Tucker fans have come to realize the importance of arriving to football games on time this season.
With the exception of a couple of games early in the season, the Tigers have managed to put their opponents in a hole by the end of the first quarter. That trend has continued into the playoffs as the Tigers have not been challenged through the first three rounds of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The Tigers (13-0) have outscored their three state playoff opponents by a total of 63-0 in the first quarter. Tucker’s 42-3 blowout of Region 2 third seed Ware County even was a surprise to Tigers’ coach Franklin Stephens.
“We were able to move the ball and score against Ware County,” Stephens said. “I was a little surprised at the score, but we’re playing well right now. They’re well prepared and the kids are executing on offense.”
Four Ware County turnovers helped Tucker put away its opponent. After a Ware fumble in the first quarter, N’Quan Maggett scored on runs of 4 and 43 yards, then Bashr Coles added a 6-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion made it 22-0 after the first 15 minutes.
“I really don’t have an answer for the quick starts,” Stephens said. “It’s a credit to our kids and the staff. We have been playing well at the start of games.”
Tucker has outscored Loganville, Hiram and Ware by a total of 130-31 on the strength on its versatile running attack. Coles has gained 409 yards with six touchdowns and Maggett has rushed for 283 yards and five scores in the playoffs.
Through 13 games this season, both have surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Coles has rushed for 1,255 yards and 20 touchdowns while Maggett has 1,006 yards and 23 scores. Maggett holds the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season and is two away from tying for sixth place on the county’s single-season rushing touchdown list.
Tucker is the only DeKalb County team remaining in the playoffs after Cedar Grove lost in the Class AAA quarterfinals 45-20 to Burke County on Friday in Waynesboro.
The Tigers look to extend their trend of fast starts against Starr’s Mill (13-0), which beat East Paulding last weekend 28-0 in the third round.
“They’re a big, physical team, but mentality-wise we’re similar,” Stephens said. “They have an option-style offense out of the shotgun, but they like to run the ball a lot.”
The Panthers have been successful running the ball, as shown against East Paulding. Running back Zach Laskey set the school record for rushing yards in a season with 135 yards and two touchdowns last week. He has 1,460 yards on the season. Quarterback Adam Holley surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season and scored two touchdowns against East Paulding.
“Their running back is big with great speed; he can run away from people,” Stephens said. “And their quarterback makes things happen.”
Both teams compare favorably on defense as well, Stephens said.
“They’re big and physical up front, Stephens said. “We’re cut from the same cloth, because our linebackers and our defensive front are very physical.”