Coaches know what it takes to win state title

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2007

Franklin County’s Grady McCluskey and Louisville’s Brad Petersonare both successful high school football coaches. They have similarhard-nosed philosophies. Work hard. Play hard and win.

McCluskey and Peterson both grew up in northern Mississippi.McCluskey graduated from West Point after quarterbacking his teamto a state championship in 1987. Peterson is a 1993 Louisvillegraduate where football is king. He played on Louisville’s 1991state title team.

Ironically, they will coach against each other in Saturday’sClass 3A state championship football game.

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“West Point and Louisville is a huge rivalry,” pointed outPeterson. They are both great football schools.

Franklin County has become well known for its football strengthin recent years. On Saturday, the Bulldogs will seek a rare repeatas state champion.

Listen to McCluskey talk about his Bulldogs and the futureappears bright. He will lose four starters on offense and four ondefense to graduation. In other words, the 2008 squad should be atitle contender, too.

Obviously, the Tillmans have made Meadville a focal point forcollege football recruiters. Marcus Tillman, now a defensive end atOle Miss, has been a 2-year starter.

The current crop of Tillmans are equally impressive. Defensivelineman Josh Tillman (6-5, 255) is an early commit to Ole Miss. BoTillman (6-6, 300), Josh’s cousin and the younger brother ofMarcus, apparently is headed for Copiah-Lincoln Community College.Co-Lin will help Bo get his grades in order so he can transferafter two years.

According to Louisville coach Brad Peterson, FC’s defense hasmore stars. He pointed to sophomore defensive lineman Bobby O’Quinn(6-0, 245), the little guy in FC’s 3-man front; as being anexceptional player.

“Their linebackers are very physical and their secondary isfast,” said Peterson. “Offensively, they are the total package.They can run and throw it. Their offensive line isoutstanding.”

After polishing the Franklin County ego, Peterson talked abouthis Louisville Wildcats. They have lost three games this season,all of them to powerful opponents, in Class 5A Starkville (14-13),Class 4A Wayne County (39-21) and Noxubee County (40-26), the North4A champion.

Asked to describe his team, Peterson said, “It starts with ourdefense. We have 11 guys who can run well and hit. That’s somethingyou can’t coach.”

Describing his team’s offense, Peterson said, “Our offensiveline is our strong point. “Our offensive line will be theunderdog.”

For sure, Louisville has several offensive weapons. The Wildcatsare led by junior quarterback Clayton Moore (6-2, 215). Moore haspassed for 3,004 yards and 29 touchdowns. He has rushed for 791yards and 10 TDs.

Moore also kicks extra points, making 39 of 44. I wouldn’t besurprised if he works in the concession stand at halftime and playstrumpet in the band.

“We have 11 players on both sides of the ball who lovefootball,” said Moore, his blue eyes sparkling with excitement.”Everybody does their job. I’ll put our offensive line up againstanybody. Our defense loves to hit. They will light you up.”

Louisville linebacker Dennis Thames (No. 14) is a multiplethreat. He also plays running back, wideout and returns punts. Hehas scored 18 touchdowns, including 56 catches for 947 yards and 8TDs. He has rushed for 631 yards.

Fellow defender Malcolm Kincaid wears jersey No. 99 and works attackle. He leads the Wildcats with 81 tackles and 12 sacks. Thameshas 81 tackles and 3 interceptions, returning 2 for TDs.

“We have a good defense,” said Thames. “We swarm the ball andwrap up when we tackle.”

The state championship experience is new for Thames and histeammates. “We have never been here. This year we came out and wewere hungry. This is our dream to win state.”

Having won the 3A title last year, Franklin County knows exactlywhat it takes to win a championship. Saturday’s game shapes up as aclassic.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o. The DAILY LEADER,P.O. BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or