Tigers shut down Spring Hill
With a state semi-final berth on the line Marshall County handled the much anticipated rematch with Spring Hill just as the Tigers had the previous two playoff opponents--with a dominating win in all phases of the game.
And minus one long run in the first quarter to keep things close initially and another score with the second team defense in the game, the Tigers held the Raiders in check for a dominating 53-13 triumph.
"I feel like we won all three phases of the game and as the game went on I felt like our offensive and defensive lines took over the football game," Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen, who is 6-1 the past two seasons in the playoffs, said. "I hated that we started a little sloppy on both sides of the ball, but we eventually got into a rhythm as the game got going. We preach all the time to not get too high or too low and know that it's always a long game."
Unlike the previous two playoff games when Marshall County started out running the ball with D'Andre Brown and mixed in Cain McWilliams and Kam Liggett as the game wore on, the Tigers decided to let a good thing play out as Liggett ran wild on the Raiders for 202 yards and five touchdowns and added 26 yards receiving.
"Each game takes on a life of its own," Osteen explained. "Kamron had a great week of practice and started fast, so we just decided to ride the 'hot hand' as the game continued. And that allowed us to keep D'Andre (Brown) and Cain (McWilliams) fresher on defense."
That strategy also paid off as McWilliams led the Tiger defense with 10 tackles, a sack, and a tackle for a loss and Brown came in second with eight tackles.
"We just came out and did the same thing we do every Friday night," McWilliams, who also recently selected to play in the Toyota East vs. West TN All-Star Classic said. "I think we did a good job defensively containing (Donate) Smith."
Smith, who had piled up over 500 rushing yards in the first two playoff contests, was held to 158 yards on 22 attempts and a touchdown, but the majority of those yards came after the game was already decided.
The Tigers put its first touchdown on the board within the first two minutes of the contest with an eight-yard Liggett plunge and Estes extra point for the 7-0 lead, but the Raiders threatened on the next possession, eating up almost seven minutes of clock before the Tigers knocked down two straight passes in the left corner end zone to Justin Oden and gained the ball back on the 24-yard line on the turnover on downs.
The Tigers were stopped on the next possession and the Raiders capitalized with Smith breaking free for a 53-yard score and after a failed PAT kick the score was 7-6.
The Tigers wasted little time building on the lead with 22 Liggett yards before a 43-yard strike from Bryce Wallace to Tre Crutcher on third-and-long set up a one-yard Liggett plunge and Matt Runions to Jackson Boyd two-point conversion for the 15-6 lead.
Five minutes later Wallace connected with Crutcher for 9 yards, Howard twice for 22 yards, and three straight Liggett runs including a 20-yard score to push the lead to 22-6.
Big halftime lead
The Tigers tacked on another touchdown before the half ended with an eight-play drive capped off with a 10-yard Crutcher touchdown and a 29-6 halftime lead.
Liggett squashed any Raiders' semifinal hopes with a 44-yard touchdown run to start the second half and an Estes 33-yard field goal pushed the lead to 39-6.
Liggett added another 14-yard touchdown run before a quick-handed Boyd grabbed the Spring Hill onside kick and raced 45 yards before getting caught from behind just prior to the goal line.
Malik Thomison finished off the series with a hard fought 10-yard touchdown run for the final 53-13 score.
Wallace finished the night with 231 yards in the air and a touchdown to Crutcher, who led the Tigers with 145 yards receiving on seven receptions. Howard also added 58 yards and six receptions for the Tigers.
Besides holding Smith to a playoff low 158 yards, the Tigers defense also contained SEC prospect Oden and limited senior quarterback Blake Lovell to just 96 yards in the air on 10 completions, while holding the Raiders to its lowest point total since Marshall County beat Spring Hill 49-12 on October 14.
Jayshon Wilcox continued his tear through the playoffs with seven tackles, while Trent Richardson also contributed seven and Tavi McLean finished with seven tackles and a team-leading two sacks.
"Besides the one long run I think we did a great job containing (Smith)," Osteen said.
"That was our emphasis all week to try and keep him from beating us. I think our defense did a great job gang tackling him and making him work for every yard that he got."
The Tigers will now turn to Knoxville Central in the semifinal round.
"It's truly an honor (to play for the chance at the finals)," McWilliams said. "It has been one heck of a ride, so we might as well go all the way for our last ride."
Spring Hill 6 0 7 0-13
Marshall County 7 22 17 7-53
Marshall County-Kamron Liggett 8 run, (Caleb Estes PAT)
Spring Hill-Dontae Smith 47 run, (Failed PAT)
Marshall County-Liggett 1 run, (Jackson Boyd pass to Matt Runions)
Marshall County-Liggett 20 run, (Estes PAT)
Marshall County-Tre Crutcher 10 pass from Bryce Wallace, (Estes PAT)
Marshall County-Liggett 44 run, (Estes PAT)
Marshall County-Estes 32-yard FG
Marshall County-Liggett 14 run (Estes PAT)
Spring Hill-Smith 5 run (PAT good)
Marshall County-Malik Thomison 10 run (Estes PAT)
Marshall Total Offense-486 yards
Rushing-Kamron Liggett 22-206-5TD, Bryce Wallace 4-24, Malik Thomison 2-10, Cain McWilliams 1-1, Elijah Taylor 1-0
Passing-Bryce Wallace 15-20-227-TD
Receiving-Tre Crutcher 7-143-TD, Jay Howard 6-58, Kamron Liggett 2-26
Tackles-Cain McWilliams 10 (sack), D'Andre Brown 8, Trent Richardson 7, Jayshon Wilcox 7, Tavi McLean 7 (2 sacks), Donathan Tears 6, Josh Johnson 5, Tae Tae Lyttle 4 (sack), JQ Haislip 4, Hunter Cummings 3, Jay Howard 2, Bennett Flemming 2, Devon Wilson 2, Tre Fields 2, Andrew Gold 1, Kyrese Harris 1, Marcellus Campbell 1
Kickoffs-Caleb Estes 9-470-5TB
PAT-Caleb Estes 6-6
Field goals-Caleb Estes 1-1-32
Punting-Caleb Estes 1-33
Kickoffs-Jackson Boyd 1-45, JQ Haislip 1-21
Punts-Tre Crutcher 2-25