The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


December 5, 2013


No. 1 Tanner takes on Washington County in Friday's 2A finals


Targeting a title repeat

The key to this year’s championship game could be an offensive line that has worn down opposing defenses down the stretch.

Baltazar “Tito” Rubio, Austin Lewter, Shamaud Baker, Peyton Sales and Seth Smith have paved the way for another stellar season for senior running back Hayden Stephens, who has 1,986 yards and 28 total touchdowns this year.

During the postseason, Stephens has piled up 692 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, including the Rattlers’ only TDs in last Friday’s 16-7 win at Fyffe.

“I feel like their best chance of winning is if they just run the ball straight (ahead), and every now and then pop a pass up to Blake (Whitt),” said Shoulders, whose extended family includes Tanner punter Jalen Houston, defensive back Zakari Shoulders, fullback Zacobe Shoulders and quarterback JonJon Fletcher.

Shoulders, who sent out several “pump-up” texts to remind his former teammates to stay focused, said the outcome of the game rests squarely with the effort given from start to finish by Tanner.

“I can’t really say if this will be a low-scoring or high-scoring game,” he said. “You just have to go down there and enjoy it. For a while we couldn’t get past the third round, but then we got past that.

“Life is choices. It’s all right to be nervous, but as long as they go out there and put in 100 percent effort in everything they do, then they’ll reap what they sow.”

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