Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 10:18am
Football 2012: Experienced Commerce ready for step forward
By Jeff Hart Staff
COMMERCE -- If experience truly does matter, then Commerce is poised to for a big season in 2012.
The Tigers were crippled by injuries in 2011 and more than a dozen underclassmen gained valuable playing time as a result. Despite the setbacks, they still manage to qualify for their 15th straight trip to the playoffs.
Coach Marvin Justice said the Tigers are ready to see just how much better they can be with eight starters on offense and nine starters on defense returning.
“We had some big losses, especially on the line, and that really kept us from reaching our potential,” Justice said. “Injuries are part of the game unfortunately, but the kids worked hard on strength and conditioning in the offseason, and I feel we ready to put the injuries behind us. The good part is that we got to play a lot of people who now have a lot of game experience.”
The offensive line will benefit most with three players returning who missed time last year. Seniors Micah Eason, a legitimate college prospect, and Clay Pritchett will anchor the group and juniors Chance McClure, Morgan Flint, and Aaron Kyle round out an experienced unit.
“If they stay healthy, this could be one of the best lines in Commerce history. We are really excited to see what they can do in a full season,” Justice said.
Another key returning starter is senior fullback Jamal Browner, who missed the entire season after being injured in the first practice of last year. Seniors Terrick Ramsey and Marquavius Little also return in the backfield to give the Tigers a solid ground attack. They will have to find a suitable replacement at quarterback for the graduated Cody Streetman, who led the Tigers in passing, rushing, and touchdowns in 2011. Drew Whitfield, who played running back and safety last year, will be handed the reins to start the season.
On defense Commerce returns its entire secondary and two of its top three tacklers from last season. Seniors Ramsey, Little, Barron Mather, Chase Ledbetter, and junior Jamir Walton give the Tigers a talented group. Chance McClure, who led the Tigers in tackles last season, will anchor the linebacking group, and Dillion Haggard, who was third in tackles, will lead a sold line along with Dylan Seagraves, Trey Grier, Tony Patman.
Justice said they feel another playoff run is attainable but they are also focused on how to make a deeper run than in recent years.
“It’s going to be tough to get into the playoffs but we feel we have a competitive team to be able to get in,” Justice said. “But we would also like to stay around a little longer, and I think getting some wins early will really help us get some confidence. We have a tough schedule again but hopefully we can do that.”
COMMERCE: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Black and Vegas Gold
CURRENT REGION: 8-A
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Marvin Justice, second year, record
2011 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-7, lost in first round of playoffs
KEY LOSSES: QB Cody Streetman (led the Tigers in passing, rushing, and touchdowns last season); LB Josh Swistak; WR Garrett Wilson
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Triple Option, Multiple I -- the Tigers will try to grind up opponents on the ground.
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- Commerce fields a read and react defense that occasionally blitzes.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: The Tigers return nine starters on defense. Sr. Terrick Ramsey DB, Sr. Marquavius (Quay) Little DB, Sr. Barron Mather DB, Sr. Chase Ledbetter DB, Jr. Jamir Walton DB, Sr. Trey Grier DL, Sr. Dillion Haggard DL, Sr. Dylan Seagraves DL
SPECIAL TEAMS: Both the kicker and punting positions must be filled by the Tigers are excited about junior Nahum Mendoza as the placekicker. The punting position is wide open but senior Logan Owensby has some punting experience.
STRENGTH: The offensive line should be the strength of this year’s team. They have experience at every position, led by seniors Clay Pritchett and Micah Eason. Tony Patman will replace departed senior Jake Vaughn and Chance McClure will move back to the offensive line, where he played as a freshmen. Morgan Flint and Aaron Kyle round out the offensive line. Coach Justice said this group, if it stays healthy, could go down as one of the best in Commerce history. The Tigers return their entire defensive secondary and two of their top three linebackers from last season.
QUESTION: Health. The Tigers were staggered with injuries last season. Eight different players missed substantial playing time last season due to injuries. However, because of all the injuries, many underclassmen received playing time last season and experience for this year.
KEY GAMES: The Tigers are the only public school in a region full of private schools in the new region alignment. Coach Justice feels a run at a region title is possible but they will have to breakthrough against the top three teams – George Walton, Prince Avenue, Athens Academy – to have a shot. They are 1-5 against them over the past two seasons. They open at home against arch-rival Jefferson and are looking to break a five-game losing streak, the longest against the Dragons going back to the 1967-71 seasons.
TRENDING: Despite suffering first regular season losing record since 1992, the Tigers kept their playoff streak alive at 15 consecutive seasons. But after advancing to the third round of the playoffs seven out of 10 years from 1997-2006, Commerce has advanced to the second round just once since then.
Aug. 31 vs. Jefferson
Sept. 7 at East Jackson
Sept. 14 vs. Banks County
Sept. 21 vs. Rabun County
Sept. 28 at George Walton Academy
Oct. 5 vs. Athens Christian
Oct. 12 at Prince Avenue Christian
Oct. 19 at Athens Academy
Oct. 26 vs. Hebron Christian Academy
Nov. 9 vs. Pinecrest Academy
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