Tanner came out running the ball, as usual, and their top trio of ball-carriers stole the show as they combined for 259 yards and three touchdowns. That in itself was enough to move past Washington County, coupled with a top-notch defensive effort from the same guys, 28-14.
Here are the players that stood out for each team on the field.
2014 RB Hayden Stephens (5-foot-8, 155 lbs) – Gritty and feisty describe this undersized junior. He plays bigger than his vitals suggest when the ball is in his hands. Stephens makes quick cuts in the hole and he seldom avoids contact despite his small frame. He was the team’s bell-cow in the first half and helped to control the clock en route to 139 yards on 29 carries.
2014 DT Baltazar Rubio (6-foot-2, 220 lbs) – While the stats aren’t always indicative of how effective a lineman can be, Rubio does it on every play. He penetrates with a good combination of quickness and power and proves troublesome in the opposing backfield. Rubio finishes the job when he arrives on contact, and it resulted in four tackles, including one for loss.
2013 LB/RB Fred Rich (6-foot-2, 190 lbs) - Versatility and power is his game. The UAB pledge was the staple of the defense early on with….. He also ran the ball considerably well, punching in the game’s first score on an 18-yard bulldozing drive and helping the Rattlers close out the game with punishing attempts that led to a second score. Rich totaled 79 yards on 13 totes and added six tackles defensively, capped with an interception at the goal line.
2013 DB Greg Maclin (6-foot-3, 170 lbs) Another future Blazer played well en route to a win. Maclin used his length to stretch the Washington County defense when he had the chance, even though he only finished the game with one catch for 17 yards. Defensively, he paced the team with eight tackles while showing good range and speed when the ball was near.
2015 QB/DB Jonathon Fletcher (6-foot, 180 lbs) The true athlete can play various positions, but he is especially gifted with the ball in his hands as a runner. He scrambled to make plays both for himself and his teammates all night long, seemingly breaking multiple tackles each time he tucked the ball. Defensively, he’s a raw talent that has a high ceiling considering his size and athletic ability on the edge, though he flashed brilliance on a pair of interceptions that were the product of him breaking on the ball instinctively. Fletcher’s defensive night featured a pick-six and four tackles while his offensive numbers were 41 yards rushing including a 5-yard score and another 17 as a passer.
2015 DE/TE Braxton Kinsley (6-foot-2, 225 lbs) – Range is this sophomore’s game. He can track opposing ball carriers from sideline to sideline, and he has the length to make acrobatic tackles on routine. Kinley runs well and certainly passes the eye test across all current high school classes despite his youth. He finished the night with a tackle for loss and a sack.
2014 TE/LB Cedric Chapman (6-foot-3, 231 lbs) – Another eye-test champion translates well on the field. He runs pretty good routes at this point and has good enough hands to go along with it. He was targeted on several big plays, but only managed to connect with his quarterback once for 18 yards.