MTCS Cougars looking to build on 2014 success

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Fred Shambaugh brought a dynamic, up-tempo offense to Middle Tennessee Christian Shool last season, and it was an instant hit.

The Cougars reached uncharted waters, going 9-2 and winning a league championship.

Despite losing quarterback Justin Winn (1,796 yards passing, 917 yards rushing), the Cougars figure to be just as explosive this season.

Junior Joseph Peck is now calling the signals and has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The backfield is in excellent shape with seniors Tanner Green (a 1,000-yard back last season) and Nick Merritt, and the offensive line is a more seasoned group.

"Tanner didn't have as strong a line in front of him last year. They're more experienced now," said Shambaugh, who coached many years in California before coming to MTCS last season. "He's been a starter since he was a sophomore, and we have Nick to spell him. He's been carry the ball for three years, so I feel really good about the running game."

Despite the experience in the backfield, MTCS fans can still expect the Cougars to air it out as much as they did in 2014.

"Our strength is still going to be throwing the ball," Shambaugh said. "We're going to throw the ball until people stop us.

"We went to a passing tournament against 4A schools and went 3-3 in the tournament. You can't tell much from that, but I as pleased with what I saw. People can still out-athlete us, but scheme-wise we roll through some things that other people don't see. I think we'll have a very good offense."

The receiving corp will be led by senior Trey Hickey, who was an all league performer last season.

Defensively, MTCS returns several starters, which Shambaugh hopes will lead to better play this season.

"Defense is the side of ball where we lost the fewest starters," Shambaugh said. "We're in the second year in the scheme and we're looking to be absolutely improved.

"I didn't get here until July of last year, and it was one of those things where you can only do so much. We'll be more sound in our base and be able to do some other things."

The Cougars' defense is led by senior linebacker Braden Melton, who had a team-high 140 tackles last season. Hickey had five picks last season and is the school's all-time leader in interceptions."

One of the biggest concerns at this point for MTCS is developing depth as several players will be forced to play both ways. Additionally, Shambaugh is still unsure who his kicker and punter will be this season.

"We have a bigger roster, but we still have depth issues," Shambaugh said. "We have 45 on the roster, but 32 are underclassmen. By the time the sophomores are seniors, we'll be pretty good. Right now we only have six seniors. At one point those guys were 1-19 and they went 0-19 their first year.

"With our kicking game it's going to be something we're going to try and develop. We've got a couple soccers kids out, and we're trying to toughen them up and see if they can help with their feet."

MTCS is Region 5 in 1A this season, which includes difficult matchups against Jo Byrns, Trousdale County, Gordonsville and Nashville Christian.

"All the coaches say the new region is much tougher, so we've got a huge challenge ahead of us," Shambaugh said. "Our expectations are we just don't want anyone to outwork us. We can take care of our end with hard work.

"Good programs don't talk about winning. It's a byproduct of how you take care of your business day to day. That's what we want to do."

ANALYSIS

Replacing Winn will be one of the biggest tasks at hand, but Shambaugh believes in his offensive system. The Cougars will be challenged in their new region, and a lack of proven depth is a major concern. However, MTCS certainly has a solid chance at earning one of the four playoff berths in Region 5.

TEAM PERSONNEL

OFFENSE

QB: Joseph Peck, Jr.

RB: Tanner Green, Sr.

RB: Nick Merritt, Sr.

WR: Josh Letzler, So.; Phillip Jones, Sr.; Andrew McConnell, So.; Trey Hickey, Sr.

OL: Matt Swift, So.; Jack Mitchell, Jr.; Mattden Pack, Jr.; Sam Mathis, Sr.; Benji Hester, Jr.

DEFENSE

DL: Sam Mathis, Sr.; Nick Merritt, Sr.; Matt Swift, So.; Madden Pack, Jr.

LB: Braden Melton, Sr., Grant Pickard, So.; Tanner Green, Sr.; Taylor Gardner, Jr.

DB: Trey Hickey, Sr.; Josh Letzler, So.

S: Phillip Jones, Sr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: TBA

P: TBA

Sports editor Monte Hale Jr. may be contacted at mhale@murfreesboropost.com

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Middle Tennessee Christian School, Monte Hale, MTCS, Murfreesboro Post, NewsRadio WGNS, Prep Football Preview
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