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District title on the line tonight?
Magna Vista, Tunstall set for crucial Piedmont clash
Magna Vista quarterback Calin Jamison runs away from a Patrick County defender last Friday in Ridgeway. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Friday, October 12, 2012
By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Writer
After Tunstall High School beat Bassett in football last week, THS coach Buddy Brown said he didn’t want to overstate how big tonight’s clash between Tunstall and Magna Vista is.
Brown called it a “pretty big one in Dry Fork.”
If anything, Brown may have understated today’s game. But one thing Brown wouldn’t undersell was the challenge his team faces this week.
“I know that they are well-coached,” Brown said. “I know that they’ve had a ton of success the last few years, and this looks like they’ve reloaded, not rebuilding, reloaded. It’s going to be a challenge for us to slow them down.”
The way things are shaping up, tonight’s game may decide the district.
Slowing down the reigning PD champion Warriors (5-2, 1-0 Piedmont District) proved to be a challenge for Patrick County last week, who lost to Magna Vista 56-0.
But Tunstall (3-2, 1-0) showed some offensive firepower of its own last week, knocking off Bassett 44-23 and scoring more points on the Bengals than any other opponent all season.
“They throw the ball well, run the ball well,” Magna Vista head coach Joe Favero said. “They’re not a team where you just line up and say, we’ve got to take away the run. They’re a well-balanced offense.”
Favero said the key to defending both the pass and run will be mixing up coverages and fronts.
Tunstall running back Jacob Barnette ran the ball for 201 yards last week and three touchdowns, while the Trojans’ quarterback, Chris Buckner, completed 9-of-13 passes.
And while Buckner threw for 124 yards, an average day for him, Brown said he’s a huge part of THS’ success.
“Chris is a leader,” Brown said. “He’s got a good grasp of this offense and what we’re trying to get done. He needs to play well for us to kind of control the offensive flow of this game for us.”
Buckner isn’t the only quarterback Brown carries a lot of respect for. He said MVHS quarterback Calin Jamison has impressed him this year.
“I think their quarterback is playing really well,” Brown said. “They look good. They run that zone read, that little option read, and he’s doing a good job with it. He’s more comfortable with it and throwing the ball well.
“And obviously they’ve got the twins, plus Keon Mabin in the backfield.”
Brown said slowing down those weapons will take disciplined assignment football from his defense.
Beyond just offense, though, MVHS’s two fastest players, Brent and Bryce Hankins, have returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown in more than half of the team’s games.
Therein may lie the difference in this game.
And if the Warriors can’t get anything going in the return game, Favero still wants to put the ball in the hands of his twin torchers.
“We have some explosive athletes that just do a great job in the open field,” Favero said. “A lot of times when two good teams play, special teams can be a big difference maker.”
seek first win tonight
Despite the tough start to the year for Patrick County and Martinsville, things will turn around for one team tonight.
One squad will pick up its first win.
Of course that’s the last thing either coach wants his team focused on. They would rather see more energy spent on getting that first win.
“This will be the fourth team we’ve faced this year that hasn’t won a game before we played them,” PCHS coach Kenneth Perry Jr. said. “I feel like especially during our homecoming game there was a mental barrier that I don’t think we were mature enough to handle. But basically we don’t need worry about who we’re playing or what their record is.
“You definitely can’t underestimate Martinsville and the kind of athletes they have.”
Perry said he has stressed to his team the importance of making tackles this week, that just being in the right place isn’t enough.
And PCHS’ coach said he thinks his high-tempo offense might neutralize some of Martinsville’s athleticism on defense and catch the Bulldog defenders off balance.
Martinsville (0-6), unlike Patrick County, is coming off a bye week after playing a grueling non-district schedule. The Cougars (0-6, 0-1 Piedmont District) will be MHS’ first PD opponent of the year, and Martinsville coach Bobby Dalton knows just how precious a PD-opening win can be for his team.
“It’s very important, because you only play four (district) ballgames,” Dalton said. “If you lose one game right off the top, it’s going to be really hard to rebound from that. For us, now that that (non-district) schedule is over for us, we can refocus and hopefully get some wins in the process.”
One thing that might help Martinsville do that is the return of Brandon Carter and Shaq Tinsley.
Carter was the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback before going down with a back injury against Halifax County.
“We’ve been lean in our athlete department,” Dalton said.
Dalton said both Carter and Tinsley are 100 percent and have looked fine in practice this week.
The key, he added, would be the blocking from his re-tooled offensive line, which includes 5-11, 330-pound sophomore Nigel Preston, who the Bulldogs added to the lineup last week against Heritage.
Perry said the key for his team may come down to how many big plays and stops his defense can make.
Offensively the Cougars will start quarterback Tre Penn for the first time in weeks, which Perry said gives his offense more flexibility in play-calling. Perry said his two backup quarterbacks did a fine job during Penn’s absence with a concussion. But he also likes using them at skill positions.
“We can run everything now,” Perry said.