Tigers show Giles County who's in charge
When Marshall County and Giles County meet up on Friday nights in the fall you can throw the record books out.
Unlike last season when the Tigers traveled to Pulaski to play a struggling 0-3 Giles County squad, the 2016 version of the Bobcats came into Lewisburg with a 3-1 record including impressive wins over 5A Columbia and Lincoln County and the only blemish a five-point loss to 5A Shelbyville (4-1).
But despite David O'Connor's return as head coach and new quarterback transferring in from Alabama to Pulaski the story was much the same as the other Tiger opponents over the past two seasons as Marshall County (5-0, 2-0) outscored the Bobcats (3-2, 1-1) 31-0 in the second half to remaining undefeated after a 45-10 win.
"We try to be business as normal for our team but we'd be lying if we try to say to them it isn't a bit or a lot different this week," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen, who is 3-0 in regular season games against Giles County, said. "It means so much for our kids, community, and program to come out with a win like this. Giles County's coaching staff is phenomenal and you can see how good a game plan they had for us."
The Tigers were once again led by the big three of Jay Howard, Tre Crutcher and Kamron Liggett on offense, who combined for 333 all-purpose yards and sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace continued his mastery of the Marshall County offense by throwing for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
"This was one for the books," Howard said. "We came down in the red zone and didn't capitalize to start out and the defense didn't capitalize as well as they usually do, but when we went into halftime we came together and refused to let the first half get us down. We came out with the win and our teammate chemistry got even stronger."
Recent MTSU commit Cain McWilliams turned in another huge performance on both sides of the ball, finishing with four carries for 50 yards and a touchdown on offense while chipping in six tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
McWilliams also return a fumble for 30 yards in the second quarter to revive a stagnant offense heading into halftime.
"Other people had bad blood about the game because this has been an ongoing rivalry for many years," stated McWilliams, who hails from Fayetteville. "The intensity they brought today at the pep rally made me feel like I had a lifelong rivalry with them too, so it was a nice, hype game."
The Tigers opened up the game with a 60-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with a 12-yard McWilliams touchdown run to take an early 7-0 lead after a Caleb Estes extra point kick.
The Tigers dodged a bullet on the next possession when a Giles County touchdown was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield and the Bobcats had to settle for a Jedidiah Jenkins field goal to close the gap at 7-3.
After a 60-yard Howard kickoff return, Bryce Wallace threw just his second interception of the season on the 10-yard line.
With Giles County going for the first down on fourth and inches McWilliams, caused a fumble and scooped up the football and raced downfield to alleviate the Bobcat threat.
Giles County would take its first and only lead of the game on the next possession when Bobcat quarterback John Bachus tossed a 26-yard strike to Tanner Holley for the 10-7 edge.
The Tigers answered right away as Tre Crutcher took the kickoff 55 yards before catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from Wallace as the second half wound down with the Tigers holding a slight 14-10 edge.
"The number one thing I told the guys at halftime was we've got to put the team above our self all the time," Osteen said. "There was too much yappin', penalties after the whistle and I don't care what their team was doing, bottom line is we've got to hold our self to a higher standard and I didn't think we did that in the first half so there were a bunch of coaching points on that and (I'm) happy we made the adjustments and played much cleaner in the second half."
The Tigers answered the challenge coming out and scoring on a 38-yard Wallace to Howard touchdown pass just four minutes into the half to make it a 21-10 game and Marshall County left the Bobcats in the rear view mirror with consecutive Liggett touchdown runs (9, 55 yards), another Wallace to Howard touchdown pass and Estes first field goal of the season to take the game from a four-point halftime lead to a 35-pont blow out win.
The defense came up huge in the second half as J.Q. Haislip secured his second interception of the season and star wide receiver Crutcher made his presence felt on defense with a pick late in the fourth quarter.
"Coach needed me on defense," Crutcher said about his unexpected move to the other side of the ball. "It was a big week and he felt like I fit the position well and I felt like I did too. I always wanted to play defense, I played defense before I was a receiver, but he wanted the best athletes on the field so I fit in the scheme tonight."
The Tiger defense, led by Jashon Wilcox with eight tackles and Haislip with seven, has now allowed just 49 points in its first five games, including an impressive three touchdowns in the past three games.
"Our defensive plan was to come in and do what we usually do and stop them," senior defensive back Donathan Tears, who has 15 tackles and an interception in the past two games, explained. "We weren't focused on them, we were worried about setting our standard and I think we did that to a certain level but we did really well in the second half."
With Giles County week in the books, Marshall County has another important test on Friday as a match of the unbeaten looms with 3A Stratford (5-0) in a non-region contest that will have all the eyes in the mid-state trained on the Tigers for the second week in a row.
"Our kids know we play a tough non-region schedule," Osteen said. "Stratford is undefeated and I feel like they have a shot and playing in the 3A state championship game, so it will be a playoff type atmosphere. If we're going to be the team that we want to be, we have to meet the challenge on Friday."
The game will feature a Spartan defense that has allowed just 26 points through five games against one of the most potent offenses in the state.
Marshall County has scored at least 41 points in every game except the win against Overton in which the Tigers scored 33 points on the 6A squad.
"It's actually a challenge, but I love a challenge," Crutcher said. "I love competing against other players that are the same caliber as me and if I can't do it, I know the rest of the team will step up."
Giles County 3 7 0 0-10
Marshall County 7 7 7 24-45
Marshall County-Cain McWilliams 12 run, Caleb Estes kick
Giles County-Jedidiah Jenkins 26 field goal
Giles County-Tanner Holley 26 pass from John Bachus, Jenkins kick
Marshall County-Tre Crutcher 33 pass from Bryce Wallace. Estes kick
Marshall County-Jay Howard 38 pass from Wallace, Estes kick
Marshall County-Kamron Liggett 9 run, Estes kick
Marshall County-Liggett 55 run, Estes kick
Marshall County-Jay Howard 30 pass from Wallace, Estes kick
Marshall County-Estes 25 field goal
Total Offense-Marshall County 462
Rushing 224, Passing 238
Rushing-Kamron Liggett 11-104-2TD, Cain McWilliams 4-50TD, Bryce Wallace 9-37, D'Andre Brown 3-19, Elijah Taylor 3-8, Jay Howard 2-6
Passing-Bryce Wallace 15-18-238-3TD-INT
Receiving-Tre Crutcher 3-93-TD, Jay Howard 6-82-2TD, Matt Reunions 2-40, Kamron Liggett 2-23
Tackles-Jayshon Wilcox 8, Hunter Cummings 7, JQ Haislip 7 (INT), Cain McWilliams 6 (sack, fumble recovery), Miciah Greer 6, Donathon Tears 6, Trent Richardson 4, D'Andre Brown 4, Tae Tae Lyttle 4, Josh Johnson 3, Tavi McLean 3, Savon Cash 2, Trey Fields 2, Hunter Lancaster 2, Blair Conger 1, Kamron Liggett 1, Caleb Fields 1, Andrew Gold 1, Tre Crutcher 1 (INT), Tristan Maxwell 1
Kicking-Caleb Estes KO 7-420-4TB, PAT 6-6, FG 1-1-25
Punting-Dagon Stacey 1-12