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FCS, Mt. Juliet take aim at Thanksgiving football
Nov 16, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
The state playoffs have reached the ___final range, in this case, the quarterfinals.
Eight teams remain in each classification, and if one wants to take aim at a goal for this week, try quad champion, as each of the eight-team pods are down to the final two.
This week's winners will also have to plan their Thanksgiving and Black Friday around football, a goal for every player and coach in Tennessee.
Marion County at Friendship Christian
The Warriors are 9-2 following a 48-21triumph over Trousdale County last week in Jasper. Scoring has been little problem for ground-bound Marion County.
"Offensively, they're shoe to shoe like Macon County a few years ago," said Friendship coach John McNeal, whose Commanders are 10-1. "Nobody's slowed them down. They've scored 20-plus points, I think, against everybody.
"They run the football. They've got guys with good power and also speed. And also the quarterback, they'll hit you when you fall asleep on a boot pass or a pass where they slip guys out. Kicking game, they've returned numerous kickoffs for touchdowns.
"We've just got to play good, sound football. Do what we do. We got to move the football, put points on the board... Kicking game, we've got to win that area, and that's been huge for us in the last few weeks."
Marion County runs a stack defense, which the Commanders have faced regularly in recent weeks.
The Warriors are under first-year coach Mac McCurry, an old friend of McNeal's who built a powerhouse at Moore County in the 1980s and '90s, went to Marshall County for a while before moving to Alabama. McNeal used to take the Commanders to preseason camps in Moore County in the mid-'90s.
"Mac does a great job," McNeal said. "He is a very fundamental coach. He's gotten the community back. Marion County was as good as anybody back in the day. I watched them play [Brentwood Academy] in the state final and beat them. The tradition is very rich, the people love it. He's kind of brought back a little bit of that fever, so we expect a big crowd Friday night."
Friendship is coming off a solid 42-6 win over Cascade last week.
"We did what I feel we're going to have to do from here on out, and that's be balanced," McNeal said. "A.J. [Long] throwing the football, the receivers catching. A.J. running the football, we haven't really ran him much toward the end of the season, didn't want to. And our other running backs doing their job. The line was very good the other night. If they'll do that, if we'll stay balanced, we'll be hard to defend."
Long generated a lot of buzz with his summer move to Lebanon from Pennsylvania, where he earned All-State honors and became a major-college prospect.As a Commander, he has run for 498 yards and 10 touchdowns while throwing for 2,006 yards and 28 scores. Sophomore Steven Hollis has come into his own at running back during the second half of the season, posting 776 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns while Austin Taylor has tacked on 448 yards and 11 scores.
The winner will face the Boyd Buchanan-Grace Baptist victor with Friendship at home with a win.
Mt. Juliet at Brentwood
The Macon County team McNeal referred to was coached by Mark Pemberton, who has taken his physical style of play to Brentwood, where the Bruins have muscled an 11-1 record, same as Mt. Juliet's, with 37 seniors, including seven returning starters on each side of the ball.
"I've never had 37 seniors," said Mt. Juliet coach Roger Perry, who graduated 27 12th-graders from last year's team and has 23 this season.
"They're going to run the traditional wing-T, power football," Perry said. "They got two good quarterbacks [including senior Austin Winfree, son of former MJ coach Dan Winfree, who is on the Brentwood staff] they alternate every play. Both of them are very talented.
"They're going to line up shoe to shoe and run just a few plays. It's like, 'We've got the talent, try to stop us', and that's what they've been doing to folks."
Ben Green leads the Bruin ground game with 1,344 yards and 11 touchdowns in 152 carries.
Brentwood also has a good kicking game and rock-hard defense which has posted four shutouts, including a 35-0 first-round win over Wilson Central.
"[They've] given up very few points," Perry said, noting both inside linebackers are 6-foot, 200 pounds and three huge defensive linemen, which also rotate in the 3-4.
"They're skill people are very good," Perry said. "Their secondary can run. They wouldn't be where they are if they weren't."
Mt. Juliet's 34-21 win over Brentwood last year in this same round was the final game for longtime Bruin coach Ron Crawford, who took the Cleveland job in the offseason. But he left the cupboard full for Pemberton.
"I'm sure they're ready and waiting, especially those 37 seniors," Perry said. "When we look back at the film, we see those same guys, only bigger, faster and stronger."
This winner will face the Germantown-Whitehaven victor in next Friday's semifinal. Mt. Juliet would travel to the Memphis area regardless of the opponent with a victory.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com