Playoff time is here

Friday, November 4, 2016
Marshall County running back Kamron Liggett (6), who leads the Tigers in all-purpose yard (1,236) and touchdowns (16), will play an integral part in this week's first round playoff game versus East Hamilton at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg. Tribune photo by Matt Mizner

Its playoff time in Tennessee!

Throw all the records out and start a brand new season Friday night as all three county football teams take to the gridiron for first round Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) playoff games.

TIGERS

The fifth-ranked Marshall County Tigers continued to make a bold statement last week when they traveled to Rudderville where they pasted Page 51-0 to capture back-to-back Region 4/4A crowns.

"I am very happy that we were able to win the region on the final night of the regular season for the second consecutive year," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "That has allowed us to be in as good of a position as possible up to this point. But now we have come down to a 'one game season'. The stakes are the highest, but that's why you work so hard all year long is for moments like this week."

The Tigers (9-1) face a familiar foe Friday night at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg as they face off with East Hamilton for the second time in two years.

Marshall County beat the Hurricanes (5-5) last season on the road 17-7 in the quarterfinals and are not overlooking East Hamilton, which finished in fourth place in Region 3, but had some early season injury issues before winning three straight games in the middle of the season.

Strong #4

"East Hamilton is not your typical #4 seed," Osteen stated. "Their quarterback got hurt early in the year and that caused them to lose a couple close games."

The Hurricanes lost their last two games of the season at home, including a close 33-28 loss last week to undefeated Stone Memorial, but still Osteen is wary of the athletic squad that gave the Tigers all they had last season.

"They were probably the best defense that we faced all of last season," Osteen said. "Our hands will be full in every facet of the game."

Marshall County has home field advantage throughout the first four rounds of the playoffs until it moves to Tennessee Tech University for the championship game on December 3.

"Our kids have invested so much in our program," Osteen said. "They don't want to have any regrets about what happens on the field this Friday."

The Marshall County offensive attack has produced a whopping 43.3 points per game, while allowing a measly 10.5 on defense.

"We must control their running attack defensively and not give up any big plays," Osteen said. "Offensively we must be able to sustain long drives and take care of the football because East Hamilton is extremely well-coached and talented defensively."

This one won't be close as the Tigers blow out the Hurricane playoff wind via a 42-7 thrashing.

Dylan Todd, carrying the flag for the Forrest Rockets during the runout, will be a part of the home crowd atmosphere this Friday night when Chapel Hill entertains Chattanooga Tyner Academy in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

ROCKETS

The Forrest Rockets had a date with destiny last week, traveling to Jackson County in hopes of completing the program's first undefeated regular season since 1980, but a late Blue Devils' interception in the end zone spoiled the dream as Chapel Hill fell 20-14.

"It's behind us," Forrest coach Brent Johns simply stated. "We will use the mistakes to get better."

Johns, who completed his first regular season as head coach with a successful defense of the Region 4/2A title talked about his initial season with the Rockets and what it will be like, manning the sidelines at Murrey E. Holton Field this Friday when Forrest (9-1) entertains Chattanooga Tyner Academy (4-6).

Just like before

"It is really no different from the past few years," said Johns, who was the offensive coordinator for the Rockets before taking on the head coaching position. "We are so focused on what we need to do as a team and staff to beat Tyner. I really haven't had time to think about it in those terms."

The injury bug has bitten the Rockets the past few weeks, but they get back the services of freshman running back and defensive stalwart Nick McClendon, who had to sit out last week's game due to suspension.

"It's always good to have everyone available," Johns said. "We've had a great attitude at practice all week."

The fifth-ranked Rockets may have had the wake-up call they needed and are not overlooking any team the rest of the way, especially a talented Tyner squad that likes to run the football and can make big plays via the aerial attack as well.

'Fast, athletic'

"Tyner is very fast and athletic and they will run the ball most of the time, but are very capable of throwing the long ball at any time," Johns stated. "We have to get off to a fast start, be more physical, play great defense and come up with an excellent kicking game."

Forrest has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs and has lost in the first round four out of the last seven seasons, including first round home losses in 2009 and 2014.

Johns believes in the Rockets and in the power of the home crowd, saying, "I think that will be a huge advantage in our favor. We need the bleachers full and the student section rocking!"

The Rockets will bounce back in a big way from last week's heartbreaking loss when they de-horn the Rams 27-14.

The foot of Cornersville kicker Ben Taylor could be the deciding factor this week when the Bulldogs travel to South Pittsburg to take on the Pirates in a Class A first round playoff game. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

BULLDOGS

The Cornersville Bulldogs are back in the game, making their first playoff appearance since 2013 as they traveled to Richland last week and came away with a tough 14-0 win for the clincher.

"I am excited about being able to get the win at Richland," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "We knew going in that it would be a tough game, but the guys fought hard throughout the game and we were able to finish with the win."

Now it's on to the postseason for the resilient Dawgs (5-5), who face a monumental task this week when they make the long trek to South Pittsburg (9-1).

Grateful

"We are very happy and appreciative of being able to make the playoffs, they are never a given and to know that we have a chance to be a part of the postseason really makes me a proud coach," Randolph said. "This group really deserves to be here and we are not satisfied with just being here."

South Pitt, ranked number five in the Class A Associated Press Poll are a very formidable foe with a great postseason record (54-22), including five state titles with the last championship coming in 2010 when they beat Jo Byrns 41-6.

"Friday night we will face a well-coached and really good football team, that is no secret," Randolph said. "We have to be confident and believe in what we do. This team has battled all year long and this Friday night I don't expect anything less."

A major part of the adversity facing the Bulldogs is just the grind of a tough, long 110 plus mile road trip over Montegale Mountain.

Business-minded

"We have a plan that we feel good about going into Friday, we will leave school a little early to get to South Pitt and be able to let the long ride wear off of the guys," Randolph said. "We plan on stopping at the University of Sewanee and doing a walk-thru at their field, but at the end of the day, this is a business trip for our football team."

The Pirates better not sell this determined Cornersville team short.

The Bulldogs, though very young know how to win as the core group has played together for several years and that experience will help this year's Frog Bottom squad face adversity at its finest.

"We expect to go compete at a high level," Randolph stated. "This group of young men have worked really hard to get to this point and we want to continue to be here in the playoffs. We are going to give everything we have on Friday night and everything else will take care of itself."

The Bulldogs pull off the week's biggest upset when they sink the Pirates' ship via a 24-21 win on a late Ben Taylor field goal.