Although Marshall’s football team has sealed up its third straight district championship, the Mavericks’ head coach Jake Griedl said his team can’t afford to be complacent in week 11’s matchup against Pine Tree.
“We’ve got to go 1-0 this week,” Griedl said. “The playoffs right now mean nothing. We’ve got to find a way to continue to get better and keeping the momentum on our side. Just because this game doesn’t mean anything for playoffs or district titles or whatever, it means a ton for where we want to go and what we want to achieve. We can’t hit a road block. We’ve got to find a way to keep our foot on the pedal and keep going, keep moving forward so that we’re playing our best football at the right time.
“Our expectation here was to win a district championship and we’ve accomplished that expectation so now we’re moving to our goals,” Griedl continued. “Our first goal is to play in December and our second goal is to be playing Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. With that being said, how does Pine Tree fit into that? They fit into that because we can’t achieve our goals unless we continue to get better against Pine Tree. We can’t go backwards this week. We’ve got to keep moving forward. If we’re not moving forward this week, that means we’re trying to make up ground in round one and that’s the wrong time to try to make up ground.”
The Mavericks enter the contest with an overall record of 6-3, a District 9-5A DII record of 6-0 and the district’s No. 1 defense. Marshall has allowed 1,514 rushing yards and 1,229 passing yards for a total of 2,743 yards offense. The Pirates will enter the contest with an overall record of 5-4, a district record of 4-2 and the district’s top-ranked offense. The Pirates have rushed for 2,415 yards and passed for 2,028 yards for a total of 4,442 yards offense.
Pine Tree quarterback D.J. Freeman leads the district in both passing and rushing. He’s currently 108-of-200 for 1,853 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also has 113 carries for 1,110 yards and 15 scores. He has help in the backfield from guys like Tyler Sheffield who has 143 carries for 982 yards and 10 touchdowns. Freeman has solid weapons in the receiving squad as well. Gabe Adams has 45 catches for 986 yards and nine touchdowns while J.J. Sparkman has 28 catches for 460 yards and six touchdowns.
“They’re dynamic,” Griedl said of the Pirates. “They have a quarterback who can run it and who can throw it. They’ve got three really talented receivers who make plays on the ball. They’re very big up front. There’s a reason they’re averaging the yards they’re averaging a game. It’ll be a challenge to stop them just because of their size and what they do. No. 11, J.J. Sparkman, is a Texas Tech commit, their running back is a really good player and their star receiver is a really talented player. They’ve got some big lineman. They’re a very well-rounded offense.”
Griedl added the Mavs need solid effort up front, from guys like Michael Washington and the other defensive lineman, as well as Kygze Turner and the other linebackers and Lyrik Rawls in the secondary.
“I think we’ve got to put pressure on that quarterback and we’ve got to contain the quarterback,” Griedl offered. “I think if we do those two things, we’ll take away two-thirds of their game. Hopefully we’ll rally to the football when the running back has it and get him behind the chains. We’ve got to be more physical up front. Our D-line has to play well. Our linebackers have to be free and make tackles. We’ve got to do a god job in the secondary, staying over the top and not giving up the big play to their talented receivers. When they have guys in the open field, we’ve got to make great open-field tackles.”
Friday night will be senior night for the Mavericks and kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Maverick Stadium. Tickets will be on sale today and Thursday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. until noon at the Y.A. Tittle Athletic Fieldhouse ticket window. Reserved seats cost $7 and $8. General admission is $6 in advance.
During their lunch breaks today and Thursday, MHS and MJHS students may purchase one student ticket to sit in student Section A for $3. Not student tickets will be available outside of those hours.