Tigers crush Panthers, eye region title
For the fourth and final time this season, Marshall County High School took on a squad from Metro Nashville when Maplewood (6-3) traveled to Preston Hopkins Field for senior night in a much anticipated matchup between the two Top 10 4A squads.
And despite a slow start culminating into a scoreless game after one period, the Tigers (8-1) scored 39 unanswered points before the Wildcats tacked on two late scores on the Marshall County reserves for a 39-16 final.
"I felt we were just a more well-rounded team in all three phases than Maplewood," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "Now granted they've got athletes across the board and athlete for athlete they match us if not more athletic than us, but I think we are a more complete team, specifically our offensive and defensive lines."
"I felt like we were more physical than they were up front on both sides of the ball and we kept them from having any running game all night," Osteen continued. "Year three of our program I feel like our strength, conditioning, and our depth as an overall program really showed tonight. Especially in the second half."
The Tigers continue to make strides following a season low 21 points in its only loss of the season to Stratford by outscoring it's next three opponents 138-28 to set up a match with Page for the Region 4-4A championship Friday at Rudderville.
"I think they know we've only got 15 days promised to us left and we want to get as good as we can get each day that we're together," Osteen said. "Bottom line, it's the second year in a row we've played a region championship game the last game of the season so I feel like that speaks volumes about our program and I'm really proud of where we're at but this group is definitely not satisfied."
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace continued his mastery of the Tiger offense, throwing for a season high five touchdowns and no interceptions against Maplewood and junior running back Kamron Liggett followed up his 300 plus all-purpose yard game versus Spring Hill with 116 total yards against the Wildcats.
The Tigers rushed for 177 yards on a Friday night behind a versatile offensive line that also paved the way for 253 yards against Spring Hill.
"Most of (the offensive lineman) are pretty good friends so we know how to communicate with each other with a lot of the plays we run," senior lineman Tristian Maxwell said. "We know how to pass off people if we need to but we're just really good at talking with each other."
The game looked to be the closely contested game as promised early on as the teams traded four and outs for the entirety of the initial quarter.
The Tigers finally got on the board on a 10-yard pass from Wallace to Tre Crutcher for the 7-0 lead after a Caleb Estes extra point kick.
Wallace shook things up a bit on the next scoring drive by finding senior Matt Runions for the wide out's first touchdown catch of the season on a 6-yard out reception and a 14-0 lead after another Estes kick.
Scramble for score
"We had a fly route, the slot was supposed to run a five-yard out route, but that didn't open up so Bryce scrambled out and the corner left was wide open," Runions, who has six receptions on the year, said. "I have a certain role and I play my role because (Jay and Tre) are gonna make the catches when they're called on. My role is to make the catches when my number is called."
Wallace hit another unlikely source in stretching the lead to three touchdowns as defensive leader J.Q. Haislip caught a 10-yard reception to top off a season high three reception and 72 yard night
D'Andre Brown's two-point conversion run gave the Tigers a 22-0 lead.
Wallace called on Crutcher twice more for 24 and 19 yards and an Estes 21-yard field turned a close game at the half into a 39-0 lead one possession into the final quarter.
Junior Hunter Cummings led a dominant Tiger defense with 10 tackles and three tackles for a loss, Cain McWilliams added nine tackles, two sacks, one tackle for a loss, and a blocked punt while D'Andre Brown chipped in four tackles and a huge late game interception to stop a driving Maplewood dead in its tracks.
"We came into this game knowing that they had a lot of fast people, they're track stars," Cummings said. "I wouldn't necessarily say they are good football players but they're good runners. We just had to contain them and that's what our mentality was coming into the game."
The Tigers take the gained experience from going 3-1 against four Davidson County squads with a 25-9 combined record into the region championship game Friday and beyond.
"The experience has been monumental for the fact that we've been so challenged by teams with great athletics," Osteen said. "These Nashville games have made us better as a football team and that's what it's all about, being as good as you can be at this point in the season."
Perhaps for the last time ever, Page and Marshall County will do battle for the Region 4-4A title as the Patriots will make the move up to 5A next season.
The Patriots bring a 6-2 record into the showdown with losses against #3 ranked (2A) Forrest by seven points and #3 ranked (3A) Fairview by just three as both the Rockets and Yellow Jackets remain undefeated heading into the last week of the season.
"It's not as big as Giles County but we still don't like them," Cummings said. "We're gonna go in and we're gonna dominate from start to finish."
Maplewood 0 0 0 16-16
Marshall County 0 14 18 7-39
Passing 237, Rushing 177
Passing-Bryce Wallace 19-28-211-5TD, Malik Thomison 1-1-6
Receiving-Tre Crutcher 7-93-3TD, JQ Haislip 3-72-TD, Kamron Liggett 3-28, Jay Howard 4-17, Dagon Stacey 1-15, Matt Runions 1-6-TD, Devon Wilson 1-6
Rushing-Kamron Liggett 22-85, Elijah Taylor 7-47, Bryce Wallace 8-36, Malik Thomison 1-4, Javarria Rucker 1-3, Cain McWilliams 2-2, Jay Howard 2-0
Tackles-Hunter Cummings 10 (sack), Cain McWilliams 9 (2 sacks), JQ Haislip 5, Trent Richardson 5, D'Andre Brown 4 (INT), Tae Tae Lyttle 4 (fumble recovery), Tavi Mclean 4, Miciah Greer 3, Donathon Tears 3 (fumble recovery), Josh Johnson 3, Tre Crutcher 2, Jackson Boyd 1, Billy Cheek 1, Tristan Maxwell 1, Blair Conger 1
Kicking-Caleb Estes (5 touchbacks), (PAT 4-4), (FG 1-1-21 yards)