Hale in new key role for Pirates

Hale in new key role for Pirates

August 17th, 2012 by Stephen Hargis in Sportspreps

South Pittsburg senior Corbin Hale

Photo by Allison Carter/Times Free Press.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. - When South Pittsburg coaches decided to reach into the past and bring back the wing-T offense, Corbin Hale knew what the change could mean for his future.

Had the Pirates remained in the spread, as they had the previous four seasons, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Hale would've remained an inside linebacker but had little input on offense. But shortly after the change was announced, Hale began working toward claiming the starting fullback position.

While the speedy wings - returning all-state runners Demetric Johnson and Jajuan Lankford - will get much of the early attention from opponents for their ability to turn the corner and sprint for long runs, Pirates coaches know the importance of having a battering ram to run between the tackles and keep defenses from spreading out to stop the outside runs.

"Corbin really stood out in the spring and turned what was a big question for us into a position we feel real good about now," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "When we were in it before (2007), the fullback made the whole offense go. That might sound crazy when you've got two wings like we do, but Corbin holding the inside linebackers with the threat of running it in the middle makes it go.

"And Corbin is the type guy who will take pride in doing the little things to make it successful. I'm excited to see what he can do because I think he'll have a breakout year for us."

The younger brother of Raquis Hale, the school's single-season rushing leader and the BlueCross Bowl MVP in 2010, added more than 10 pounds to his frame since the spring to prepare for the added carries and contact. One of only eight seniors, he knows he will be looked to by teammates to set the pace on both sides of the ball.

"What I learned from watching Raquis is 'show better than tell,'" said Hale, who was third on the team with 89 tackles as the strongside linebacker last year. "By that I mean he didn't say much - he just went out and set an example with how hard he played. That's what I want to do on both sides of the ball. I think going back to the wing-T will help make us a more physical team on both sides. We're getting back to that hard-nosed style, and I think that will carry over even on defense.

"This is my senior year. There are no more second chances for me after this. I've played for a state championship every year so far, and I want to go out by getting a second ring. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to lead this team to do that."

Fan's guide to this year's South Pittsburg Pirates

Coach: Vic Grider (15th year here, 161-36 here and overall)

Stadium: Beene Stadium

Address: 717 Elm Ave., South Pittsburgh, TN 37380

Three strengths

1) Team speed. South Pittsburg's track team had the second-fastest 4x100 relay time in East Tennessee last spring, and three of those sprinters are on the football team as well. Running backs Demetric Johnson and Jajuan Lankford are both capable of turning every carry into a long scoring run.

2) Big-game experience. The Pirates have played for a state championship each of the last three years, and even the younger players realize what it's like to prepare for tough competition.

3) Expectations. From the players and coaches to the fans, the program is at a point where a deep run into the playoffs is expected. That type pressure has helped carry even some average high school players to believe they can beat any opponent.

Three concerns

1) A young, inexperienced offensive line. The Pirates return just one player with starting experience in the trenches and will start two sophomores.

2) The schedule. This is the thinnest roster in number of players having to play on both sides of the ball, so the chance of injury for each is greater. All seven nondistrict games are against teams in higher classifications, including state-title contenders Signal Mountain, Boyd-Buchanan and Knoxville Grace as well Polk County, which is one of the area's most physical teams traditionally, and the Pirates have a tough road just to reach the playoffs healthy.

3) Transition on both sides of the ball. The Pirates are switching back to the wing-T to take advantage of the talents of running backs Jajuan Lankford and Demetric Johnson, but none of the current players have played in this offense since reaching the varsity. Also, Wesley Stone takes over as defensive coordinator, and how quickly a young group of linemen and linebackers adjust to his style will determine how good this unit is.

By the numbers:

4 - Times the Pirates have played for a Class 1A state title in the last five seasons. They have won two.

6 - Seniors expected to get significant playing time. This is the smallest senior class in Grider's 15 years as coach.

8 - Times in the last 10 years the Pirates have won at least 10 games.

South Pittsburg standout runner Demetric Johnson

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Three questions with ...

DEMETRIC JOHNSON

(Senior running back)

Q: Where did you get your nickname, "Little Man," and do you like it?

A: When I played little league I was always the smallest one out there, and my mom just started calling me Little Man. It stuck and now that's what everybody calls me. But I really don't like it at all.

Q: What's the best part about Friday nights during football season?

A: The smell of hamburgers on the grill. I love to eat, so when the smoke comes over the field and you smell those burgers, it's a good thing. I know I can't have one before the game, but I just like it. Even when we grill out during the summer, that smell just makes me think of Friday night football.

Q: What's it like to play for a program that expects to win a state championship every year?

A: There's pressure, but it's good. I like it. There probably aren't many places where you have 30 cars parked around the practice field every day just to watch practice. That lets you know it means something to a lot more people than just us players, and it makes you play harder.

2011 stats leaders

RUSHING Att Yards Avg TD

*Jajuan Lankford 218 2042 9.4 29

*Demetric Johnson 139 1258 9.1 19

*Jake Stone 123 534 4.3 4

PASSING Comp-Att Yards Int TD

*Jake Stone 94-187 1440`5 15

RECEIVING Att Yards Avg TD

Antonio Chubb 35 609 17.4 5

TACKLES Solo Assists Total

Coltin Blevins 88 50 113

Karrell Hutchins 67 35 102

*Corbin Hale 50 39 89

*returning player

Recent history

They opened the season with four straight wins by the state's 35-point mercy rule before suffering the worst loss in coach Vic Grider's tenure, at Signal Mountain. The Pirates rebounded to win their next four, beating three playoff teams from higher classifications, then rolled through the first four rounds of the playoffs, traveling for wins in the last three rounds to reach the 1A title game. The Pirates led early and had a chance to regain the lead late, but a lost fumble near the goal line led to a win-clinching touchdown by Wayne County.

Here's a look at the regular-season win total for the last five years:

Season

2011----------(12)

2010----------(12)

2009----------(11)

2008----------(11)

2007------------(15)

Schedule

Aug. 24 at Grundy County

Aug. 31 at Lookout Valley*

Sept. 7 at Sequatchie County

Sept. 14 Marion County*

Sept. 21 Signal Mountain

Sept. 28 at Whitwell*

Oct. 5 Arlington Chrisitan

Oct. 12 Boyd-Buchanan

Oct. 19 at Polk County

Oct. 26 Knoxville Grace

  • District 6-A game

Roster

1 Levi McNatt Freshman

2 Demetric Johnson Senior

3 Anthony Sellers Junior

4 Corbin Fitzgerald Sophomore

5 Jake Stone Senior

6 Jajuan Lankford Junior

7 Chase Blevins Freshman

10 Deuel Jones Senior

11 Andrew Hawkins Junior

12 Brad Petty Sophomore

13 Jeff Bennett Sophomore

15 Hunter Downs Freshman

21 Payne Mosley Junior

22 Kyle Blevins Junior

24 McKenna Blevins Sophomore

25 Corbin Hale Senior

28 Kahlil Mitchell Junior

30 Chase Frame Freshman

35 Quinn Beasely Freshman

40 Darnez Fitzgerald Freshman

47 Shaquille McKinney Senior

50 Ethan Moss Freshman

51 Alex Collier Senior

52 Trevon Kelso Freshman

53 Donjay Ford Sophomore

54 Jessie Elledge Sophomore

55 Josh Long Sophomore

56 Stephon Mitchell Junior

57 Cooper Lewis Junior

58 Tristan Payne Freshman

60 Kyan Mitchell Junior

62 Ricky Fehr Junior

65 Trabaie Conner Freshman

66 Brandon Thomas Freshman

67 Kyle Chanin Junior

68 Tommy Crouch Sophomore

70 Blake Ellis Sophomore

72 Yavin Conner Freshman

76 Sam Nelson Sophomore

80 Alex Shiver Senior

81 Lane Morrison

83 Kavin Pryor Sophomore

86 Jamie Jackson Senior

90 Tyler Smith Junior