Tigers have great expectations
There's not a single football fan inside Marshall County that doesn't know about the Tigers success in 2015, which included a near perfect regular season (only one regular season blemish- a one point loss to 6A Nashville Overton), a historic four game playoff march to the 4A semi-finals, a Mr. Football finalist (QB Aston Posey), two college football signees (Peyton Hood- Kentucky Christian, Steven Clemmons-Murray State), and numerous other post season individual awards.
The majority of those play makers are gone, including nearly the entire defense, which means some new faces will need to step up for the Tigers to replicate the successes of last season.
"Our kids have come in four days a week throughout June and July so far, so just a ton of time they've been putting in to the football season and as you know, if you're going to compete at a high level at any stage of football now, there is no off season, there's just a season you don't play anymore," third-year head coach Thomas Osteen stated. "So we've had a great lifting season, great spring practice and that kind of spear-headed into summer and I feel we're in a good spot. I'm kind of happy with where we are at, but we're definitely not satisfied, but I think we've got a good start."
The biggest need offensively will be to replace the huge shoes of Mr. Football runner-up Ashton Posey who passed for over 3,000 yards and 28 TDs in one of the single greatest offensive performances in Tiger football history. Set to step into that role is sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace, who led the Tiger junior varsity squad last season.
"(Wallace) really prepared last year like he was the starter even though he wasn't," Osteen said. "He got a bunch of reps in practice with the first team, got a bunch of reps in games during the second half and of course started the whole junior varsity season last year. So he's still going to have growing pains, but I can't imagine many more sophomore quarterbacks around that are more prepared for the moment as he is.
Wallace, the younger brother of former Giles County and Ole Miss Quarterback Bo Wallace, excelled in limited duty last season, passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 11 completions.
"Being around the first team really helped, getting those reps in, seeing how fast it is, because it's a lot different than junior varsity," the younger Wallace noted. "It's been good. It's easy having a lot of older guys around me."
Wallace will have multiple weapons to choose from including Division I prospects Jay Howard and Tre Crutcher, who combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and 20 TD last season.
"The expectations for the offense is out of this world," Howard, who also rushed for nearly 400 yards and sports numerous college offers, said. "We have talent throughout the whole offense and with some of our offensive line hurt, the back-ups are getting a lot of reps, perfecting their craft and getting better and better every day which makes the whole team better."
Despite losing 1,000 yard rusher Josh Franklin to graduation, Osteen will be once again be able to turn to junior Kamron Liggett, who ran for 996 yards in 2015 and crossed the end zone 18 times on the ground.
"I hit the weight room harder for the time I was able to be in there and I've been working to better my technique and of course gaining speed," Liggett said. "Of course gaining strength is big because that way in the tight situation games I can get those three or four yards that are well needed."
D'Andre Brown, who missed the 2015 season with a knee injury, will split time with Liggett as well as Fayetteville transfer Cain McWilliams, a top linebacker prospect for the class of 2016.
Junior Malik Harris added 55 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving on three catches last season in limited action for the Tigers in 2015 and will look to play a bigger role on the field this season.
Sophomore receiver Dagon Stacy and freshman receiver Devon Wilson have been making waves in off season workouts and seven-on-seven competitions.
The biggest question mark for the 2016 season is undeniably the defense after losing almost the entire starting squad to graduation.
"We graduated three starting defensive backs, three linebackers, and three defensive lineman, one of those being Peyton Hood, the defensive MVP of the region," defensive coordinator Jerry Cobb stated. "So anytime you lose that much skin, that much senior leadership on the team it's going to be tough, but we're blessed to have a big senior class this year, a bunch of guys who've played a lot of football in the last couple of years, guys who have been in the weight room for the past two or three seasons, guys who are mature physically and mentally."
"So we have a ton of depth, enough that I would take that against anybody in the state as far as line-ups go," Cobb added. "I don't know if anyone has a better 22-24 players that we can put out there."
The cupboard is not bare as the Tigers were given a gift when linebacker Cain McWilliams transferred to Marshall County from Fayetteville High this past spring. McWilliams, who sports offers from South Carolina, MTSU, and Georgia State among others, led Fayetteville with 60 tackles and 18 tackles for a loss during 2015.
The Tigers also return defensive leaders J.Q. Haislip and Blair Conger to lead the charge in 2016.
Haislip, who has been offered by Morehead State, led the Tigers with 87 tackles and three interceptions from the linebacker position.
"With the seven-on-sevens this summer we played a lot of the people that are coming into the defense now," Haislip said. "They're not really young, but they've been back-ups for a few years but they're pretty good, we're working on 'em."
Conger, who will play offensive and defensive line was a major defensive factor for the Tigers in 2015 with 48 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
"We learned how to play together last year," Conger said. "I don't think we bought in until halfway through the season. Hopefully we get it quicker and learn how to click a little more often."
The Tigers also return Tavi McLean, who had a breakout sophomore season with 57 tackles, 3.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries and 8.5 tackles for a loss from the defensive end position and junior linebacker Hunter Cummings, who added 69 tackles, two sacks, one interception and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Seniors Dartavious Lytle (46 tackles, 2.5 TFL) and Donathan Tears (22 tackles), plus sophomore Jayshon Wilcox (24 tackles, 1.5 TFL) will add valuable experience to the Tiger defensive unit.
The Tigers could not be more solid at any position than kicker and punter as junior Caleb Estes returns to add an extra weapon to the Marshall County scoring machine.
Estes was nearly perfect in field goals tries in 2015 going 9-for-10 with a long of 43 yards along with 57-out-of-60 on extra point attempts.
"Our offense is really, really good but it's great to feel like if we stall there's another option," Estes said. "And a lot of teams don't have that other option, they have to go for it. It's just another trick up our sleeve."
Estes also handled kickoff duties for the better part of 2015 and shared punting duties with Posey.
"They got a taste of the playoff atmosphere, playing in big games at the end of the year," Osteen recalled. "They realized how long a season it is and how much it's more a marathon than a sprint, all the things you have to do to take care of your body to play in 14 games like we did last year and so now instead of just talking about it, they've actually got a reference point. There is no substitute for experience and we've got a really experienced bunch coming back."
"I think people will be most surprised by our teammate chemistry and how we move the ball," Howard added. "With everyone working it should be a great year for the Tiger family and certainly for those loyal Tiger Fans!"
2016 Marshall County Tigers Schedule
August 12 7:00 PM Jamboree (CPA) HOME
August 19 7:00 PM Franklin County AWAY
August 26 7:00 PM Overton HOME
September 2 7:00 PM Tullahoma* HOME
September 9 7:00 PM East Nashville AWAY
September 16 7:00 PM Giles County * HOME
September 23 7:00 PM Stratford AWAY
September 30 7:00 PM Lawrence County (HC) * HOME
October 7 OFF
October 14 7:00 PM Spring Hill* AWAY
October 2 7:00 PM Maplewood (Senior Night) HOME
October 28 7:00 PM Page * AWAY
* Denotes Region 4-4A game
1 Kevon Maxwell SR 5-9 145 DB
2 Cain McWilliams SR 6-1 222 LB/RB
3 Miciah Greer SO 5-6 155 DB/RB
4 Jay Howard SR 6-0 175 WR/DB
5 D'Andre Brown SR 5-10 185 RB/DB
6 Kamron Liggett JR 5-10 191 RB/LB
7 Devontavious Wilson FR 5-10 143 WR/DB
8 Javarria Rucker FR 5-5 132 RB/DB
9 Tavi McLean JR 6-2 254 TE/DE
10 Tre Crutcher SR 5-10 165 WR/DB
11 Boo Shirley FR 5-8 183 QB/FB
12 Bryce Wallace SO 5-11 160 QB
13 Malik Harris JR 5-9 139 RB/DB
14 Matt Runions JR 5-7 154 WR
15 Malik Thomison SO 5-10 145 QB/DB
17 Hunter Cummings JR 5-6 160 LB
18 Jackson Boyd SR 5-10 164 WR
20 Savon Cash SR 5-10 158 DB
21 Andrew Gold FR 5-9 155 DB/WR
22 Dagon Stacey SO 6-0 185 TE/WR
23 Tre Fields SR 5-7 176 LB
24 Hunter Lancaster SO 5-10 180 LB
25 Antonio Warren SO 5-7 145 DB
26 Dakota Childress SO 5-8 128 WR/DB
27 J.Q. Haislip SR 5-10 171 CB
28 Elijah Taylor SO 5-7 176 RB
29 Riqkyous Summers FR 5-6 165 LB
30 Roshan Desai SO 5-5 160 LB
31 Donathan Tears SR 5-11 165 DB
32 Kyrese Harris SO 5-6 127 DB
33 Noah Jorgensen SR 5-6 162 WR
34 Caleb Estes JR 5-9 159 K
35 Will Medley SO 5-8 133 DB
36 Marcellus Campbell SO 5-6 125 RB/DB
37 Billy Cheek JR 5-11 180 LB
39 Trent Richardson SR 5-9 213 LB/FB
40 Joseph Freeland JR 5-9 172 LB
41 Kel Greer FR 5-4 157 FB/LB
42 Dylan Hazzard SO 5-9 174 FB
43 Jacquez Nicholson SR 5-8 184 LB
44 Keylin Talley FR 6-0 226 DE
46 Caleb Darnell SO 5-11 145 TE
47 Nathan Fuller SR 5-10 147 LB
50 Noe Eusebio FR 5-5 210 OL
51 Ethan Petty SO 5-8 148 LB
52 Rhad Stevens SR 5-10 226 OL
53 Bennett Fleming SO 5-9 160 LB
54 Tristian Maxwell SR 5-10 250 OL/DE
55 Ivan Albino FR 5-5 145 LB
56 Matthew Fuller FR 5-1 170 OL
57 Trey Cozart SO 6-0 260 OL
59 Damon Wilkins SO 5-5 209 OL
60 Austin Wright SO 5-4 206 OL
61 Halen Bryant SO 5-8 263 OL
63 Taylor Clark JR 6-1 263 OL
64 Blair Conger SR 6-1 307 DL
65 Terry Gulley FR 5-7 205 OL
67 Hayes Croslin SR 6-0 250 OL
68 Josh Johnson JR 6-1 261 DL
70 Tez Allen FR 5-9 235 DL
71 Dartavious Lytle SR 5-9 312 DT
72 Jayshon Wilcox SO 6-0 321 DL
73 X'Zavier Garrett SO 5-9 239 DL
74 Micah Rhea FR 5-3 264 DL
75 Marcus McCord SO 6-0 278 DL
77 Dave Roberts JR 6-3 293 OL
78 Micajah Gold SR 6-0 235 OL
79 Ethan Miller FR 5-7 165 OL
80 Stetson Owens FR 5-7 161 LB
81 James Maywald SR 5-11 158 WR
82 Grant Agnew JR 5-10 150 WR
84 Michael Howard FR 5-9 124 WR