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Pats’ Martin gets first taste of Hillcrest-TCHS rivalry


Tuscaloosa County’s Tyler Gates (3) delivers a pass under pressure by Hillcrest’s Tre’ Alford during last year’s game, a 28-7 Hillcrest victory. (Photo by Jason Harless)


TUSCALOOSA | Scott Martin is new to the Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa County football rivalry, but he understands its importance and intensity.

Martin, Hillcrest’s first-year head coach, said he’s already heard from some folks who equate it with Alabama and Auburn.

Martin’s Patriots will cross the river tonight to face coach Lee Gibson’s TCHS Wildcats in a Class 6A, Region 5 game.

"I know it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere," Martin said. "The weather is going to be perfect for football. I’m looking forward to my first Hillcrest-County High matchup. It ought to be a great game."

TCHS, 6-1 overall and riding a six-game win streak, is tied with Hoover at 5-0 in region play. Hillcrest, 4-3 overall, is in third place at 3-2. The top four teams will advance to the playoffs.

TCHS isn’t flashy on offense with a 21.9-point scoring average. Quarterback Tyler Gates has thrown for 703 yards with five touchdown passes and four interceptions. Tylan Perry, a former receiver, is the leading rusher with 349 yards. The Wildcats lead the region with a defense that has allowed only six touchdowns and 6.1 points per game.

"That’s what jumps off the page," Martin said. "They’ve played real well defensively. Offensively, they don’t make a lot of mistakes.

"The football teams that are successful day in and day out usually have a good, solid running game, they play great defense and are good in the special teams. County High has all three of those.

"They execute offensively and don’t turn the ball over very much, and because of it you’ve got to earn every yard that you get. I think they just have a solid team on both sides of the ball, and a guy with a long-range leg in the kicking game is always an asset."

Tuscaloosa County’s Emiliano Ramirez has made seven field goals.

Hillcrest quarterback Riley Nix has thrown for 1,170 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Austin Williams has 27 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Charles Bester has 450 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

"They’re the best team we’ve seen this year," Gibson said. "They’re well-rounded on offense. The quarterback does a good job of running the option. There’s not one particular person you can focus on because they do a good job of spreading you around. Each set they give you is different. You have to be prepared to stop the dive, the quarterback and the pitch. Our front seven will probably be the ones that are tested the most."

Key defensive players up front for the Wildcats include Hunter Jenkins and Terance Leatherwood at end and Marshall Eads and Brian Brown at tackle. Ted Colburn, Jimmie Maddox and Kade Livingston are linebackers. Colburn leads the team with an average of 12.8 tackles a game. He missed last week’s game with an injury, but Gibson said he expects Colburn to play tonight.

Hillcrest linebacker Chris Leslie has 81 tackles, and fellow linebacker Keith Holcombe has 68. Jamie Hayes and Tre’ Alford will start at defensive tackle with Shawn Mello and Trae Robinson at end. Martin described Jordan Robertson as a "lock-down type of guy" at cornerback.

Martin said his defensive front will have to "man up" against the Wildcats’ physical style of offense.

"They do a good job of pounding it right at you," Martin said. "They try to break your will. If you don’t have a lot of intestinal fortitude or guts, it’s going to be a long night."

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-023.