Cane Ridge edges Tigers in opening game
In a scene that has almost become routine for Friday nights in Lewisburg during football season, an excess of media, including Rudy Kalis and his trusty Channel 4 helicopter, made the trek to Marshall County for the season opening marquee matchup between the Tigers and 6A Cane Ridge.
While the majority of the media picked a runaway victory by the Antioch school, the Ravens (1-0) needed a late touchdown in the final minutes to break a tie and escape Lewisburg with a win over perhaps the toughest team to beat at home in Class 4A.
"I feel like the resilience and heart of our football team is extremely good," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen, who lost an opener for the first time as a Tiger coach, said. "There were a bunch of adverse moments where we could have just packed it in tonight and didn't. We fought to the very end and our defense played phenomenal against an offense that is great."
"That's one of the best offenses in the state at any level," Osteen continued. "And we gave ourselves a chance to win. Multiple times in the second and third quarters we had the ball within striking distance and had a bad play or a penalty or mishap to get us off track."
Marshall County is widely known for its high scoring and powerful offense but the defense, which had an abundance of new roles to fill heading into the 2017 campaign, turned out to be the strong spot for the Tigers by allowing Cane Ridge to score just 27 points in the contest after the Ravens scored below that mark just three times in 2016.
"We been talking about this all off season and we know what we are and what we're capable of," Tiger defensive coordinator Jerry Cobb stated. "We're a hardworking group. We were probably out-manned at every position except the defensive line/offensive line matchups. But we worked hard and prepare and play hard on every snap."
"I couldn't be more proud of our guys tonight. Everybody played their hearts out."
The Tigers were led on the defensive end by Division I prospect Tavi McLean with 11 tackles and two tackles for a loss.
Junior Jayshon Wilcox also added 11 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack while senior Hunter Cummings turned in a brilliant game with nine tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack, and a huge interception returned for eight yards.
Joseph Freeland also chipped in nine tackles and Miciah Greer added eight sticks and a pass defended.
"I feel like we had an overall good performance, the defense held them to 14 points in my opinion, so holding a 6A contender to 14 points says a lot about us," Cummings said. "I feel like our linebackers and defensive line held down the middle pretty well. We came in playing a nickel base and that wasn't working for us so we switched to dime and I feel like dime was shutting them down. I feel like we adapted pretty well during the game."
Offensively the Ravens held the Tigers to a meager 184 yards of total offense.
Bryce Wallace, who threw for close to 3,000 yards in 2016, was held to just 52 passing yards on 5-of-21 attempts but managed lead Marshall County in rushing with 50 yards on 15 carries.
The Tigers were dealt a blow as running back Elijah Taylor sustained a possible season-ending knee injury in the jamboree, but Kamron Liggett came through with 45 yards on just 11 carries and Greer added 12 yards on two attempts along with 16 receiving yards.
Giles County transfer Brandon Rowan led the Tigers with two receptions for 22 yards and Dagon Stacey added a 14-yard catch for a second quarter touchdown.
The Tigers were able to punch the ball in early on a Cane Ridge fumble as Liggett breezed into the end zone on a one-yard rush, but the Caleb Estes missed extra point left Marshall County up 6-0.
The Ravens marched down the field with ease on the next possession before Cane Ridge quarterback Kory Andrews connected with wide receiver Jared McCray for an 18-yard strike.
The Ravens stayed hot and looked ready to blow the contest wide open after an 11-yard Devon Starling run up the middle pushed the lead to 13-6, two minutes into the second quarter.
Tiger return man Marcellus Campbell put Marshall County in prime position to strike back with a 23-yard punt return and after a 15-yard Wallace rush into the red zone the junior quarterback hit Stacey in the end zone to tie the game at 13-13.
"We've been practicing all week for that play," Stacey said. "We've been looking at their defense and knew the seam would be wide open. Bryce threw a perfect ball over my back shoulder and that was all I needed."
The Tigers missed a prime opportunity to regain the lead at 8:49 in the third quarter, when a 48-yard Estes field goal attempt was pulled right.
The Ravens next drive was cut short after Cummings picked off Cane Ridge to give the Tigers back the ball, but a Wallace fumble gave the Ravens the lead for good.
"Anytime you get supremely challenged by a good opponent it's good for your team," Osteen said. "It allows you to coach your kids harder. You're not just telling them anymore, you've actually got it on film.”
“This is what you've got to do to win against a good team. So anytime you can show that to the kids that's really good."
The Tigers will stay at home on Friday with a matchup against Shelbyville (0-1), a team that surprised many around the state by losing to Tullahoma in the opener.
Tullahoma (1-0), the Tigers first away game and first region game of the season, had not won a game the previous two seasons and held the state’s longest losing streak before the Shelbyville upset.
Cane Ridge 7 6 7 7-27
Marshall County 6 7 0 7-20
Total offense: Rushing 104, Passing 52
Rushing: Bryce Wallace 15-50, Kamron Liggett 11-45-2 TDs, Miciah Greer 2-12, Hunter Cummings 1-1, Malik Thomison 1-(-4)
Passing: Bryce Wallace 5-21-52-TD
Receiving: Brandon Rowan 2-22, Miciah Greer 1-16, Dagon Stacey 1-14-TD, Kamron Liggett 1-0
Tackles: Jayshon Wilcox 11 (SACK), Tavi Mclean 11, Hunter Cummings 9 (SACK, INT.), Joseph Freeland 9, Caleb Estes 8, Grant Agnew 7, Josh Johnson 6, Malik Thomison 5, Marcellus Campbell 5, Andrew Gold 4, Billy Cheek 4, Xavier Garrett 4, Devon Wilson 2, Brandon Rowan
Punt returns: Marcellus Campbell 2-20
PAT: Caleb Estes 2-3
FG: Caleb Estes 0-1
Kickoffs: Caleb Estes 4-240-4TB
Punting: Caleb Estes 3-118