FULL FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Marion County Warriors

THE RUNDOWN

2015 Record: 13-2        Region 4-3A Record: 6-1        Region Rank: 2nd

A PREVIEW OF THE BACK-TO-BACK WARRIORS

Head Coach: Joey Mathis (1st Year Head Coach at Marion County and Overall)

Returning Starters:

Offense:  Lost 4, Return 7              Defense:  Lost 3, Return 8 

10-Year Win Tracker:

Marion Win Tracker

PLAYMAKERS:  Alex Kirkendoll (Senior Linebacker), Hunter Zeman (Senior Halfback/Quarterback), Kane Hale (Junior Wide Receiver/Free Safety), Eli Morrison (Senior Right Guard/Inside Linebacker), Hunter McClain (Senior Fullback/Linebacker), Jacob Saylors (Junior Halfback/Cornerback), Corey Tucker (Senior Offensive Guard/Defensive End), Ty Heifner (Senior Right Tackle/Nose Guard), Ishmael Aliva (Senior Left Tackle/Defensive End), and Tony Sampson (Sophomore Quarterback)

KEY LOSSES:  Josh Henderson (Halfback), Logan Walters (Quarterback), and Bryce Massengale (Wide Receiver/Quarterback)

OVERVIEW:  Coming off back-to-back State Title game appearances is always a daunting task.  It’s even more so if you’re a first year head coach, yet that’s exactly what Joey Mathis is doing at Marion County.  A large coaching staff, doesn’t always translate to depth, but if there’s anything the Warriors have over Class 2A competition, it’s the next-man-up mentality and ability.  There’s always a drop in talent from 2nd- to 3rd-string, but at Marion County there’s several players in the starting lineup capable of playing multiple positions.  That’s gives any coach a leg up when you can mix-and-match and pull up the next best 2nd-stringer.  Most teams are rated better on one side of the ball, but this squad is possibly more balanced than any squad they’ll face this season.  With strong, veteran athletes in the trenches, there’s not much more to worry about in the Valley.

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OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK:  The quarterback situation is unique in the fact that there’s not a battle.  Sophomore Tony Sampson looks to have things in check, but if the situation calls for it, Mathis is not above putting Hunter Zeman under center.  He sees it as more of a two-quarterback system, but instead of even repetitions on the field, he’ll use the best one for his strategy that week.  With a solid line from left to right and weapons like wide out Kane Hale, fullback Hunter McClain, halfback Jacob Saylors, and Zeman in a running back role, there’s not much a quarterback can do wrong.

DEFENSIVE OUTLOOK:  There’s one player you can circle on defense, and that’s Alex Kirkendoll who finished as a Mr. Football semifinalist last season.  With a lot of two-way players, the Warriors could possibly have issues late, but as the season goes on, that won’t be a complication.  With Avila Ishmael, Ty Heifner, and Corey Tucker rotating in the trenches and McClain and Eli Morrison in the linebacker corps, this team will be a run-stopping machine.  When you add in Jacob Saylors out at cornerback and Kane Hale out at Safety, you get a complete road on the ground and in the air.  It will be interesting to see, though, if Kirkendoll can become Mr. Football in 2016 with the help of his tremendous defensive squad.

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SCHEDULE ANALYSIS:  Playing at Hixson shouldn’t be a difficult game, but it shouldn’t be a cakewalk either as the Wildcats seem to have their groove back after last year’s late-season success.  Grundy County and Meigs County are solid teams, but neither are as complete as the Warriors.  South Pittsburg could pose a threat and bring a close game to Beene Stadium in week four.  The heart of their schedule starts with Brainerd, which should be a lighter opponent before knocking on the doorstep of Boyd-Buchanan and Tyner.  The last three games feel like warm-up games, but Bledsoe County might be able to get a home playoff game this season, so things could go haywire if the planets align in Pikeville.  With a late bye week, the Warriors should be well-rested going into Polk County and the first round.  STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE GRADE:  A+

PREDICTED FINISH:   (13-2, 6-1 R3-2A) First Round Win, Second Round Win, Quarterfinals Win, Semifinals Win, Class 2A State Champions

Contact Chandler Morrison at TheSpearSportsBlog@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter@RCS_Chandler!

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