Tucker and Marist have been the two dominant teams in Region 6-AAAA in recent years. One or the other has won the regular season title four of the past five seasons.
The two teams also have something else in common this season—revamped offensive backfields. Both teams have new quarterbacks and a group of new running backs to plug into their option offenses.
How much progress is made from the first week of the season to the second could determine the outcome when the two rivals meet Sept. 2.
Marist piled up 232 yards rushing and 12 different players ran the ball in an easy win over Douglass on Aug. 26. Tucker, meanwhile, gained only 118 yards rushing on 40 carries against a rugged Southwest DeKalb defense in an 18-7 win Aug. 25. Six different players carried the ball for the Tigers.
Despite the win in the opener, Tucker coach Franklin Stephens said there was plenty of improvement to be made if the Tigers hope to earn a two-game winning streak against Marist for the first time since winning four straight from 2004-07.
“We’re very far behind on offense,” Stephens said after the Southwest game. “I expect things are not going to be pretty if we play on offense like we did [against Southwest]. We’ve got to get a lot better between games one and two.”
Tucker won last season 31-24 in two overtimes in the closest game between the two teams since 2006. Close games had been the norm between the two teams as eight of the first 15 games in the 20-game series have been decided by eight points or less.
“It would be nice to win two in a row, but we can’t worry about other teams at this point,” Stephens said. “We have a lot of respect for Marist, but we have to get Tucker fixed.”
The Tigers had more success against the Southwest defense in the second half, gaining 87 of their 118 rushing yards.
Both quarterbacks showed an ability to take control of their offenses, and both teams will need that trait from their quarterbacks this weekend.
Marist’s Myles Willis ran for three touchdowns and passed for 62 yards against Douglass. Tucker quarterback Juwaan Williams was the Tigers’ leading rusher, gaining 42 yards on seven attempts. He also completed 4 of 11 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. The score and 49 yards passing came in the second half.