skills of its underclassmen for a promising future.
TIGERS:Showdown for 4-AAAA crown
The Tigers entertain Page at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg in a battle for the top spot in Region 4-AAAA as both teams enter the contest unblemished in league play.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us this Friday," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "All the credit goes to the players for working so hard year-round to put themselves into this position."
MCHS (8-1, 4-0) has reeled off seven straight wins since its only loss came by one point at John Overton in the season's second game.
"Games like Friday's are the reason why you play high school football," Osteen said. "Our kids are not satisfied with where they are and are still hungry to get better."
Prolific is an understatement when you look at the Tigers' offensive output so far. They've outscored their opponents 391-160, led by Mr. Football hopeful Ashton Posey, who has accumulated 2,483 total yards at quarterback.
Posey has thrown for 2,198 yards and 23 touchdowns, rushed for 275 yards with seven TDs and has caught one touchdown pass for 10 yards.
Junior wide receiver Jay Howard can eclipse the 1,000-yard mark against the Patriots. Howard has 981 total yards on the season with a team-leading 50 pass receptions for 755 yards and eight touchdowns, 216 yards rushing with three scores and a touchdown pass for 10 yards.
Junior Tre Crutcher is close to the 1,000-yard mark as well, catching 38 passes for 761 yards and eight touchdowns.
Senior Josh Franklin leads the Tigers in rushing with 617 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries.
Sophomore Kamron Liggett has come on strong as the season progressed to total 488 yards and six touchdowns running, while catching 10 passes for 160 yards and two more scores.
Defense of steel
On defense, Marshall County is stout, especially in region play as it has allowed just 34 points in four league contests.
Zach Johnson, JQ Haislip and Curtis Keiler are tied for the team lead with 57 tackles apiece, while Iendi Biggers has 53, one more than Tanner Clark and Hunter Cummings.
Prentice Davis leads the team with 5.5 quarterback sacks, Payton Hood has 3.5 and Tavi Mclean has a pair.
Steven Dangerfield has a team leading three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. Haislip has two picks and Johnson and Biggers have one each.
The Tigers will have to play well on defense as Page (7-2, 4-0) also sports one of the top quarterbacks in senior Michael Magochy, who has thrown for 1,877 yards and 18 touchdowns. Connor Morss is his favorite target with 36 receptions for 493 yards and five touchdowns.
"Page plays really hard as a team and has a bunch of players that play well together," Osteen said. "Coach (Charles) Rathbone does a great job with his team."
MCHS will have a huge problem containing all-purpose running back Michael Roberts, who has rushed for 726 yards and 11 TDs, while hauling in 21 passes for 428 yards and three scores.
"They're an excellent passing team with a really good quarterback, however, Roberts is the key to their team," Osteen observed. "He's their best offensive and defensive player and stopping him will be our number one priority."
Osteen, in his second season with the Tigers, was adamant about how much it means to be playing at home in front of fans, which have shown tremendous support for the Tigers.
"I can't thank our fans enough for supporting us all year at home and on the road," Osteen said. "It means so much to the kids to have the community all behind them. I have no doubt that we'll have a special environment to play in Friday."
ROCKETS: More goals to fulfill
The Forrest Rockets (8-1, 6-0) are coming off a monumental win last week that clinched the Region 4-AA crown. But, coach Matt Kriesky and his squad have a second set of goals to achieve.
"It feels great to be in the position we are, but we can't be satisfied at this point," Kriesky said. "These young men need to stay focused and continue to get better each day and not be satisfied with just winning the region, we need to work towards our other goals that we set for this year now."
Forrest faces a Jackson County squad that has struggled all year. The last-place Blue Devils (2-7) are winless in the region.
Jackson County has dropped seven straight games, but Kriesky is not overlooking the Blue Devils, treating the contest as a playoff game.
"Jackson County runs the football well and we'll have to be prepared up front to stop the run," Kriesky said.
Forrest has outscored Region 4-AA opponents 288-91.
The Rockets have rushed for 2,788 yards on the season with junior Slayton Wild leading the way with 531 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Jake Elkins is on his heels with 517 yards and seven touchdowns.
The fifth-ranked Rockets have three linemen who could be all-state players in Mr. Football hopeful Boone Sweeney, Neyland Darnell and Tristan Sawyer, who probably will not suit up of this week after being injured last week against Eagleville.
"Defensively, they stunt a lot so we have to be ready to pick up the blitzes," Kriesky said. "We'll need to be able to run the ball effectively, and defensively, we need to tackle well and create turnovers."
BULLDOGS:Chance for one more win
Cornersville (2-7, 2-5), coming off consecutive shutout losses at home, have one more shot at capturing a win at Frog Bottom when they take on rival Richland (2-7, 0-7) for Senior Night.
"It's been a tough year, but as a staff we knew coming into this year that we may face quite a bit of adversity," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "We returned one starter on each side of the ball, and we knew that we'd have to count on several young guys (freshman and sophomores) to come in and play immediately.
"Several of these young men would have benefited a great deal if they could've played some JV football, but that wasn't the case because they had to play early and often."
Randolph and the young Bulldogs have not shown one sign of quitting. Conversely they've seized the opportunity to use every snap as a learning tool.
"This team has grown up quite a bit during this season and I'm proud of the way these young men go out and compete each and every Friday night," Randolph stated. "This year has been a true grind it out season. The guys have kept a positive attitude all year long and have given everything they have got."
Randolph's youngsters, notably Eli Woodward, Peyton Finch, Trenton Warren and Cameron Whittaker have shown a lot of promise on offense, while CJ Coble, Will Vanhooser, Cayde Fitzgerald, Adam Qualls and Ben Taylor have grown into a close defensive unit.
"In high school football and beyond, experience is such a key factor and a lot of our guys have gotten the chance to play several snaps, and I know this will be very beneficial to them in the future," Randolph said. "The more reps that a player can get, the better off they'll be in the long run."
Seniors Dillard Hatchett, Austin Barron, Willie Liles, Jacob Mitchell and Peyton Williams have held the squad together through hard times, and Randolph wants a win for the team and the community.
"A win this Friday Night would be huge for our program with it being senior night and a big rivalry game," Randolph said. "A win would also help with going into the off-season. It would be great to build on and just give us a ton of motivation as we'd prepare to get in the weight room and get better each day."
The Cornersville coach also knows it has been hard on the fans and thanked them, saying, "I'd like to thank our administration, staff and fans of Cornersville for all the support that they've shown this season. I expected nothing less from such a great community. I ask everyone to stay on board, because this group of young men is working really hard, and there are better days ahead for Cornersville football."