Tigers go Hurricane hunting
Marshall County hits road for East Hamilton tonight
Tiger fans most likely figured a win against Livingston Academy would mean a trip to Crossville and showdown between undefeated Region 3-4A champ Stone Memorial.
When the final scores rolled in after Friday night's 49-13 victory, the Tigers instead booked a trip east to Chattanooga where they will face East Hamilton. The third-seeded Hurricanes (8-4) avenged an earlier 14-7 loss at Stone Memorial, winning in convincing fashion over the fifth ranked Panthers 28-16.
Underdogs step up
The Hurricanes are embracing the role of underdog at this juncture in the playoffs by going on the road to Franklin to demolish the number two seed from 4-4A Page 32-7 and taking to the road last Friday in its victory over Stone Memorial.
"East Hamilton is an extremely athletic football team," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "They are probably the most athletic team in their region"
The Hurricanes will get a break from Friday travel in Friday's match up with Marshall County despite the Tigers one-seed and East Hamilton's three-seed due to the yearly rotating schedule.
The Hurricanes appear to be clicking at the prefect time heading into the game with Marshall County. East Hamilton finished the season 6-4, but region losses to Livingston Academy (21-14) and Stone Memorial (14-7) were each a touchdown away from going as a victory in the win column. The other two regular season losses came from a nail-biter to Class 5A playoff participant Cleveland (18-15) and 5A playoff quarterfinalist Ooltewah (51-7). In other words the Hurricanes were two touchdowns and a field goal away from entering the post season 9-1.
"I think they've got a young team," Osteen said. "They were picked to win their region this year and lost a couple early but have gotten better as the years gone on. I know they are really athletic and they're going to be a huge challenge for us."
East Hamilton is a young football program in just its seventh year participating in varsity football since being split from Ooltewah High School to relieve overcrowding. The Hurricanes got off to a rocky start with just three wins and seventeen losses to start out the programs history but broke into the playoffs in 2011 and becoming a force in the next two seasons finishing a combined 21-5 with two quarterfinal appearances in a row over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The Tigers became the first ever playoff victory for the young program back in 2012 when the Hurricanes shut out Marshall County 38-0 to end the season for the young squad from Lewisburg. The freshman from that 2012 squad are now seniors and are looking to avenge the lone loss to a Hurricane team looking to make the TSSAA semi finals for the first time in school history.
"My freshman year we played East Hamilton up there and we didn't have the team that we do now," senior tight end Darius McKenzie stated. "We went up there and it was a long ride home."
"We just want to go up there and play to our ability," McKenzie continued. "We have a lot of players on this team that can make plays and help the team out. We want to go up there and show East Hamilton we're not the same team that they beat three years ago."
The 2015 edition of the Marshall County Tigers are night and day from where the program was in 2012 behind Osteen's lethal offense scheme and coach Jerry Cobb's shut down defense.
The Tigers, led by Mr. Football finalist Ashton Posey, have scored at least 34 points in every game this season except one, a 24-8 win over East Nashville early on in the season. The Tigers have put up at least 41 points in eight games this year and are averaging 51.5 points and allowing just 10 points per game in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Tigers are led by Posey's 2,707 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions on the year.
Posey's favorite target Tre Crutcher topped the 1,000 receiving yards mark versus Livingston Academy (1,015) but was held to just 43 yards on two receptions against the Wildcats.
Darius McKenzie picked up the slack against the Wildcats by catching a season high 65 yards and tying a season high with four receptions.
The run game was firing on all cylinders in the second round as Josh Franklin burned the Wildcats for 176 yards on just six carries, Kamron Liggett rushed for two touchdowns and 80 yards, and Posey showcased his running ability by topping the 100 yard rushing mark for the first time all year.
Cobb's defense has been stubborn throughout the season, but has turned the level up a few notches in the playoffs by allowing just six first downs against Cumberland County and giving up just one touchdown after initial scoring drives by the Jets and the Wildcats.
The defense is led by J.Q. Haislip and Zach Johnson with 76 tackles each, Tanner Clark (74 tackles), Iendi Biggers (62), and Hunter Cummings lead a menacing linebacker corps but the defense line led by Peyton Hood (70 tackles) and Blair Conger (42 tackles) is where it all starts for the Tigers.
"We get our edge in the weight room," Conger mentioned. "We continue to stay working in there even though we are still in the playoffs right now. The weight room is a big part of our success."
The Tigers (20-26 overall in the playoffs since 1982) will look to advance to semi finals for just the second time in school history since the 1984 state championship team. The game is scheduled for 7pm ET in Ooltewah, just outside of Chattanooga on Friday.