2018 Gridiron: Scotland County Tigers
Colors: Blue and White
Total Returning Lettermen: 17
2017 Overall Record: 6-5
Head Coach: Troy Carper
Years at School: 2
Record at School: 6-5
Overall Record: 6-5
LUCID DREAMS: THERE’S A GRIDIRON UPRISE BREWING IN SCOTLAND COUNTY
TIGER TALES: Troy Carper’s Head Coaching Debut didn’t play out nearly as elegantly as he envisioned it during all those years of dues paying and working his way up the ladder. Because, of course, the dream scenarios never include running your team onto the field for the first timeonly to get punched repeatedly in the mouth by a powerhouse opponent destined to hang a 42 point loss on you. Fortunately, whatever “did we hire the right guy” doubts anyone might have conjured in the aftermath of Week One were quickly allayed. Carper and his young Tigers got markedly better in a hurry, nearly upsetting Fayette a week later and following that up with three straight victories in route to a 6-5 season. What carries over here is a really fun football scenario moving forward into 2018: rising young coach, potential superstar returning Quarterback, and a total of 14 starters returning to a squad with very rational expectations of competing for a Lewis & Clark Conference Championship and mounting serious challenge to the Defending State Champions in Class 1-District 5.
FROMM MEMPHIS.WITH LOVE: As alluded to above, any and all discussion of Scotland County Football begins with Senior Quarterback Will Fromm; who might just be the Tri-States best passing practioner at the most important position on the football field. The 6’1” 190 pounder throws a very lively footballand does so with impressive ease. No one throws a better deep ball in the region. And we are talking here about a young man who amassed 1595 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air. Add a year of polish and mature restraint to what he accomplished as a Junior and it’s easy to project Will as the best pure passer in the class. That said, there’s a caveat here. Will also has viable mobility and athleticism to match up with some of the better dual threat signal callers in Northeast Missouri as well. Fromm generated another nine touchdowns and nearly 730 ground yards when he pulled the football down. I can assure you as well, Will Fromm is the Tri-State Quarterback you’d least like to tackle as a Defender. And his comfort level operating his offense is second to none. Point blank, he’s a helluva unique weapon and one of the Top Ten true football difference makers in our area. Again, that he plays Quarterback, only augments his value.
INTO THE WOODS: Fromm’s presence will soak up much of the preseason hype in Memphis but it’s important to remember that the Tigers stack up really nicely at Wide Receiver as well. Matthew Woods is one of the most underrated returning talents in Tri-State Football, though I don’t expect that to be the case for much longer. Slot guys tend to get underestimated but Woods is positioned nicely for an uptick in targets, which should position him to dwarf last year’s receiving totals of 321 yards and 4 touchdowns. The kid zips around the field like a water bug. Get him the ball and good things happen in the aftermath. Senior Jace Morrow is back as well to balance a receiving corps that netted 147 yards per game in 2017. Moreover, Troy Carper is adding some exciting young pieces to the mix in Sophomore Kaden Anders (who brings a little size to the mix ) and much heralded Freshmen Hayden and Alex Long who are only going to give Will Fromm more canvas from which to paint.
THE FORECAST CALLS FOR PAYNE: The one area of concern Offensively for the Tigers this Fall is Offensive Line, which graduated a couple over very quality Senior Starters. That established, I really feel good about Scotland County’s returning framework up front of Grant McRobert, Luke Triplett, and Mason Kliethermes. Seniors all. And good, aggressive mobile ones at that. If you’ve ever watched Kliethermes play Linebacker, you know he packs a really big pound-for-pound wallop at 190 pounds. So these guys will get after it. Finding two complimentary starters to cultivate here is the bigger issue. Junior Branton Andriesen might be best positioned from an experience level to jump in but don’t discount Sophomores Hunter Carter, Preston Sanchez, and Jacob Cochran from the mix too quickly. Provided those pieces fall into place, Scotland County should remain plenty balanced as well. Sure, the Scotland County Passing Game is pretty sexy but don’t forget this is a team that returns its top two leading rushers from a unit that amassed 168 ground yards a game last year. Granted, Troy Carper would probably like to limit some of the exposure on his leading ground gainer/quarterback and that’s why Jayden Payne’s continued ascent is so vital here this season. As a Junior, Payne rushed for 460 yards and six touchdowns. There’s not a lot of flash to what he does, he’s just one of those tougher-than-a-three-dollar-steak types with good speed and a very direct “shortest distance between two points” approach. He’s compactly built and durable and should command a lot of carries. Don’t be surprised if Kaden Anders profile here some as a Spread Back as well. He’s a really intriguing athlete and kind of change of pace effortless glider who could jazz up things in the backfield and create some unique options.
LINEBACKERS OF DISTINCTION: The potential for noteworthy Defensive improvement in Memphis is one of the most compelling aspects of the Scotland County storyline. This was a decent enough group in 2017, allowing just a smidge over 22 points per contest. There’s a core nucleus here of seven returning starters and particular strength at the back end of the unit. The Tigers boast a particular well of strength at Linebacker, where Jayden Payne, Mason Kliethermes, and Luke Tripplett reprise their roles as “fly around and hit” guys. Payne is coming off a particularly strong Junior Season that saw him post 106 total tackles. Tripplett and Kliethermes, a three year starter, both had 58 stops each. That’s a sizeable chunk of demonstrable production on which to build.
PICKS APLENTY: While he earned greater accolades for his Quarterback play, Will Fromm fashioned an impressive defensive resume as well last season. He cleaned up 59 tackles and tied Cornerback Matthew Woods for the team lead in interceptions. Parker Triplett added two picks of his own as a Sophomore Corner, while Payne and Kliethermes also snared an interception a piece. That’s 10 total takeaways from the Back Seven. Suffice it to say, this is a very aggressive and opportunistic lot.
MOTION GRANTED: On paper, Scotland County’s most glaring weakness is Defensive Line Play. Grant McRobert is really the only experienced set piece here; posting 41 tackles as Junior. There’s not a great deal of size on this roster to begin with so it is of paramount importance that the Tigers find some guys who can help enable flow to the football behind them. They don’t need superstars per se; just kids who can gunk up the works by fighting off Offensive Linemen and letting the proven cleaners in the back two tiers of the is defense eat. Again, this is where Hunter Carter and Jacob Cochran and Ethan Tinkle are so developmentally important to the cause moving forward. This is a team that needs to get downhill on people and get off the field quickly. Knowing what we now know about the Tiger Offense, it’s pretty clear it is in the Tiger’s best interest to have that unit attacking at all times. So if you are looking for a tipping point on this season, the trajectory of this largely rebuilt Defensive Line serves as your most obvious indicator.
ALL THIS AND MORE: By the way, Will Fromm’s utility goes beyond just his roles as Signal Caller and Defensive Centerfielder; he’s also statistically one of the top returning Punters in Tri-State Football as well.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: Strengths enumerated and reservations expressed, I’d say on balance this is a pretty darned intriguing football team to contend with in 2018. So long as Will Fromm is healthy and well protected, the Tigers have a puncher’s shot to beat just about anyone on a given night. Spend any time around these kids and you pick up on a certain collective intelligence and “get it” factor with this group of Seniors that amplifies the considerable talent. They are problem solvers and guys who can figure out how to punch their way out of the inevitable tight spots and rough patches that every team faces. And to a man, these are really hard workers with a sense of the opportunity window afforded them this Fall and a desire to take advantage of same. The tipping point here, however, on a team that doesn’t necessarily have great numbers is the degree to which (and the speed which) a handful of key underclassmen can assimilate with those seniors to fill in the gaps. You are banking on Sophomores (maybe even Freshman in a couple of cases) to become competent varsity starters quickly and that’s never a given. It’s nice to have so much working leadership around those kids but ultimately, it comes down to can you block and tackle in the trenches against kids who are two and three years older than you are. Suffice it to say the growth curve is pretty steep and the timeline on that “acclimation” process has to be immediate. The schedule makers did Troy Carper no favors. The Tigers open with three straight on the road, including a trip to that same Marceline squad that ran over Scotland County in the 2017 opener. Honestly, though, I can see Scotland winning at least two of those games, catching another victory in Week Four against Schuyler County in the home opener, and rolling into that crossroads Salisbury/Westran back-to-back with considerable momentum and confidence. I think those two games in Week Five and Week Six are the key to the whole season. Those are two traditionally tough, top of the L&C Conference competitors who have had the Tigers Number in recent years. I’d argue on paper, is at least as good as either and for my money better than both. It’s just a matter of stepping up and proving it. The back end of the schedule is very favorable and Troy Carper’s crew has a chance to roll into District play with a ton of wind in the sails. And look, common sense says Monroe City is the clear favorite to repeat here as District Champion and that the Panthers are levels above everyone else here. It would be a huge bite just to stay competitive with the Defending Titlists, let alone find away to beat them. That established, if there is a Class 1 Team from our area who at least seems to matchup with Monroe in uncomfortable ways, it’s these guys. The Tigers possess the kind of intangibles and veteran leadership in key spots to be a hard out, even for the Panthers. And that is quite a telling mouthful right there. I’ll set the over/under here at Seven Regular Season wins and I like these guys all the way to the District Title Game. Anything beyond that would be incredible icing. And either way, the fans in Scotland County figure to treated to one of the best Football “watches” week in/week out in our region this Fall, so enjoy the ride.