Thursday, November 4, 2010
Patriots start playoffs Friday
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy is advancing to the Class AA state football playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“The kids are excited about getting to the playoffs,” said Keith Wicker, the coach in charge of the Patriots for all four of those years. “But we can’t be satisfied in just getting there. We want to keep going.”
For the second season in a row, the Pats’ first-round opponent will be Leake Academy – but this time in Madden rather than Holly Springs. MA makes the almost three-hour road trip Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The school is located near Carthage and Philadelphia.
“By far, they’re the best football team we’ve played this year,” he said. “We can’t hold anything back this week.”
One year ago Marshall rallied with 21 points in the fourth quarter to shock the Rebels 28-21.
“They’ve got pretty much their entire group back, and we have our work cut out for us,” Wicker said. “They’re going to run the football. They’re going to line up and power you or spread you out and let the quarterback run. We have to worry about stopping them.”
Both Marshall and Leake enter the playoffs with 8-2 records and both finished second in their respective districts, behind North Delta and Simpson, respectively.
Marshall averages 33.4 points per game and gives up 15.1. Leake averages 43.5 points per game and gives up 12.2.
“They’re bigger than us, but pretty much everybody we’ve played has been,” he said. “We have to use our speed. We can’t just stand up and fight with them. We have to really step it up.”
The two have played two common opponents. Marshall beat Kirk 48-14 and Leake defeated Kirk 42-17. MA downed Oak Hill 35-7. Leake dominated Oak Hill 61-6.
“We have to really step it up,” Coach Wicker said. “They can put points on the board, largely by breaking a lot of long runs.”
He said he doesn’t plan any changes as far as the Patriots’ offense – mixing in some “magnum set,” “wild Patriot” and “I-back.”
“We will do what we’ve been doing and see what happens,” Wicker said.
Senior John Tomlinson, one of MA’s top players on both offense and defense, has missed the last two and a half games due to a leg injury. He might play Friday night, Wicker said, but he will likely “not be able to run the football.”
In Wicker’s first season at the helm of the Marshall football program, the Pats lost in the state championship game. In 2008, they were eliminated in round one, and last year, they were ousted in round two.
Under Wicker’s watch, MA has an overall record of 36-11.
The winner of the Marshall-Leake game in round one of the playoffs will face the Winston Academy-Indianola Academy survivor in week two.
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