Tigers dominate All-Region squad
2016 proved to be another year of outstanding accomplishments in Lewisburg, as the Tiger Football squad finished 12-2 on the season for the second year in a row, were crowned Region 4 /4A champions and a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state football playoff semifinalist.
Marshall County made its seventh straight playoff appearance and 32nd in school history as the Tigers now hold an all-time playoff mark of 25 wins and 31 losses, including a state title and undefeated season in 1984.
Multiple Tigers earned individual recognition as is expected during a season as successful as the one Marshall County experienced.
Highlighting the recipients are Region MVP, Defensive MVP, Offensive MVP, Athlete of the year, Coach of the Year Thomas Osteen, Assistant Coach of the Year Jerry Cobb, Specialist of the Year, six first Team All-Region members, seven second Team All-Region members and senior Miranda Fagan was named Region 4/4A Manager of the Year for her excellent tenure of work for the program.
Normally, MVP honors are reserved for offensive players, but 2016 was a year when impressive defensive play stood out just as much as the explosive offense. JQ Haislip, a senior defensive back, was a leader on a very impressive unit that gave up 10 points per game and held region opponents to a combined 42 points through seven games for a six point per game average in region play.
Haislip exemplifies the attitude necessary with playing championship defense, constantly flying all over the field to deliver a bone crushing hit. Productivity is always a true indicator of worth, and one would be hard pressed to find a better developed player in all phases of the game.
Haislip was not only a defensive starter; he also was the Tigers' primary fullback on offense paving the way for the running game and a kick coverage specialist making numerous big plays in the kicking game. Haislip finished the season with 77 total tackles, two interceptions, 16 pass break ups, 260 all-purpose yards, and two touchdowns.
To go along with the honor of Region 4/4A Most Valuable Player Award, Haislip was invited to play in the 10th Annual Toyota TN East vs. West All-Star game tomorrow at Tucker Stadium on the campus of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be aired live on ESPN3.
Four other Tigers were tabbed as the most valuable player in their respective categories: Cain McWilliams Defensive, Tre Crutcher Co-Offensive, Jay Howard Athlete, and Caleb Estes Specialist.
McWilliams wreaked havoc on opposing offenses, racking up 101 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback sacks, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
McWilliams' physical gifts (6'1 235 lbs., 4.5 secs. 40-yard dash) coupled with a ferocious effort to get to the ball carrier allowed him to lead the charge for the Tigers front that allowed just 211 yards per contest and held opponents scoreless four times.
McWilliams was also honored as a Class 4A Tennessee Titans Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Award finalist as well as being invited to the East vs. West All-Star Game.
Offensively, the Tigers were blessed to have a myriad of talented athletes who specialized at putting the ball in the end zone.
Tre Crutcher proved to be one of the best in recent memories, amassing 1,563 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns. Crutcher hauled in a team high 78 receptions for 1,175 yards and 14 touchdowns, rushed one time for a highlight reel 59-yard touchdown scamper, and added 327 kick return yards along with two touchdowns.
Jay Howard proved to be a dynamic threat for the Tigers, as he displayed his coverage abilities from his cornerback spot after injuries plagued the secondary. He tallied 1,389 all-purpose yards of which 387 came on explosive kick returns, 12 touchdowns, 10 tackles, two pass break-ups, and an interception.
Special Teams were indeed special in 2016 as Caleb Estes showcased his talents in all areas of the kicking game. Most impressive was his power and consistency on kickoffs, with 54 touchbacks on the season.
Estes was near perfect on extra point attempts converting on 71-of-73 attempts along with six field goals on the season, including a long of 35 yards. Estes added punting to his list of responsibilities in 2016 and he proved more than capable, averaging 37 yards per punt, a long of 54 yards, and two punts downed inside the opponents 20-yard line.
Offensively the Tigers added three players to the first Team All-Region list: Bryce Wallace-quarterback, Kamron Liggett-running back, Tristan Maxwell-offensive line, as well as four second Team All-Region members in Hayes Crosslin-offensive line, Dave Roberts-offensive line, Blair Conger-offensive line and Micajah Gold offensive line All-Academic.
With five offensive linemen present it is apparent as to why the Tigers were able to gain the impressive offensive statistics and scores that fans have come accustomed to.
The Tiger front cleared holes that opened for 2,507 yards of rushing offense and provided quarterback Wallace enough time to throw for 2,870. Needless to say that even though their names are not mentioned in the stat lines that these young men are the standard for physical and mental toughness as well as a critical component of the team.
As mentioned, multiple Tigers benefited from the hardnosed play of the offensive line as both Wallace and Liggett had impressive offensive numbers in 2016. Wallace finished his sophomore campaign completing 72 percent of his passes for 2,870 yards and 31 touchdowns. Wallace also added 213 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Liggett was explosive out of the backfield running through defenses with little resistance at most times of the season for a total of 1,294 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also hauled in 25 receptions for 359 yards and two scores.
Offense was not the only thing being practiced in Lewisburg as the Tigers' defense was equally impressive, especially their ability to stop offenses in negative territory, a feat they accomplished a total of 61 times throughout the season.
The players honored with the title of All-Region demonstrate the level of toughness it takes to be a defensive player. First team members include, Tae Tae Lyttle (defensive tackle) who made 51 stops, eight of which for loss, two quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles, a pass defended, and a blocked field goal.
Tavi McLean (defensive end) totaled 88 tackles, 12 for loss, three sacks, six passes defended and a forced fumble.
D'Andre Brown (defensive back) finished with 54 tackles, 5.5 for loss, three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble return for a touchdown.
On the second team are, Hunter Cummings (linebacker) had 88 tackles, 12.5 for loss, two sacks, five passes defended, one forced fumble, two recovered fumbles (1 for a TD), Donathon Tears (defensive back) 56 tackles, one for loss, a team high four interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Jayshon Wilcox (defensive tackle) had 55 total stops, five that went for negative yards, four sacks, and a pass defended.
As a unit the Tigers played outstanding defense in 2016, holding four opponents scoreless, including a 12 quarter scoreless streak, allowed only 127 yards rushing per game and 84 yards passing which turned into the spectacular overall number of allowing only 10 points per game.