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Bartlett coach, players talk about season so far

Marco Tyson denies Houston’s Brock Vice of a TD catch. Photo by Theron Malone

Bartlett assistant football coach LA Owens and some of his players talked about the Panthers season thus far in a recent interview with Jonathan Sturdivant (@jsturdivant1985) on the JS Report for West Tenn Media on YouTube.

“Starting this off-season, we came in with the mindset that we could be one of the top teams in our region,” Owens said. “When St. Benedict dropped us off their schedule, coach Tucker came up and said, ‘Y’all wanna go to Hoover?’”

Assistant coach LA Owens

Head coach Lance Tucker spearheaded that trip to Alabama to play Hoover High, one of the best teams in the nation, and it has been a rallying point for the team all season.

In that game, Bartlett was tied with Hoover 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, but then the Buccaneers turned on the jets and it was quickly 42-7 at the half.

“We took a whooping, to say the least, but the guys bounced back and learned from it, and that was the objective going into it,” Owens told Sturdivant.

Playing tough competition, and seeing what a great team does against you, is something the Panther players can draw on when they are playing tough opponents back in Shelby County.

Bartlett comes into the game at Cordova Friday, Oct. 7, at 5-2, 3-1 in 6A Region 8. Bartlett, Houston (6-2, 4-1) and Collierville (7-1, 4-1) all have one district loss, thanks to Houston’s drubbing of the Dragons on Thursday, 34-6. 

After the Hoover loss, Bartlett beat the top-ranked Memphis private school in its region, Lausanne, 42-31, and could have defeated Germantown had the ball bounced their way in the end zone after blocking a Red Devils punt late in the game. 

Two weeks after the 17-16 heartbreaking loss to Germantown, Bartlett would face Houston, which had just handed Germantown its first loss.

Defeating the Mustangs would be a tall order, partly because they have a 6-foot, 10-inch receiver named Brock Vice who towers over most high school defensive backs, including two at Bartlett – Marco Tyson and Rahmaan Rinkin – who would be lining up against him. 

Owens told Sturdivant they came into the Mustangs game with a game plan they believed would work. And the defense carried out that plan to perfection, he said, holding dynamic running back Damon Sisa to under 100 yards rushing and keeping Vice out of the end zone.

Bartlett also had to account for Mustangs sophomore quarterback Chandler Day, a tall left-hander who is as dangerous running it out of the pocket as he is passing.

“He’s an exceptional talent. Our line was committed to stopping the running backs, and our linebackers had to stay home on the jet sweeps and all the different looks they were giving us,” Owens said. “The linebackers did a phenomenal job of reading their keys and staying put, and of wrapping him up, because he’s a big kid. He plays a lot like (Tim) Tebow.”

He said the Bartlett defense and offense are both playing well right now, and they went at each other full bore in practice before the Houston game to get them ready for the challenges ahead.

“Iron sharpens iron,” he said, noting that trying to stop Bartlett quarterback Braylen Ragland and the offense was good preparation for the defense, and the defense provided equal preparation for Ragland and the offense. 

Houston stacked the box to slow Bartlett’s run game down, but Ragland stepped up, throwing three touchdown passes to carry the offensive load for the Panthers.

“There’s not a throw he can’t make, and Braylen stepped up with throw after throw to every receiver we had,” Owens said.

Defensive back Devin Rutherford called it a “great feeling” to end up on top against Houston.

Devin Rutherford

“They had just come off a big win against Germantown and I think they were the most dynamic offense we had played,” Rutherford said.

Defensive backs Tyson and Rinkin said they relied on what coaches told them in facing a much taller and athletic wide receiver like Vice.

Marco Tyson

“The first thing is confidence. You have to be confident that no one is going to catch the ball,” Tyson said, “and have that mentality … of being physical. That was the game plan.”

Tyson and Rinkin both knocked touchdown passes out of Vice’s hands, and Rinkin’s play came late in the game, helping Bartlett secure the 34-24 win.

Rahmaan Rinkin

“It felt good,” Rinkin said when asked about that play. “We had great preparation. Coach LA said I needed to put hands on him. We talk about technique all the time, and that’s what we applied. I really look up to coach LA, and he likes things to be perfect.” 

All of the players said they are preparing for Cordova just like they would any game, like they would prepare for Hoover. And they won’t be looking at the scoreboard, just playing hard and following the game plan. 

Bartlett will host Collierville after the bye week, on Oct. 21, and then travel to play district foe Whitehaven the week after that. 

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