Friday football primer
Week 5 is the midway mark of the prep football season and two county squads still have perfection on its minds when they take the field Friday night as the Marshall County Tigers and Forrest Rockets head into the night with the goal of going 5-0 on the season.
Marshall County faces off versus longtime foe and once beaten Giles County (3-1, 1-0) at Preston Hopkins Field, while the Rockets take a short yellow bus ride to Unionville to face the winless Vikings (0-3, 0-2).
Forrest has not started a season 5-0 since 1980 and Tigers last 5-0 start was in 2008 when they won eight straight.
"Our goal is to be 1-0 at the end of each week and Giles County stands in the way of that goal," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "We have talked that this game does not make or break our season, but it goes a long way towards positioning ourselves where we want to be and keeping pace in the race for a region championship."
There is plenty of underlying drama when the Tigers meet Giles County as current MCHS head coach Thomas Osteen learned the craft under the tutelage of Giles County legend David O'Connor, who returned to Pulaski this season after a three-year stint at Buckhorn in Alabama.
O'Connor went 75-17 in seven seasons at Giles County, winning the Class 4A state championship in 2009 and made the semifinals in 2011 and 2012 with Osteen on his staff.
"Coach O'Connor is one of the best coaches in the state, he is a tireless worker and a winner and it is no surprise to me that he has the Bobcats rolling again," Osteen said. "I would not have had the opportunity to be the head coach at MCHS if it were not for many of the things I learned under him and his staff. But, at the end of the day it's a player's game, not me versus Coach O'Connor. We have been business as usual this week in preparing for our opponent. But needless to say it has not been very hard to keep the kids motivated all week."
Also heading up the drama list is the Wallace connection as sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace makes his first start versus his hometown team that was once quarterbacked by big brother Bo, who won the 2009 Mr. Football Award before going on to have a stellar career at Ole Miss.
Bo Wallace is now on the staff at MCHS.
Still, like Osteen stated, the game will be decided on the field and the Tigers come in healthy as they had the luxury of resting starters in a blowout win at East Nashville last week.
Marshall County will also get a big boost this week when senior offensive lineman Micajah Gold returns to the lineup.
The Marshall County offense has been brilliant all year and Osteen looks for much of the same from a unit that can do heavy damage in the air or on the ground.
"Offensively we must protect the football, finish drives and not make stupid penalties," Osteen stated. "We must be the most physical team on both sides of the ball."
Giles County has shown that they are on the verge of becoming a prolific offense too and Osteen is not underestimating the Bobcats ability to come up with big plays in the passing game.
"We will have to have our best defensive outing of the year, especially against the Bobcats passing game," Osteen said. "Our secondary and pass rush must have great nights. We must limit their big plays and create turnovers."
The Tigers come in as the more experienced squad, being in the fire the last two years under Osteen, who believes his team is ready for the physical challenge.
"Our experience and depth on both sides of the ball we must take advantage of," Osteen said. "Our athletes must win their one-on-one battles on both sides of the ball."
The last time Marshall County lost at Preston Hopkins Field was to the Bobcats, who ousted the Tigers in round one of the playoffs, via a 38-35 heartbreaker on November 7, 2014.
The Tigers make it 10 wins in a row at home and remain unbeaten on the season as they slip past the Bobcats 41-40.
The Forrest Rockets, coming off a huge win at Page last week face a Unionville team they have beaten all nines they have faced them with most by lopsided margins.
The biggest task for the Forrest coaching staff this week will be to avoid a letdown, but after the Page win, the Rockets went straight to work on the Vikings.
"We went right back to work as a coaching staff early Saturday and the team came in late Sunday and got familiar with what Community does well," Forrest coach Brent Johns said. "I think the win gave us a little extra pep in our step at practice this week. These kids know that our goal is a region championship and that this region game versus Community is bigger than the non-region Page win."
Forrest also comes in to the contest healthy, except for the loss of sophomore running back Justin Leonard, who unfortunately was involved in a car wreck last Friday and suffered a broken leg.
"He (Leonard) was a huge part of our team and we've missed his presence all week," Johns stated.
The winless Unionville team has only scored 42 points in three games, but narrowly lost to a good Westmoreland squad at home last week and Johns feels the Vikings may be turning the corner and should not be over looked.
"I think another year under this coaching staff is the biggest change," Johns said. "Coach (Chris) Grooms is good coach and has Community headed in a positive direction."
After a dismal performance in the running game at Westmoreland two weeks ago, the Rockets busted out with a 300-yard effort at Page and Johns wants to see more of the same in your face play from his line and his backs.
"I'd attribute the improvement completely to our poor play at Westmoreland," Johns said. "We coached the offense really hard and critical all week and you see how they responded."
The Rockets have also gotten a big boost by the solid quarterback play from junior Layton Bennett, who has thrown just one interception all year, while completing 50 percent of his passes (9-18) and two touchdowns.
"He (Bennett) has very good leadership skills for a junior and he's not afraid to speak up and take control of the huddle when needed," Johns said. "He's also a very efficient passer in our play action game."
This defensive unit has been solid all year for the Rockets and really came into its own last week at Page, limiting the high-flying Patriots to 14 points, including a mediocre 120 yards rushing.
"All the credit there goes to coach (Eli) Stephenson, he works tirelessly on the weekends making sure our game plan is sound versus everything the opponent does," Johns said. "He learned a lot in his two years under (Matt) Kriesky and so far we haven't had any drop off."
Rockets blast Vikings 44-10.
The Cornersville Bulldogs have a bye this week and will be back in action next Friday when they host Mt. Pleasant at Frog Bottom.