By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. —
This might sound like David and Goliath.
There is no way for Tazewell to overpower the bigger, stronger Marion Scarlet Hurricane. Marion, with an offensive line weighing in at roughly 1,290 pounds across the front, has the muscle to win almost every one-on-one confrontation against the smaller, younger Bulldogs.
So, what can Tazewell do?
“We have to be quick coming off our blocks, quick to the corners, quick everywhere,” admits Tazewell coach Shane Allen. “Marion is definitely a tough team, a challenge physically for any team they play. They hit you hard, they hit you often.”
However, for anyone thinking the (3-2) Hurricane simply slogs its way to wins, think again, says Allen.
“Oh, make no mistake – Marion is physically tough but they have speed, too. Colin Gullion is very quick on the outside and great on special teams. Kyle Rivero coming out of the slot has good speed. The fullback, Sam Wagner, is a real combination of both. He can run over you but he is deceptive because when you let him turn the corner, he can outrun a lot of people. Don’t think that Marion is only a ‘3 yards and a cloud of dust’ type team because they do a lot more than that,” Allen concludes.
The Hurricane, coached by Joey Carroll, has beaten Holston (55-39), Rural Retreat (39-14), and Northwood (40-0) and lost to Chilhowie (13-7) and George Wythe (27-20). Marion shut out George Wythe in the first half of their game before the Maroons made a late surge.
Against the Northwood Panthers, Marion scored on all but three possessions. Gullion had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. Wagner scored the first three touchdowns, carried just 12 times, and finished with 80 yards rushing.
At Holston, Gullion was even better. He returned a kick 77 yards in that one for a score and caught a pass from talented quarterback Trey Crook for another six-pointer. The Hurricane rolled up 224 rushing yards in that game.
Against Rural Retreat, Shaiquon Sharpe had 140 yards rushing, Crook was 6-of-11 with 99 yards passing for two scores, and Rivero added a pair of touchdowns. Wagner again had a dozen carries and a TD.
“They (Marion) mix it up out of the spread offense, and come at you from a lot of directions,” says Allen. “This is a good football team on both sides of the ball. Crook is not only the quarterback, for instance, but he made the All Region team last year as an inside linebacker. And – he is another person in the offensive backfield who weighs over 200 pounds. Their tight end is 6-3, 205, too, so it just goes across the board – we will have our hands full.”
After winning for the first time – and playing at home for the first time – in last week’s 35-20 victory over George Wythe, Tazewell (1-4) hopes that the corner has been turned. Friday is homecoming night in T-Town and the Bulldogs are counting on some key people to show up big in front of the old grads.
Malik Davis, who totaled 85 yards rushing in the first quarter alone, accounted for four touchdowns – two running and two passing – in another solid performance. A week after scoring three times in the (still puzzling) 45-43 loss at Chilhowie, receiver Jesse Mountain hauled in a 22-yard scoring pass from Davis Friday night.
Another key cog in the Dog machine is fullback Carter Rasnick, who booted five PATs and raced 35 yards with a touchdown catch, while playing standout defense at linebacker. Reliable receiver Juwan Jordan has attracted much attention, often being double teamed and that has freed up other players. Jordan, however, eager to get his hands on the ball, snatched up two interceptions against the Maroons and they were decisive factors in the victory.
Suddenly, and it has been a pleasant surprise, running back Nick Blankenship has opened up the Dog offense with quick bursts of north-sound running, finding double-digit gains more often than not while maintaining his hard-hitting defensive back skills.
That has been possible by the maturing play of the offensive line, beginning to round into form at mid-season. The hard-working quintet up front is beginning to win more battles and then turning around to keep up the pressure on defense. Tazewell forced more punts last week than in any game thus far.
Expect a battle. The Dogs must play smart because Marion can definitely play strong.