Tigers double up Spring Hill, move on to semifinals
LEWISBURG — Going into Friday night's second-round match up of the TSSAA playoffs, Marshall County coach Thomas Osteen knew his talented Tigers offense and the Spring Hill rushing attack would pile up the yards.
But on a night with two powerful offenses set on a collision course, it was perhaps two defensive stands and a bit of luck on special teams that punched the Tigers' ticket to the third round of the playoffs.
Marshall County (9-3) advanced with a 42-21 win over Spring Hill (6-6), marking the second time the Tigers have defeated the Raiders this season.
“I feel like Kamron (Liggett) and Dontae (Smith) would both have their yards—they're too talented not to. Spring Hill fought like crazy all night,” Osteen said.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions, with Liggett striking on a 3-yard score barely a minute into the game.
Raider quarterback T.J. Ennis answered and capped off a 14-play, 80-yard drive on a 2-yard score at the 3:19 mark of the first quarter.
Liggett found his second score of the night on the next drive, finishing off a short 2:30 drive on a 10-yard run to put Marshall County up 14-7.
With offensives putting on a display in the early goings, the Tiger defense stood tall in one of the decisive moments of the game at the 5:14 point of the second quarter.
Following Liggett's second score, Spring Hill once again utilized a steady mix of runs from Smith to push the ball down to the Tiger eight-yard line.
That's when the Tiger defense came through on its first of two fourth-down stops.
Marshall County then drove 92 yards and finished the drive on Liggett's third touchdown run of the half on a 5-yard score, giving the Tigers a 21-7 lead at the half.
“Our defense, we bent some, but we made some key stops on fourth down. Both of them were fourth inches and we got off the field on them,” Osteen added.
The Tigers came up with their second defensive stand early in the third quarter.
Smith carried the ball nine times for 43 yards on the ensuing drive and gave the Raiders a chance to cut the Tigers' lead to one possession.
But on fourth down, Marshall County again stopped the Raiders inches short of converting.
Marshall County needed just seven plays after the stop to move 80 yards. Mason Warner capped off the drive on a 4-yard run, giving the Tigers a 28-7 advantage.
Spring Hill answered the score on another lengthy drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock when Smith found his first score of the night on a 7-yard run.
Momentum appeared to shift in favor of the Raiders following Smith's score with the Raiders seemingly forcing a Caleb Estes punt—his only one of the night.
But as fate would have it, the punt bounced off Spring Hill's Stanley Worstell, which was recovered by Hunter Lancaster, giving the Tigers first down on the Raider 38-yard line.
Quarterback Bryce Wallace drove a dagger through the heart of any Raider comeback on the next play with a 38-yard dart to sophomore wide out Devon Wilson.
“It was 28-14 there and if they were able to get it, it was still a ball game. We're really happy we were able to make that special teams play and punch the ball in on the very next play with Bryce throwing the ball to Devon,” Osteen said.
Both teams scored one last time in the quarter, with Smith notching his second score of the night on a 59-yard jaunt at the 4:31 mark, and Wallace answering for the Tigers on a 3-yard run of his own to put the game on ice with 1:30 left.
With cold temperatures keeping both passing offenses in check, it was the power run game of Liggett and Smith that stole the show.
Smith finished the night eclipsing the 270-yard mark with his two TDs to lead the Raiders on offense.
Smith's prowess of running the ball was the focal point of the Marshall County defense, according to Osteen.
“Our whole game plan was based on stopping him—that's how tough it was. He had well over 200 yards. We made him earn most of them until that last play of the fourth quarter. We knew if we could make them snap it a whole bunch of times, then we were making him work for his yardage. We were able to accomplish that tonight.”
Though Smith's 277 yards led the game Raiders, Marshall County had its own power run game led by Liggett, who legged out three scores over 222 yards on 25 carries.
Wallace also ran nine times for 58 yards. He went to the air just three times, but completed all three passes for 49 yards.
Wilson's 38-yard TD grab led the passing game, while senior Brandon Rowan had a pair of catches for 11 yards.
Friday night's win not only kept the Tigers' season alive, but it sets up one final showdown at Preston-Hopkins Field in the 2017 season.
“We have a bunch of guys that are beat up and tired—but every team in the state does. It's so gratifying to be playing this late in the year in the final eight with a chance to go to the final four,” Osteen said. “We can tell these seniors it will be their last game ever at Preston Hopkins Field. I know they'll want to leave the best final impression possible.”
Marshall County advances to the third round of the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs and will host Maplewood, who defeated Nolensville, 26-21.
The Tigers defeated Maplewood earlier this season, 26-12.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night in Lewisburg.
Spring Hill 7 0 0 14 — 21
Marshall Co. 14 7 7 14 — 42
M — Kamron Liggett 3 run (Caleb Estes kick) 10:57.
S — T.J. Ennis 2 run (Brenton Basnaw kick) 3:19.
M — Liggett 10 run (Estes kick) :54.
M — Liggett 5 run (Estes kick) 1:02.
M — Mason Warner 4 run (Estes kick) 1:32.
S — Dontae Smith 7 run (Basnaw kick) 7:57.
M — Devon Wilson 38 pass from Bryce Wallace (Estes kick) 5:28.
S — Smith 59 run (Basnaw kick) 4:31.
M — Wallace 3 run (Estes kick) 1:30.
Marshall County Offense
Total yards- Rushing- 288, Passing- 49
Rushing- Kamron Liggett 25-222-3TDs, Bryce Wallace 9-58-TD, Mason Warner 1-4-TD, Javarria Rucker 1-4.
Passing- Bryce Wallace 3-3-49 1TD.
Receiving- Devon Wilson 1-38-TD, Brandon Rowan 2-11.
Brandon Rowan 1-35, Tavi McClean 1-13.
Caleb Estes 7-372-3TBs.
PAT- Caleb Estes 6-6.
Punting- Caleb Estes 1-26.
Tackles- Devon Wilson 2, Bryce Wallace 3, Brandon Rowan 10, Mason Warner 2, Andrew Gold 9, Marcellus Campbell 10, Antonio Warren 9, Billy Cheek 9, Bennett Flemming 2, Joseph Freeland 7, Keylin Talley 2, Grant Agnew 11, Josh Johnson 5, Taylor Clark 3, Dagon Stacy 2, Jayshon Wilcox 5, Xavier Garrett 2, Javarria Rucker 1, Tavi McClean 5.