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Explosive FCS vs. Cards' size, depth
Nov 30, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
Friendship Christian has some mind-boggling statistics on offense. Adamsville has some unbelievable numbers of its own.
Commander quarterback A.J. Long has passed for 35 touchdowns [on 106-of-170 with 2,388 yards] and just one interception. The junior also has 12 rushing TDs and 639 yards on 119 carries.
Then there's Adamsville, like Friendship, a 12-1 team but with some numbers more befitting a Class 6A team than the teams which will play for the 2A state title at 11 a.m. Saturday at Tennessee Tech's Tucker Stadium in Cookeville.
"They're big," Commander coach John McNeal said of the Cardinals. "A couple of 300-pound offensive linemen, one or two on the defensive line. They dress about 80 kids. They have a lot of depth, about 20-something seniors.
"They bring a lot to the table. They got a lot of good athletes and have had a good year. They dominated all their opponents. Last year, they were one game away from getting there."
Since losing 21-14 to Chester County in Week 0, Adamsville has run off 12 straight wins, all of the blowout variety except for a 10-9 squeaker over Hardin County in Week 7.
The Cardinals list 74 players on their roster, a number many 5A and 6A schools would die for. Friendship has 49 players listed, but six are eighth-graders who didn't join the varsity until the middle-school season ended in early October and 18 more are freshmen who rarely play when the game is in doubt.
With such depth, most Adamsville players play on only one side of the ball.
"With that many kids, you can do that," McNeal said. "Hopefully, our kids are in good enough shape. We've been doing it all year. We hope [late-game fatigue] is not an issue."
As for the size, Adamsville tackles Colton Williams and Blake Elrod are listed at 6-foot-5, 308 pounds and 6-3, 319, respectively. Defensive tackle Josh Chappell is 6-1, 300.
On the other side, sophomore tackle Andrew Wood is Friendship's heaviest starter at 290 pounds on a 6-5 frame. Guard Ian Isbell is 6-3, 280; tackle Gregg Norton 6-0, 260; center Colton Gaines 6-3, 225 and guard Tanner Martin, a Mr. Football finalist, 6-0, 225. Defensive tackle Ben Dunn is 6-0, 260 and nose guard Jeff Cherry is 5-10, 210.
"They have more 300-pound guys on their roster than I've seen on anybody's roster," McNeal said.
As might be expected with all that beef up front, Adamsville does run a power offense. Zak Neary has rushed for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns on 146 carries.
"But they also will spread it and throw it," McNeal said. "They have some tall receivers, 6-4 or better. They have a full package of athletes and people they can do everything with."
Quarterback Dalton Plunk has completed 61 of 109 passes for 845 yards and 12 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Wideout Ross Burcham [6-3] has a team-leading 27 catches for 448 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior Bradley Hornbuckle is a big target [6-2, 235] at tight end.
Defensively, Adamsville has 25 interceptions, including seven by cornerback Taylor Henry. Sophomore linebacker Jacob Dengler leads the Cards with 110 tackles.
"They fly to the football," McNeal said. "They got a lot of interceptions in the secondary. Very aggressive, very hard nosed on defense."
That defense will have to deal with sophomore running back Steven Hollis, who has 1,049 yards and 13 touchdowns on 119 carries. Senior receiver Hunter Watts has 32 catches for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns will fellow wideout Stefan Remus has 25-697-12.
With those numbers, Friendship's offense doesn't stall often. But when it does, senior punter Cale Mitchell is averaging just over 35 yards per kick, with seven downed inside the 20-yard line. And his left leg was a key factor in the Commanders' BlueCross Bowl win last year.
Mitchell, the strong safety, and outside linebacker Austin Taylor each have 69 tackles. Hollis has four interceptions at cornerback while Isbell has four sacks at tackle.
This is Adamsville's first trip to the final after three semifinal losses while Friendship is in for the third time, this time as the defending champion. But having been there and done that isn't necessarily the big advantage one may think it is, McNeal said.
"The only advantage that may come with that is our kids know how this week is," McNeal said. "The first time is kind of uneasy and not sure. Being back to back makes it even better.  and last year really wasn't a comparison because those kids didn't know any different. This year they do.
"Hopefully, it'll give us a little bit. But it doesn't matter. It's still what happens on the field."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org