Team roles reversed in playoff rematch for Lions, McKenzie
Posted: Friday, November 4, 2011 12:02 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
More than two months ago, McKenzie had experience at quarterback and escaped its game against Dresden with a win.
Fast forward to the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs and the Lions now have the experienced signal-caller.
Lions’ head coach Scott Hewett hopes that translates into the same edge for his team that McKenzie had in the earlier meeting.
“We probably have more confidence,” he said. “We were looking for a quarterback the last time we played. They had a quarterback, but now they’ve changed. They’re going with a sophomore now. I’m sure, in their mind, he’s better or they wouldn’t be making the change. He seems to be a little more accurate.”
It might hard to believe now, but two months ago Gatlin Hatchel and Davis Moran were still splitting time at quarterback for Dresden.
Hatchel threw for over 100 yards in that game and has since established himself as one of northwest Tennessee’s premier prep signal-callers.
Hatchel has thrown for 1,035 yards, hitting on 71-of-113 passes with 12 touchdowns, and he also leads Dresden in rushing with 983 yards and 14 TDs on 146 carries.
At McKenzie, head coach Wade Comer has switched to sophomore Ty McClain, who led the Rebels to last week’s win over West Carroll, breaking a two-game losing skid for McKenzie. McClain is just 8-of-17 passing for 99 yards and replaces senior Luke Robertson, who completed 40-of-100 passes with just five TDs and 13 interceptions.
“Ty is a young kid who hasn’t had a lot of experience, and he hasn’t had any in the playoffs,” Comer said. “He just needs to manage the game and execute. We’re not going to ask him to win the game for us. He just needs to take care of the ball.”
Hewett is planning on making the night rough on the Rebels’ young and inexperienced QB.
“Because he’s young, we’re going to try to put a little more pressure on him,” he said. “We want to go after him and see how he handles it.”
He will feel pressure from Eric VanDyke, D.J. Ellis, Tyler McPeak and Devan Raymer.
VanDyle leads the Lions with 80 tackles, including 13 for a loss, while Ellis leads in stops behind the line with 19 of his 63 tackles. McPeak has 79 tackles, 13 for a loss, and Raymer has posted 70 tackles, 11 of those for a loss.
McClain might not have to handle too much from the Lions.
Under the mandate of his head coach to simply manage the game, the QB’s chores might be limited to turning and handing off.
The Rebels have a solid stable of running backs awaiting the ball.
Junior Chavez, a classmate of McClain’s, has 476 yards and six TDs on 94 carries. Despite missing four weeks with a concussion, senior Matt Eaton is right behind with 417 yards and 11 touchdowns on 60 carries, while Hunter Lowe has 399 yards and four scores on 88 rushes.
Austin Chapman, a junior, and senior Robert Taylor each have 16 catches, Chapman with 284 yards and Taylor with 270 yards and three TDs.
Taylor, however, left last week’s West Carroll game with a shin injury.
The Rebels are currently missing Colin Vinson in the lineup. A Mr. Football line finalist last season, he has 100 tackles this season but has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. His status for Friday will probably not be determined until game time.
That side of the ball is not lacking talent, though, as Taylor has 81 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage, with four caused fumbles and a pass break-up, while Collin Smith is a big-play specialist with 14 of his 80 tackles notched behind the line.
If the game comes down to a kick, both teams have the legs to win.
McKenzie senior Zeick Hicks is a weapon, averaging 41.4 yards per punt with a long of 67 yards and five going 50-plus yards to go with four touchbacks on kickoffs. Braxton Rider has hit 21-of-27 point-after tries.
Meanwhile, Dresden’s Colin Kanehl is averaging 34 yards per punt and has made 24-of-36 extra points. Colter Swafford is a legitimate scoring threat as a returner with two TDs and 315 yards on nine kick returns. Published in The WCP 11.3.11