Season winds down, intensity ramps up
The prep football season is winding down with two weeks remaining in the regular season and all three Marshall County teams have secured playoff berths, but the stakes are still sky high.
The number three ranked Forrest Rockets (8-0, 5-0), coming off a much-needed bye week, are in a quest for their first undefeated regular season since 1980 and have a two road games left on their schedule, beginning this week just down the road at Eagleville.
"It was a good week for us to recharge, we focused on us and not the opponent for a change," Forrest coach Brent Johns said. "They seem to be handling it well and they are very focused on Eagleville only this week."
The Eagles (2-5, 1-4) have lost three straight region games to fall out of the playoff picture, but would like nothing more than to spoil Forrest's bid for perfection.
"They know what's at stake for us," Johns said. "Our guys have a ton of respect for the Eagleville program."
Johns and the Rockets are ready for anything this week as they expect Eagleville to pull out all the stops in an upset bid.
"It's not very hard to get them up for Eagleville," Johns stated. "Our guys have grown up playing them and we are both very familiar with what each is capable of bringing on any Friday night."
The Rockets have beaten Eagleville two straight years after losing four in a row and since 2003, Forrest holds an 8-5 advantage over their close neighbors from Rutherford County.
Johns and defensive coordinator Eli Stephenson's biggest worry this week is stopping Eagleville's talented quarterback Ethan Cobb, who has put up another good season, despite the Eagles' sub-par record.
"We know that we must stop last year's offensive region MVP Ethan Cobb," Johns said. "He a super talented quarterback."
Sticking to plan
For the Rockets to win, they must stick with the game plan that has gotten them where they are at and not get caught up in an emotional battle Friday night.
"We must continue to play great defense and protect the ball on offense," Johns said. "We also need to really press the kicking game this week."
The Eagles will put up a great fight, but the Rockets prevail 31-14, putting them one game from perfection.
Marshall County's lone loss of the season almost a month ago versus Stratford has really fired up the Tigers, who have pasted their last two opponents by a combined score of 99-12, including a 49-12 blowout win at Spring Hill last week.
"I was pleased we won a big region game on the road and I feel like we are continuing to improve as a football team," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen said. "I think that we are playing complementary football right now with our defense, offense, and special teams all working well together."
Looming on the horizon is a winner take all region game at Page next week, but first the Tigers are in for a war this week when #10 Maplewood visits Preston Hopkins Filed in Lewisburg for senior night.
Last season, the number four ranked Tigers (7-1, 4-0) came away with an exciting 34-33 double overtime win at Nashville, making it two straight wins over the Panthers.
"We are extremely excited to play a great Maplewood team at our place Friday night," Osteen said. "They have elite athletes on both side of the ball led by the Hodges brothers at quarterback (Bobo) and wide receiver (Bo). It will be a playoff type game no doubt."
The Tigers have been clicking on all cylinders for most of the year and last week, junior running back Kamron Liggett ratchetted up the offensive firepower when he put up 311 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns.
In the three games versus Nashville Metro schools so far this campaign, MCHS is ahead with a 2-1 record and has outscored the city boys 95-54 and Osteen believes that sticking to Tiger football will get the job done this week.
"We must continue to be sound in all three phases," Osteen said. "We need to gang tackle their ball carries, not give up big plays and make the most of every possession offensively."
The Panthers will be fired up for this one, but the Tigers will be ready and prevail 42-20.
Now to the fighting Cornersville Bulldogs, who battled back from a 0-2 start before winning four games in a row, only to see their hard work set back by two region losses in a row, including a tough 25-12 loss at number five Columbia Academy last week.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with the loss," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "I thought we came out and competed hard, but our lack of depth towards the end was a determining factor."
Randolph's squad played a turnover free game and had one penalty in the loss at CA, something of a rarity when it comes to wins and losses at the any level of football.
How to win
"I was proud of our team for being disciplined and not turning the ball over," Randolph stated. "As a staff we know that we have to be able to play better defense up front and be able to score in the red zone. If we are able to do those things we are talking about a win instead of a loss."
Knowing Randolph and his Bulldogs, Cornersville (4-4, 4-2) will fight back with all they have this week and come into the contest versus a good Fayetteville (6-2, 5-1) team in good shape injury wise.
"Our young football team has no intentions to back down and we will come out and compete at a high level," Randolph said.
The Tigers took out a Summertown team last week 32-8, one week after the Eagles outlasted Cornersville 24-13 and Randolph knows it will be an extremely difficult road test this week.
"Fayetteville City will be a very tough challenge for our football team, they are a very athletic football team and well-coached," Randolph stated. "They are led by junior Brandon Moore, who is a speedy all-purpose guy than can hurt you in several ways, so we will definitely have to know where he is at all times."
A win this week at Fayetteville will throw the Region 4A standings topsy turvy with Summertown, Cornersville and Fayetteville all tied for second place.
The Bulldogs finish the season next week at Richland, Fayetteville travels to Grace Christian-Franklin and Summertown, who holds the tiebreaker goes on the road to Mt. Pleasant.
"A win would be huge this week and put our football team in a three-way tie for second place with Fayetteville City and Summertown," Randolph said. "So, we definitely have a lot to play for this Friday night as far as playoff implications and seeding go."
Randolph outlined the Bulldogs' plan for success this week, saying, "We have to get back to playing Bulldog football and that is having a strong run game and playing very tough defense."
The second year coach added, "We have to continue to be disciplined and eliminate the turnovers and untimely penalties. If we can do this, and contain Fayetteville City's athletic team then we can have a good chance of winning the ballgame."
Look for Randolph to have his squad fired up this week as the Bulldogs take a 27-24 win over the Tigers.