Top Matchup: Undefeated Whitwell travels to unbeaten South Pittsburg
For the past several years, the battle of Marion County has been between Marion County High (or Jasper as the locals call it) and South Pittsburg.
Whitwell has now entered the picture in a big way.
Friday night, you'll see two undefeated team, Whitwell and South Pitt, fighting for the Region Championship.
It should be a good one.
The Tigers are a new breed. Coach Randall Boldin is in his second year. The outlook has changed, for the better. "The kids have bought in. You can tell the kids have bought in. Our practices are upbeat. They're always focused on the next opponent and they get after it every single day," Boldin said.
Coach Boldin said its because of "the effort and experience."
He's got a good senior class.
They've learned. They play faster on the field and react instead of think. "Our kids are ready, they're hungry. There's a lot of buildup to this game, but they're not listening to the hype. They're just ready to come out here and execute. There's still a lot of doubters about this football team and rightfully so. So they're going to come out here and they're going to battle the entire game."
The Tigers have captured this small town's attention.
The Whitwell Dairy Barn is a fixture here.
Employees hear the talk. Tina McCampell has worked the window for the past three years. "They're (the town) all excited and ready to go. It's good, I'm glad they're doing great," she said with a smile.
It has had an impact on the Tigers. "That's something that's kind of fueled our kids. If you were here last Friday night, it was standing room only. This is the first time I've seen this type of environment in our community. And it's great to see and our kids have really fueled off of it," Boldin said.
Across the county where the game will go down, South Pittsburg also stands undefeated.
Coach Vic Grider saids his team is ready for this showdown. "Our kids, fortunately for us, have been there a lot. They've been in these type games before. They know what's on the line and they know what we're playing for. We'll have ourselves ready to go."
Like Whitwell, South Pitt has a solid senior leadership group.
They also have a big, experienced offensive line.
Fullback Garrett Raulston has been huge this season.
Ditto for running back Sawyer Kelley and all state receiver Cade Kennemore.
Coach Grider sees an intangible winning factor. "And probably who handles the emotions the best. Obviously, there's going to be a lot of energy in the stadium. It's going to come down to who's able to handle those things and who's able to execute at the right times."