Friday's Football Primer
It's evolved into a very exciting season on the gridiron for the three Marshall County schools which have a combined 14-3 record on the year as Forrest (6-0, 3-0), Marshall County (5-1, 2-0) and Cornersville (3-2, 2-0) all hold its region standings' top spot.
The undefeated and fifth-ranked Rockets stayed unblemished via a 43-7 pasting over visiting Cascade last week on Homecoming and now face its toughest test of the season when they host third-ranked Watertown (6-0, 3-0) at Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill Friday night.
"It hasn't been hard to keep the guys focused at all this week," Forrest coach Brent Johns said. "They are well aware of what's at stake and want it as bad as the coaches and fans do. We've talked a lot this week about being mature and doing the right things in all phases."
The Rockets traveled to Watertown last season and came away with their signature win of the year when they came back to win 35-20 over the Purple Tigers.
"2016 Watertown is much better than 2015 Watertown," Johns said. "Obviously their quarterback (Seth) Price, wide receivers (Vonte) Bates and Heath Price and tackle Rusty Staats are a year older, stronger, and more experienced. Throw in an unbelievable running back in Ty Love and you've got a great football team. They are by far the best team we've faced this season."
It will be a great matchup as Watertown, which sports the most prolific offense in Region 4AA, scoring 47.5 points per game goes head-to-head with the region leading Forrest defense that allows a miniscule 5.5 points per game and has not allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points this season.
"We've ridden on our defenses back all year and I don't expect that to change this week," Johns said. "The kids on this team have a defense first mentality and it shows each week. We will also continue to try and share the ball on offense as much as possible."
Johns is confident that the home field advantage will play out this week with the crowd even bigger than it was for Homecoming last week as fans will want to come out and see the battle of the unbeaten at Chapel Hill.
"It could actually be the difference in the game if we have the same crowd and atmosphere as last week," Johns stated. "Our student section continues to grow and get louder each week. I don't believe another 2A school in the state can match the environment that our student body provides for our players each week."
This game should live up to the hype and look for it to go the distance with the Rockets coming out on top 24-21.
"I wouldn't trade teams with anyone in the state," Johns concluded. "I love these guys and what they bring to our football program every day."
The Marshall County Tigers (5-1, 2-0) will be in a bad football mood this week when they entertain Lawrence County (2-4, 0-2) for Homecoming after losing their first game of the year last week at Stratford.
"I feel for our players and kids because I know how much they put into each week and I hate that we did not take advantage of one of our few opportunities to play and compete, but my hats off to Stratford," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "They are a great football team. They out played us and out executed us in crucial moments last week."
Although the Tigers dropped a couple of spots to number five in the Class 4A Associated Press' Poll this week, Osteen is confident the his squad will bounce back in a big way this week at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg.
"In no way have any of our goals changed or our ability to accomplish them," Osteen stated. "Hopefully this is just a great reminder to our program just how difficult winning is and just how efficient you have to play to beat a good team."
Lawrence County is a much improved team than the squad that Tigers pounded 48-7 last season as the Wildcats took Giles County to the wire before losing 21-20, played Page tough in a 20-7 loss, tallied a 32-14 win over Columbia Central and are coming off a 21-0 shutout win over Loretto.
"Our guys are hungry to get back on the field this Friday night and try and get the bad taste out of our mouth," Osteen said. "Lawrence County is a much improved football team as well. They had every opportunity to beat Giles County late in the second half of their game."
As the week-long Homecoming festivities at MCHS turn into Friday night football madness in Lewisburg, Osteen has seen the team bounce back during the week and he thinks the Homecoming atmosphere has been a big help in letting the guys put away the tough loss last week and move forward.
"We have had a great homecoming week at MCHS, but it has been business as usual with our team as we have kept things as normal as possible with our team," Osteen said. "With that being said, I want our guys to be able to enjoy all the Homecoming activities and make great memories, while at the same time always putting the team above themselves."
The Tigers will crush the Wildcats 55-0.
The Cornersville Bulldogs (3-2, 2-0) are in the midst of a magical three-game home region play winning streak with their latest triumph coming over a Mt. Pleasant team they had not beaten since 2000.
"I was extremely proud for our team for getting the win," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "Winning this game was big for a few reasons----It gives us momentum and confidence going into our next region game, and it also allows our team to keep pushing towards our team goals."
It's been even longer than that since the Bulldogs have won four-in-a-row as they host Huntland this week at Frog Bottom in the third game of a four-game home stand.
"Winning this game would be huge for our football program and once again, it will allow us to get another step closer to one of our team goals and that would be making the playoffs," Randolph said. "This team continues to work very hard every week and I just want them to receive the benefits from bringing it every day. My staff and I expect a lot out these guys and that's why I want them to succeed each and every time they get on the field."
The Bulldogs are loaded with young talent and the majority of the starters this season were pushed into every game duty last season as freshmen and Randolph thinks that experience he has helped his squad mature faster than normal, putting them in a position to handle crucial situations on the football field.
"I think last year having to play a bunch of young guys is starting to pay some dividends for our team," Randolph stated. "I'm not saying we are where we need to be, but that year of experience was very important in laying a foundation for our program."
The Cornersville coach also expects his team to take it one game a time, one quarter at a time and one play at time, remaining focused on the task at hand.
"We still have a lot of football to play and I can only hope that each and every opportunity that we can get on the field will allow us to get better as a team," Randolph said.
The Hornets are also in the midst of a solid bounce back season with three consecutive wins after starting the season 0-3 and have a talented running back in DJ Taylor, who will be the key player to stop this week.
"DJ Taylor is a very talented athlete that can make a ton of plays for his team offensively and defensively and if we want to win the game we will have to know where he is at all times," Randolph said. "Defensively we will have to be disciplined and really rely on playing assignment football. Reading our keys will be very vital to our approach, because Huntland will be a Wing-T team with several misdirection schemes."
What does Randolph expect from the Bulldogs this week?
"We will compete, compete, and compete," Randolph answered. "I don't expect anything less from this group of young men. They know what is at stake for Friday night, so I think they will come out and accept the challenge from Huntland."
Once again, the scoreboard at Frog Bottom will read in the Bulldogs' favor, 31-21.