Tigers crush Page for region title
For the second time in as many seasons, the 4-4A region championship and number one seed in the TSSAA state playoffs came down to the final regular season game between Marshall County and Page.
And for the second consecutive season, every major media outlet in middle Tennessee was on hand to watch the Tigers (9-1, 5-0) overwhelm the Patriots (6-3, 4-1) in an anticlimactic 51-0 Marshall County victory.
"I think the game plan was the same as every week," senior wide receiver Jackson Boyd, who caught a season high two receptions for 24 yards, said. "Come out and put the work in at practice and set up gadgets that work towards their defense and just get out on Friday and put to use everything we worked on during the week."
"Coach Osteen holds us to a very high standard and he demands the best out of us every day and I think that's why we put out so much on Friday's," Boyd continued. "We've got the best coaching staff in the state, they know exactly how to get us prepared."
In running the region table for the second consecutive season, the Tigers were even more impressive in 2016 compared to last season's semi-final team, beating conference foes by a dominant 250-29.
The closest region contest was a 45-10 thumping of Giles County and the Tigers shutout both Page and Lawrence County by 101-0 score.
"Well that makes you happy because these are the games that matter for the playoffs and these are games that you've got to be dialed in for the most and keyed up for the most because these are your rivals and your traditional opponents that know you the best and are traditionally the hardest games to play," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "So anytime you can be playing your best when it means the most makes you real proud."
QB on target
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Wallace continued his offensive tear going over 2,000 passing yards on the year by tossing three touchdowns for 216 yards and another no interception performance before handing the reins over to Malik Thompson for the fourth quarter.
"My job is to really just make good decisions and not turn the ball over," Wallace stated. "If I can do that, just get the ball to those playmakers like Tre (Crutcher) and Jay (Howard) then the sky's the limit."
For the second game in a row senior all-state wide receiver Tre Crutcher led the offense with three touchdown catches while going over 1,000 all-purpose yards on the season.
"What's led to (the recent success) honestly was just the work in practice," Crutcher, who finished with 130 all-purpose yards, said. "Really, I'm just having fun. It's my last year, why be stressed about it. I'm just trying to have fun with it."
Kamron Liggett also gave the offense a spark with 93 yards on 21 carries to finish with over 100 all-purpose yards for the third consecutive contest. Jay Howard added 57 receiving yards and J.Q. Haislip caught two balls for 30 yards.
But the story of the night was a defense once again led by Cain McWilliams who finished with eight tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for a loss in a game that saw the Tigers give up just 52 yards of total offense and allowed just two Patriot first downs, both of which came late in the fourth quarter.
"Our mantra is-- they won't score if we don't let them and our standard that we set every week is no points, no big plays, no penalties, takeaways, or turnovers," defensive coordinator Jerry Cobb offered. "So we executed tonight, we played up to the level that we established all the time."
The Tigers limited hard running freshman Bubba Johnson to a season low 33 yards on eight carries and junior quarterback Jacob Van Landingham 10 yards in the air on just 2-of-10 passing.
"Number three Bubba, he's a good running back to be a freshman, so we just tried to contain him and (Van Landingham), he's fast around the edge and he can make deep ball passes so we just tried to keep him in the pocket and not let him outside or anything," Blair Conger, who finished with two tackles and a tackle for loss, said.
Straight to work
The Tigers jumped out of the gate poised and went right to work on the Patriots with a Wallace six- yard run for a touchdown and the 7-0 lead after the Caleb Estes extra point.
After the first of many Page three and outs, the Tigers marched down the field on the back of D'Andre Brown who carried three straight times to score the running backs first rushing touchdown since the Franklin County game with 2:10 left in the first quarter for the 14-0 lead.
The rout was on as Wallace hit Crutcher on a 12-yard slant and a 21-0 lead less than a minute into the second.
On the second play of the subsequent Patriot drive McWilliams made a memorable introduction to Van Landingham with a hard hitting sack that caused the Page quarterback to fumble the ball that was recovered by Hunter Cummings.
The Patriots made its only defensive stand of the evening and an Estes' 29-yard field goal went wide right.
Back to Crutcher
With the game still in reach for Page Wallace hit Crutcher for his second score of the night on a 38-yard fly route and a 28-0 lead.
The Tigers put the game away for good on the next possession with two receptions by Boyd, two by Howard, and two runs by Liggett to set up a two-yard catch by Crutcher as the halftime buzzer sounded.
"You know, we thought about kicking the field goal but with the score 28-0 I thought we had a good play on the sidelines and went with it," Osteen said. "You know, if it had been a lesser score we probably would have kicked the field goal in that situation but every single one of the guys was begging to go for it so you let them win sometimes and the repaid their coach for a good play."
As the clock ran continuously through the second half, the Tigers tacked on two more scores and an Estes' field goal to complete the route and gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Tigers prepare for a familiar foe in #4 seed East Hamilton (5-5), who Marshall County beat in the 2015 quarterfinals 17-7.
The Hurricanes will be a tall task for a first round opponent having lost to #1 seed and undefeated Stone Memorial (10-0) by just five points 33-28. The Hurricanes lost to #2 seed Hixson (6-4) by a mere three points 21-18 and fell to #3 seed Chattanooga Central (3-7) 14-9.
Marshall County 14 21 7 9-51
Page 0 0 0 0-0
Total Offense-Marshall County 436
Passing 235, Rushing 201
Passing-Bryce Wallace 17-23-216-3TD, Malik Thomison 2-2-19
Receiving-Tre Crutcher 6-89-3TD, Jay Howard 5-57, JQ Haislip 2-30, Jackson Boyd 2-24, Matt Runions 1-15, Noah Jorgenson 1-12, Devon Wilson 1-7, Kamron Liggett 1-1
Rushing-Kamron Liggett 21-93-TD, Malik Thomison 3-35-TD, D'Andre Brown 4-30-TD, Elijah Taylor 9-26, Bryce Wallace 5-15-TD, Javarria Rucker 1-3, Jay Howard 1-(-1)
Tackles-Cain McWilliams 8 (2 sacks), Tae Tae Lyttle 5, Hunter Cummings 4 (fumble recovery), Trent Richardson 4, Devon Wilson 4, Jackson Boyd 2, Blair Conger 2, Tre Crutcher 1, Miciah Greer 1, Billy Cheek 1, Jayshon Wilcox 1, Xavier Garrett 1, Tavi McLean 1
PAT-Caleb Estes 6-6
FG-Caleb Estes 1-2-24