Every team is undefeated when the season begins, but it’s how they finish finish that really matters.
Tishomingo County is one of those teams that has started strong in the past but faded as the season progressed. And it’s extremely difficult to pin-point the reason(s) for a slow finish compared to a fast start.
However, new Braves head coach Richard Russo has come home to resurrect a program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since the 2008 squad went 5-6, falling in the first round of the state playoffs.
One season earlier the 2007 team was the last to post a winning record, going 6-5 with a first-round playoff exit.
The 2019 Braves finished 2-8 with wins over Belmont and Alcorn Central in midseason. But four consecutive Division 1-4A losses to close the campaign was unsettling.
Now with Russo in charge at his alma mater hopes and aspirations in Braves-Nation are hitting the high peak level. The next step for the new coach and his squad is open with a home win over rival Belmont and turn that into a streak that last more than just one game.
Russo has a strong reputation and track record as a program builder, turning losing teams into winning ones.
“We have tried our best not to focus on the past and give all the players clean slates,” said Russo. “Our staff has watched film from last year but more for effort and body language than anything.”
Russo brought in former Ripley head coach Samuel Hathorn as his offensive coordinator. Not only is Hathorn familiar with TC’s personnel, having coached against them the past two years, the current players have reportedly bought into his philosophy and system.
“(Junior QB) Blake Counce is set to be a first-year starter for us,” Russo pointed out, “but he has picked up coach Hathorn’s offense rather quickly and is a natural leader.”
Russo also listed senior running back Gavin Crocker, senior wide receiver Justin Glidewell and senior offensive tackle/long snapper Jim Riley as other key offensive weapons he will count on this fall.
“Gavin is a tough, physical downhill runner while Justin hasn’t played since junior high but has incredible ball skills and Jim is being recruited by Mississippi State and will get more playing time on the O-line,” said the TC coach.
Senior center Brennan Moss will anchor the offensive line.
When it’s time to kick the ball, senior Scott Robinson will be a security blanket for the Braves as one of the state’s top kickers.
Defensively, senior tackle Connor Adkins looks to be a force from the weak side in Russo’s 4-3 scheme while the linebacking corp of seniors Scott Puckett, Jake Russell and Tyreik Duckett has received high praise from the new head coach, who has had a linebacker sign collegiately for the past 10 years.
Charlie McAnally and Ashton Dilworth will be key contributors in the Braves defensive backfield.
While Robinson and Riley will work as battery mates on extra points and field goals, McAnally will be the holder while junior Bryan Scales will be a “weapon as a return man” according to Russo.
Rounding out the new TC coaching staff are associate head coach Zach Glover, who is in his 10th year with the Braves, special teams coordinator Austin Marlin and strength/conditioning coordinator and assistant coach Billy Nunley. Scott Marlin and Matthew Walker will serve as paraprofessional coaches while Channing Holland, Johnny McDuffy and Chandler Ayers will be Friday night consultants for Russo.
Tish County opens the 2020 season Friday, September 4 by hosting Belmont.