Tigers pound Wildcats in Thursday night special
Following an emotional, last minute loss in Nashville last Friday to Pearl-Cohn, a Thursday night contest against a fading Lawrence County (2-5, 0-3) squad was just what the doctor ordered for Marshall County (4-2, 3-0).
In a game that featured little drama, the Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 halftime edge and got the younger players lots of reps in the second half as the leaders in 4-4A cruised to a 59-0 win.
"I was proud that we took care of business on a short week," Tiger coach Thomas Osteen stated. "I was very happy we started the game fast. I love the fact that we created four turnovers on defense and blocked a punt."
"In addition we had zero turnovers on offense," Osteen continued. "Anytime you can be plus four in the turnover margin you are going to give yourself a great chance to win."
The Marshall County defense continues to hit its stride as the season wears on, pitching its first shutout of the season behind eight-tackle performances from Tavi McLean and Antonio Warren, and seven from Grant Agnew.
"Our game plan was pretty simple, just tackle the ball," Agnew, who is also third on the team with 35 total tackles on the season, said. "We have been giving up a lot of big plays on missed tackles this season, so we have been working hard to get better at that."
"It felt great to get the shutout, that's a goal we have been working for," Agnew added. "Zero points feels great. We can continue to get better each week and we haven't reached our peak. We still have a lot we can improve on."
The Tigersí defense started the season uncharacteristically, giving up 30 points per game in matchups versus Cane Ridge, Tullahoma, and Shelbyville, but have come together to give up a meager 12 points per contest over the past three games against Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, and Lawrence County to remain in the driverís seat for the region title with just two conference games left before the playoffs.
"Our defense continues to get better as the season progresses and that was exactly our goal for the year," Osteen, who has lost just six regular season games over four seasons as Tigers coach said. "Hopefully itís an extreme confidence booster for our defense. They did a great job of tackling versus Lawrence and did not allow them the opportunity to make any explosive plays."
The Wildcats, who came into game with just two wins, but lost to current second place region opponent Maplewood by just seven points and one loss 5A club Columbia Central by 15 points, came out ready for the challenge.
The Tigers managed just 21 first half points to give the Wildcats a slight glimmer of hope heading into the second half.
But Marshall County, who has beaten Lawrence County by a combined 157-7 with two shutouts in the three years the two squads have been region opponents, went for the jugular in the third with 21 more points to give way to the younger players for the final quarter with a 42-0 edge.
"We told them to not let up," Osteen mentioned about his halftime talk. "We wanted to put the game out of reach in a hurry and get the running clock going so we could get our young guys some valuable game reps."
Several younger players, getting extensive playing time for the first game this season, used the opportunity to give the coaches a look at a bright future for the Tiger program for years to come.
Backup quarterback Christian Stacey threw for a touchdown on 3-of-3 attempts for 17 yards in the air, while sophomore running back Javarria Rucker stole the show with a 13-yard touchdown scamper on his only carry of the night and the season, plus an 11-yard touchdown grab on his only catch of the game and first on the season..
Rucker also added two tackles on defense.
A'Ky Howard also pulled in his first catch of the season on a 9-yard fourth quarter grab, while sophomore Riqkyous Summers and freshman Solomon Tyson also got into the action with late game carries.
But the offense star of the night was once again Kamron Liggett, who gained 136 yards and two early touchdowns on just nine carries for a whopping 15 yards per rush and added 22 more yards through the air for 158 all-purpose yards.
Veteran quarterback Bryce Wallace added another mistake free contest by passing for 95 yards and a score on 10-of-13 attempts and also gained 14 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Tigers now turn its focus on the remaining two region game against a suddenly hot Nolensville (2-5, 2-1) squad that has one two-out-of-three games to remain in a three-way tie for second place in Region 4-4A before a showdown with a downward trending Spring Hill (4-3, 2-1).
The Raiders have lost three out of their last four games, including a three-point loss to Maplewood on Friday, the Raiders first region loss of the year leaving the Tigers alone atop the conference standings.
A sweep of the two remaining region opponents will give the Tigers a home playoff game against DeKalb County (2-5, 0-2) as the five-team Region 3-4A standings have been set barring a major upset.
"Overall it was a huge region win that puts us 3-0 in the region and still in control of our destiny the rest of the way," Osteen offered.
Before the Tigers dive into the remaining region contests, Marshall County renews an age-old rivalry against longtime region opponent Giles County (4-2), who were reclassified into Class 3A in the offseason.
But the rivalry survived and now the Tigers and Bobcats will face off in Lewisburg on Friday night for homecoming and although the contest ultimately will not mean anything in terms of playoff seeding, don't be fooled into thinking the game will not matter to anyone from Pulaski or Lewisburg,
"We want to treat this like it's just a normal game," Agnew said. "But it is still Giles County and that has a whole different meaning whether it's a region game or not."
The Bobcats come into Lewisburg hot, winning three games in a row by outscoring Whites Creek, Franklin County, and East Nashville by a combined score of 129-56.
Marshall County 14 7 21 14-56
Lawrence County 0 0 0 0-0
Total Yards-Marshall County 286, Lawrence County 148
Rushing-Marshall County 174, Lawrence County 84
Passing-Marshall County 112, Lawrence County 64
Marshall County Offense
Rushing-Kamron Liggett 9-136-3TD, Bryce Wallace 4-14-TD, Javaria Rucker 1-13, Miciah Greer 1-9, R Summers 2-3, Solomon Tyson 2-1, Christian Stacey 1-(-2)
Passing-Bryce Wallace 10-13-95-TD, Christian Stacey 3-3-17-TD
Receiving-Devon Wilson 4-28-TD, Kamron Liggett 2-22, Hunter Cummings 1-15, Javaria Rucker 1-11-TD, Brandon Rowan 1-11, Matt Runions 1-9, AíKy Howard 1-9, Camryn Ruiz 1-6
Tackles-Tavi Mclean 8 (SACK), Antonio Warren 8, Grant Agnew 7, Andrew Gold 5, Mason Warner 4, Billy Cheek 4, Miciah Greer 4, Xavier Garrett 4, Jayshon Wilcox 3, Josh Johnson 3, Hunter Cummings 3, Keylin Talley 2 (FUM REC), Javaria Rucker 2, Dagon Stacy 1, Solomon Tyson 1, Devon Wilson 1 (INT), Marcellus Campbell 1 (INT), Hunter Lancaster 1, Malik Thomison (FUM REC)
Kickoffs-Matt Runions 1-0
Punts-Marcellus Campbell 1-0
Kickoffs-Caleb Estes 9-522-6TB
PAT-Caleb Estes 5-5, Edgar Martinez 3-3