The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

December 6, 2013

Tanner vs. Washington County: Tale of the tape

— Predicting the outcome of high school football games during the regular season and in the first few rounds of the playoffs is sometimes a guessing a game, but can often be determined by just comparing common opponents.

Once a team reaches the state championship game, all bets are off. There are no common opponents and it’s difficult to know how the teams will fare.

There are always a few teams in the Super Six as clear favorites after steamrolling every opponent on their schedule. Tanner was one of those teams last year and took care of business against Washington County as most thought they would.

This Tanner team does not have the same unbeatable aura and could face a much tougher test in a rematch of last year’s 2A title game.

Here is a look at how the team’s match up entering today’s championship game:

When Tanner runs the ball:

Tanner will lean on senior running back Hayden Stephens, who was the MVP of the 2012 2A title game. Stephens has racked up nearly 2,000 yards this season with 26 touchdowns. Stephens averaged 7.8 yards per carry and often did not play in the fourth quarter.

Complementing Stephens is sophomore Tiquaveious Mayberry, who Tanner head coach Laron White singled out as a player who has stepped up during the Rattlers’ playoff run. Quarterback JonJon Fletcher also presents a running threat as the Bulldogs learned last year. Fletcher has 115 carries for 603 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Rattlers will be running against a fresh defense that plays only one player on both sides of the ball. Deandra Smith leads the Bulldogs defense with 148 tackles. On the defensive line, Cameron Moss has 7 1/2 sacks this season.

Advantage: Tanner

When Tanner throws the ball:

How often Tanner throws the ball will depend on its ability to establish the run. Ideally, the Rattlers would like to throw the ball no more than a dozen times each game.

Fletcher has completed 61 of 101 pass attempts (60 percent) for 1,116 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Bulldogs like to crowd the line and force teams to pass and today will be no different against a Tanner team that likes to run. Washington County Defensive backs Corey Donaldson and DeAnthony Holcombe each have five interceptions for Washington County.

Advantage: Washington County

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