Pivotal region matchups highlight Week 5

Friday, September 15, 2017
Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen likes his team’s chances in a shootout this week at Maplewood.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

Two of the three Marshall County schools will be on the road for Week 5 for Friday night gridiron action as Marshall County High School travels to Maplewood and Forrest goes to Columbia Academy, while the Cornersville Bulldogs host Mt. Pleasant.

Sometimes an early bye week is not the best scenario, but for Thomas Osteen and the Marshall Tigers the extra time was a blessing as his banged up squad got a chance to recuperate.

“I think the bye week has come at a really good time, we were beat up a little more than usual after three ball games,” Osteen said. “So hopefully, we will have a much fresher team this Friday for what is a huge region game.”

The fifth-ranked Tigers (2-1, 1-0), coming off a big 42-35 road win at Tullahoma, travel to Nashville tonight in a Region 4/4A tilt where they take on the Maplewood Panthers (3-1, 1-0).

“It will be a very tough environment to play in as every road trip that we have taken to Nashville the last three years has presented unique challenges,” Osteen said. “But we are expecting that and will make no excuses whatever the outcome is this Friday.”

Marshall County holds a 2-1 advantage in the series that dates back to 2010, including a thrilling 34-33 double overtime win in 2015 and the Tigers won big in Lewisburg last year, 39-16.

“I think our guys are itching to get back to playing after the time off,” Osteen said. “We know how good Maplewood is, they have given us fits the last two years and have a team this year that is better than the previous two that we have faced.”

“They have dynamic skill players across the board that will be tough to contain.”

Marshall County running back Kamron Liggett, who has carried the ball 60 times for 356 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, races down the sidelines for a big gain versus Tullahoma. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The Tullahoma win was a back-and-forth affair as the Tiger offense seemed to find its groove, setting up a potential shootout with the Panthers that could play right into the high-flying hands of MCHS.

“We tell our guys to never get too high and never get too low during the course of a game,” Osteen stated. “You can't win the game with one play and you can't lose the game with one play, so you play each game like it has a life of its own and then move to the next one.”

In an evenly matched-up contest, special teams could be the difference and Osteen emphasized that importance during the bye week practices.

“We spent this past week working on fundamentals of the game, especially execution in our Special Teams which I believe can play much better across the board going forward,” Osteen said.

I expect us to play hungry this Friday,” said Osteen, who holds a 34-8 career mark at MCHS and is 3-3 in ballgames in the Music City. “Our First major goal is always to get in the playoffs then win our region.”

“This game is huge concerning both those goals, but in the here and now our only goal is to try and figure out how to get one more point than Maplewood and be 1-0 for this week.”

It will be a battle in Frog Bottom tonight as the first-place Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) take on longtime foe Mt. Pleasant (3-1, 1-1) in a huge Region 5A contest.

“It is definitely a big game for both teams,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “I told the guys at the beginning of the week that this is the biggest game they have ever played in.”

Cornersville has all the potential to take the region title this season and Randolph likes the attitude and work ethic his experienced group of Bulldogs have displayed throughout the year.

“I am very excited that these young men have put themselves in position to compete for a top spot in this region and we still have a ways to go, but the guys are hungry and are excited about competing in this region race,” said the coach.

“As a staff we do feel that we have a good mixture of talent that can go out and compete at a high level and give our football team a chance to win.”

The Dawgs easily handled a talented Grace Christian squad 39-15 at home last week as the Cornersville offense and defense outplayed the Lions.

“The win against GCA was a big win for our program, we faced a tough quality opponent and it was a very physical game up front,” Randolph said. “I was proud that our guys never backed down from the challenge. Improving to 3-1 and 2-0 in the region is a big stepping stone for our program.”

The Bulldog offense is on a two-game tear, outscoring its opponents 81-15 and 142-60 overall in their four games.

“The offense is really fun to watch right now, we have the benefit of spreading the ball around to four or five guys that can really be effective with ball in their hands,” Randolph said. “Our offensive staff works really hard to game plan each week and get these guys in the right spot to be successful.”

The backbone of the Cornersville offensive attack is a grinding running game that has produced 1,146 yards so far with quarterback Eli Woodard leading the charge with 64 carries for 549 yards and five touchdowns.

“Our offensive line has been the driving force,” Randolph said. “They have really been physical up front and that has helped bring us success the last couple of weeks.”

Devin Baus leads a stingy defense with 25.5 tackles and three forced fumbles for the Bulldogs, who have nine takeaways on the season.

The Cornersville Bulldogs defensive backs will be busy this week versus Mt. Pleasant. Photo by George "Pap" Warren

“Our defense has been pretty good the last couple of weeks,” Randolph said. “We were able to get the shutout during week three against Moore County and were able to hold GCA with their spread offense to 15 points.”

“We would like to see the yardage amount go down and points per game average go down also, so we are working hard every day to get better on defense.”

It is the second game of a three-game home stand at Frog Bottom for the Dawgs and Randolph is certain that his Bulldog Nation will be out in full voice this week.

“We are asking all of Bulldog Nation to come out Friday night if they can, we definitely need a big fan base to help cheer these young men to a victory on Friday night,” Randolph. “So, if you are not busy on Friday and you want to see a good football game, come on down to Cornersville and help support Bulldog Football. Go Dawgs!”

Forrest coach Brent Johns and the Rocket are hoping to make it two wins in a row when they travel to Columbia Academy tonight. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rockets broke through last week, snapping a 0-3 start to the season with a big 49-0 Homecoming win over Summertown at Murrey E. Holton Field in Chapel Hill.

“I’m very proud,” Forrest coach Brent Johns said about the shutout win over the over the Eagles. “It’s given us a ton of energy in practice all week.”

Johns sees a reenergized Rockets’ squad, who battled hard in all three losses before blowing out Summertown.

Nick McClendon leads the Rockets in rushing this season with 65 carries for 470 yards and five touchdowns. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

“The practice attitude has been great so far,” Johns said. “Tuesday was one of the more spirited practices we’ve had this season.”

Starting quarterback Layton Bennett was out of the Summertown game with an injury he suffered at Eagleville and junior Josh Meglis stepped up big, throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Bennett is back from his injury for this week’s game and Johns said that Bennett will start the game, but both will play early.

The Rockets (1-3, 1-1) will need all the offense they can get this week as they take on Columbia Academy (3-1, 1-0) for the first time since 2006 when they pasted the Bulldogs 50-0.

This time it is a game of a higher importance as the two newly Region 5/2A opponents will battle to keep pace with first place Lewis County (4-0, 2-0), who beat Eagleville 29-21 last week.

“It’s a huge region game for us, CA was a rival for years,” Johns said. “Hopefully we can pick right back up where we left off with that rivalry years ago.”

The Rockets need the win at CA bad if they want to climb the region standings and make a run during a two-game road trip that concludes next week at Watertown.

Johns is certain that the loyal Rocket fans will be traveling along in full force to spur the squad on to victory in Columbia.

“I hope the crowd Friday night can help get us going early,” Johns said. “We need a fast start.”