County gridiron squads gear up for road trips

Friday, October 20, 2017
The Tigers lost a big part of their team last week when senior Hunter Cummings (17) suffered a season-ending injury.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

All three county gridiron squads are firing up the yellow busses tonight as the Marshall County Tigers travel to Brentwood, the Cornersville Bulldogs make the long trek to Huntland, and the Forrest Rockets take the familiar jaunt over to Wartrace to face longtime foe Cascade.

Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen has lost nine games in four years with five of the setbacks coming in tough regular season non-region contests.

The Tigers are 6-3 in the playoffs under Osteen, making it to the semifinals two years in a row.

The number eight ranked Tigers only two losses this season have come against ranked teams that are both in first place in their respective regions.

In the season opener, 6A Cane Ridge beat the Tigers at Lewisburg 27-24 and in Week 5 Marshall County suffered a close 28-24 loss at fifth-ranked and Region 5-3A leader Pearl-Cohn.

MCHS is coming off a huge 34-27 win over Spring Hill that has Osteen’s Tigers in the driver’s seat once again, headed for a third consecutive region crown if Nolensville loses versus Maplewood tonight.

“I feel it was a very ‘Gritty’ win that we achieved over Spring Hill, we did not play our best football in any phase of the game, but we were still able to overcome some big time adversity and find a way to win,” Osteen said. “Hopefully that’s the mark of a team that’s greatly improving each week.”

“Spring Hill is an extremely talented team and one of our biggest region rivals, so it makes me extremely proud of our team that we were able to come out on top.”

This week Osteen and the Tigers prepare for another stout foe in the eighth-ranked Brentwood Bruins, who are tied atop the Region 6-6A standings along with Ravenwood.

MCHS senior Kamron Liggett (6) is putting up all-state numbers this season with 1,135 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.

Our kids are excited about the match up with Brentwood this week,” Osteen said. “We have talked about how the past couple years of the Tiger team success has given us the opportunity to play a non-region contest versus such a quality opponent in Brentwood.”

The Tigers won’t have much time for scoreboard watching and in fact are not really worried about anything but the next football game.

“The best part of our current standing is that after eight weeks of football we are still 100 percent in control of our own destiny being 4-0 in the region,” Osteen stated. “We can't control what happens with other teams. All we can control is ourselves.”

The contest should be one of the best in the Mid-State this week and Osteen is confident that his underdog squad can continue their fine play versus a tough Bruins team and hopefully come away with their fourth win in a row heading into the regular season finale next week when they host Nolensville.

“We are going to play loose, physical, and confident this week,” Osteen said. “We are a good team that nobody in the state expects to win. All the pressure will be on Brentwood and we will look to apply even more of it on them when the ball is kicked off.”

The Tigers are a relatively healthy team, but lost one of their team leaders last week when senior linebacker Hunter Cummings suffered a season-ending arm injury.

“We are all sick about the loss of Hunter Cummings last week, he has no doubt been the ‘heart and soul’ of our team,” Osteen exclaimed. “He has had such a phenomenal career as a Tiger.”

Cummings has been a key two-way player for the Tigers this season, coming up with 52 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions on defense, while rushing the ball for 132 yards and two touchdowns and catching a TD pass.

“He cannot be replaced with one person,” Osteen said. “The whole team is going to have to pick up his slack in every area.”

The seventh-ranked Cornersville Bulldogs have the Region 5-A title wrapped up and got a week to rest before traveling to Huntland tonight in a game that does not have any playoff implications.

“We are going to approach this game as we have all of them this year,” Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. “We are telling our guys that it is the most important game that they have played all year.”

“We don't want to lose any momentum so we are preparing to play at a high level, and if we get the chance to rest some guys, we will definitely try to do that.”

The Bulldogs have been banged up for a couple weeks and the bye gave the physical training staff a chance to help the injured players heal some battle wounds.

“We definitely needed to get some guys some much needed rest and treatments during the bye week,” Randolph said. “We hang our hat on being a physical football team, and when you play that style of football you are bound to get a few injuries during the year.”

The biggest concern moving forward towards the playoffs is the health of junior signal caller Eli Woodard, who did not play two weeks ago in the region clinching win over Richland and will probably not play again this week.

“Eli is coming along well now, he has benefited greatly from the bye week and he is progressing day by day,” Randolph said. “We are going to take it day by day with him and hopefully be able to rest him another week.”

Woodard still leads the team with 894 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, but senior Kolbe McMahon (667 yards, 9TD) and junior Cameron Whitaker (647, 10TD) continue to build on their solid seasons.

Kolbe McMahon (12) and CJ Coble (50) corral a Perry County ball carrier for the region leading Cornersville defense unit that has given up a lowly 15.8 points per game in league play this season.

Huntland could be in for some big trouble as the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-0) lead Region 5-A in points scored on offense (321) and points allowed on defense (124).

“Most people will tell you that going to try to win a football game at Huntland is extremely tough,” Randolph said. “The guys are preparing for a battle and we expect these guys to go play at a high level and try to win another huge region football game.”

The Hornets (1-7, 0-4) are in last place in offense as they have not even reached the 100 point mark, averaging just 12 points per game overall and 15.5 in region contests.

“This team (Huntland) plays really hard, and they have a really good coaching staff.” Randolph stated. “I have a ton of respect for Coach Bob Robertson, who has been doing this quite a while now and has had some really good teams at Huntland. He is a veteran coach that has seen just about everything, and it will be very hard to get anything over against him.”

After Huntland, the Bulldogs finish up the regular season next week at Lancaster Christian before a historical moment descends on Cornersville when they host a home playoff game for the first time in school history.

“It feels great to know when that time comes that we will get to host the first ever playoff game in the history of Cornersville football,” Randolph said. “We don't want to think ahead because we have so much focus on Huntland right now.”

“We are appreciative of that accomplishment and hope we have a big fan base this week and in the future.”

The Bulldogs are a top seed and have home field advantage for the first three rounds of the playoffs that begin on Friday, November 3.

The Forrest Rockets (2-6, 2-3) are also coming off a much needed bye week after securing a 56-26 win at home over Loretto that kept their playoff hopes alive.

“The bye week came at a great time,” Forrest coach Brent Johns said. “It’s allowed us to get some guys healed up and it’s given our players some much needed rest.”

The Rockets get some players back this week who were ill and they also get cornerback Cole Villazon back to shore up the defense.

Forrest travels to Wartrace this week to take on longtime foe Cascade in a non-region matchup.

“The kids have been easily motivated this week because they know and understand the long time rivalry between Forrest and Cascade,” Johns said.

The Rockets have beaten the winless Champions (0-8, 0-4) five out the last six times and have taken down Cascade four consecutive times on their home field, including a 56-17 thrashing in 2015.

Forrest won last year at home 43-7 and things don’t look good for the Champions once again as they have managed just six touchdowns this season, averaging a measly 5.8 points per game.

The Forrest defense has played well all season and the unit hopes to bottle up Cascade this week in Wartrace.

Cascade is third from bottom in offense and defense in all of Class 2A.

“We really have tried to ignore their record and stats this week because we know a win versus Forrest would make their season for them,” Johns said.

The Rockets can get in the playoffs tonight with some help from Summertown (1-7, 1-3), who can punch Forrest’s playoff ticket with a win at Community (3-5, 1-3) tonight, but more than likely it will come down to the regular season finale next week when the Rockets travel to Unionville.

“I think Community wins that one easily,” Johns said. “It’s a new season in the playoffs, we just hope this team can earn a spot.”