Friday Football Primer
The Marshall County Tigers (3-0, 1-0) and the Forrest Rockets (3-0, 1-0) are looking to remain undefeated on the season this week as the two squads embark on non-conference road trips with MCHS traveling to Nashville for a tough match-up with East Nashville Magnet School (1-2, 0-1), while the Rockets make the short trip to Rudderville for a grudge match with the Page Patriots (1-1, 1-0).
The Cornersville Bulldogs (1-2, 1-0), coming off their first win of the year at Grace Christian Academy of Franklin return to Frog Bottom Friday night for a Region 4A Homecoming battle with the Moore County Raiders (0-3, 0-1).
The Tigers are looking to start the season at 4-0 for the first time since 2008 when they won eight straight before losing the final three games of the season to finish 8-3.
Our goal is to go 1-0 each week and we want to improve day to day and week to week," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "Our goal is for this team to be as good as it can be---whatever that is. If we take any days or weeks off there is no way that we can reach our potential. We have a whole lot of people deeply invested in this team and our seniors are continuing to take steps each day to take ownership of the team."
In the first ever meeting between the two schools last year at Lewisburg, the Tigers came away with a 24-8 win, but Osteen does not have good memories of the squads' two trips to Music City in 2015 where they went 1-1 with a one-point win over Maplewood and a one-point loss at John Overton.
"We have had a very intense week of practice so far this week and we have really challenged the mental toughness of team in preparation for our road trip to Nashville," Osteen said. "We did not play up to the Tiger standard on both of our trips to Nashville last year so this will be a great test in how far our maturity has come in one year."
The Eagles are loaded with talent on defense with four players receiving Division I offers, including one of the top prospects in the country in linebacker Jacob Phillips, who has offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon.
"It will be a great challenge for our guys but, an even greater opportunity to show what they can do against great competition and prove themselves," Osteen said.
Marshall County has plenty of talent to match-up with the Eagles and Osteen and his staff have kept opposing teams off balance this season with a mixture of downhill running with Cain McWilliams, Kamron Liggett and D'Andre Brown while sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace has settled in and become comfortable throwing to a pair of standout wide receivers in Jay Howard and Tre Crutcher, plus newcomer Matt Runions.
"Our planning and preparation process for our opponents is a constant year round procedure," Osteen stated. "But on a week to week basis it is a grind. I believe that I have one of the best coaching staffs in the state. Each coach spends countless hours breaking down film and trying to put their players in the best position to be successful for the team."
The Tigers are also relatively healthy except for senior defensive back Keevon Maxwell, who suffered a rare kidney injury and may be on the shelf for the remainder of the season
"The senior was having a great season so far," Osteen said. "We are praying that he might be able to return late in the year at some point.
Look for the Tigers to win and win big versus the Eagles via a 42-21 win at Nashville.
The Forrest Rockets have also not started the season at 4-0 since 2008 when they won the first four games before losing three in a row and finished the campaign with a 6-4 record.
"Well, it would put us in new territory but the goal is to win every week, so I think it would be a huge boost heading into the remaining part of the region schedule," Forrest coach Brent Johns said about the opportunity to go 4-0.
Last week, Johns felt the squad was a little too overconfident as they escaped Westmoreland with a 13-12 win, thanks to the leg of senior place kicker Javier Rios, who booted two fourth quarter field goals to lift the Rockets to victory.
Three straight losses versus Page means no overconfidence this week for the Rockets, who want desperately to break the Patriots jinx.
"The mood of the team has been very good the first two days of practice," Johns said. "They are very aware of the improvements that need to be made and are working hard to get better."
The Page game has been a difficult contest for the Rockets, dealing with its deep Class 4A roster, a couple of physical batterings handed out by Page and a passing offense that is not seen much by Johns and his staff throughout the course of the regular season.
"We are preparing just like we always do, nothing special," Johns said. "We are just paying a little more attention to the small details that hurt us last week, plus Page also throws the ball better than our first three opponents, so logically we are working at defending the pass more this week."
As far as the physical aspect of the game and the Rockets' ability to dish out some black and blue work on the road, Johns said, "We just have to play hard and continue to be physical ourselves."
Westmoreland did something not many teams do to the Rockets, hold their running game under 100 yards.
Johns is determined to fix that this week and is also confident in his defense that has allowed just 12 points in the first three games of the season.
"We definitely must take care of the football first, establish the run and hit them with timely passes," Johns reiterated. "We also must continue to be sound on special teams, stop the run on defense first and don't give up the deep ball. Force them to throw underneath and make tackles."
The Rockets break the Pats three-year jinx with a big 27-24 win.
The Cornersville Bulldogs turned the corner last week, breaking the goose egg with its big road win and the now the boys from Frog Bottom have all they want right in front of them, beginning with the Lynchburg Raiders.
"The guys were really excited to get the win against Grace Christian last week," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "After the game we told the guys to enjoy the win for the rest of the night, but also understand that tomorrow brings a new week of preparation for Moore County The guys are not satisfied, they are hungry, they want more."
A win Friday night in the first game of a four-game home stand would give the Bulldogs a 2-0 record and a clear path to the playoffs, something they have not done in three years.
"Honestly, we look at every game as a must win, but yes this game is very vital for our team," Randolph stated. "As a staff, we have explained to them all week that this is the biggest game that all of them have played in their high school career. A win Friday night can go a long way for our team momentum and confidence wise."
What the Bulldogs have to eliminate is the turnover and penalty bug that has plagued them in their first three games with mistakes costing them two ballgames and last week, Cornersville lost the turnover battle, but won the game. Something that rarely happens.
Cornersville is down 11-7 over the first three games in turnovers and has been penalized 29 times, resulting in 235 lost yards.
"We just have to be a smarter football team," Randolph said "Untimely penalties and mistakes can cost you the game every time. The only thing we can do is put those behind us and keep working on our mistakes and fix the problems."
Homecoming games can sometimes be one of the toughest things to manage for a coaching staff that wants the players to be fresh and focused, yet at the same let them enjoy the great traditions of the school during the week leading up to the game.
"Homecoming is something that you have to deal with every year," Randolph said. "As a football program we try not to make too big of a deal about it, because at the end of the day, our objective is to win a football game. Our football team understands that, and we should be good. I do want them to enjoy Homecoming week too."
Football is football though when the whistle blows on Friday nights and Randolph and his staff have been hard at work preparing for a Moore County squad that will be hungry, looking for its first win of the season against a young Bulldog team.
"Moore County is a well-coached team that will be hungry for their first win on Friday night," Randolph said. "Winning this game would be a huge momentum gain for our program in this part of the season. Starting off 2-0 in the region would definitely give our program a great jump start in region play. The football team knows that this game is really big for our program."
Look for the Bulldogs to put together its most solid game of the young season Friday night with Eli Woodward (435 yards rushing, 4TD) leading the way for Cornersville via a 30-14 win over the Raiders.