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Tigers, Bears roar into second round

Andy Reed • Nov 9, 2016 at 8:49 PM

efeat the Golden Bears as the second round of the TSSAA playoffs kick off at 7 p.m. local time Friday across the state.

Watertown at Marion County

Both teams are 10-1. The Purple Tigers lost to Forrest while the Warriors fell to county rival South Pittsburg. Like Forrest, which beat Watertown 35-28 in Week 7, Marion County runs a wing-T offense.

“They’re primarily a run football team,” Watertown coach Gavin Webster said of the Warriors. “They probably run it 80 percent of the time.”

Three of the four Class 2A Mr. Football Linemen candidates will be on the field in Jasper. Watertown left tackle/defensive end Rusty Staats is one. Marion County counters with senior outside linebacker/tight end Alex Kirkendoll (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and senior middle linebacker/fullback Hunter McClain (5-11, 195). Despite that, Marion County isn’t unusually big, according to Webster.

“They’re not overly big,” Webster said. “They have some big boys. They’re decent size.

While Marion County likes to keep the ball on the ground, Watertown relies on Mr. Football Back finalist Seth Price to wing the ball through the air. According to Tiger coaches, he has 37 touchdown passes, which would tie him with Friendship Christian’s A.J. Long’s 2012 mark for the alltime Wilson County single-season lead. But doing a game-by-game count of the boxscores as they’ve appeared in The Democrat during the season, Price has at least 38 TD passes with one in dispute, which would give him 39, according to Watertown historian Ken Fountain.

Nevertheless, Watertown’s game plan is clear in a matchup not unlike a basketball game featuring a fastbreak team against a walk-it-up unit. In basketball, the team which can best impose its tempo, usually wins. Not so in football.

“We’re not going to let them dictate to us what we do,” Webster said. “We’re going to play our style of football. We’re fast-tempo. We’re going to have to spread the field, spread the ball around the field. We’re going to attack the field any way we can.

“We can’t worry about if they do this or do that.You got to defend their team and try to stop what they do best. They obviously want to run the football, so we want to get them in second-and-long, third-and-long situations. We got to have success offensively. If we have success offensively, that helps everybody out.”

On the injury front, Watertown will be without its leading tackler, senior linebacker Josh Deel, who injured his knee during the third quarter of last week’s first-round win over Boyd Buchanan, Webster said.

This week’s winner will face either Meigs County or Forrest, with Watertown, which would have its most wins since 1976, traveling to either in what would be a Purple Tiger-record 13th game of the season.

Ravenwood at Mt. Juliet

The Golden Bears have reeled off eight straight wins since a Week 3 12-7 loss to the Raptors at Mt. Juliet, a meeting held so long ago both teams are naturally different now.

“They’ve made a conscious effort to run the ball,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said of the now-6-5 Raptors. “That’s helped them shorten some games. Last Friday night, they were obviously very explosive (in a 45-14 win at Houston). They’ve always been one of the top teams in the state defensively.”

That Sept. 2 loss to Ravenwood dropped Mt. Juliet to 1-2 and prompted some introspection by the coaching staff.

“One thing we really looked at was more philosophical than personnel,” Perry said. “Our tempo in Week 3 was getting plays off later in the play clock to shorten tempo. Looking back, I wish we had been quicker. Since then, we’ve looked a lot better running at a quick pace.

“One of our goals it to get 60 snaps or more in a game, and this helps that.”

Since TSSAA changed its playoff bracket philosophy in the 1990s to adjacent regions meeting for three rounds in a tournament, regular-season rematches in the second and third round are commonplace. While figures are unavailable, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence showing many teams which lost a regular-season meeting winning the playoff rematch.

“As a player and coach in the past, I’ve been involved in this before,” Perry said. “It’s been tough to win a game going away and then having to go back and play them again with the revenge factor even greater.

“But our game was really close and we were both relatively healthy, and we still are.”

This winner will face either Collierville or Cordova next week with Mt. Juliet remaining at home.

Locals picked for all-star game

While teams are still focused on reaching the BlueCross Bowl in Cookeville the weekend of Dec. 1-3, some seniors have already been picked to play at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium on Dec. 9 in the annual Toyota East-West All-Star Game.

Mt. Juliet kicker Jacob Bailey and lineman D.J. Delfendahl will play, as will Wilson Central receiver Colton Dowell and Watertown lineman Rusty Staats.

Second-round playoff games

FRIDAY

WATERTOWN at Marion County

Ravenwood at MT. JULIET

All kickoffs at 7 p.m.

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