The entire Tyner community was saddened this week as news spread that one of their own, former Rams all-state quarterback Marquice "Doc" Craddock, had died after a lengthy illness. The news hit especially hard for the Rams who had played for Craddock in youth league, including senior Ke'un Webb.
"Probably about half the guys on this year's team played for his Chiefs in little league," Webb said. "He was at a lot of our games and practices and was always giving us pointers and trying to make us better.
"The last time I talked to him was last Friday after we won. I got tackled on a kick return that I probably should have scored on, and he came up to me and said, 'You should never get tackled in the open field. I coached you better than that.' I just shook my head and told him I would be better next time.
"I'm going to give everything I've got for him, to try and make him proud."
Webb's next opportunity to make a play with the ball under his arm will be at noon EST today when Tyner faces Union City for the Class 2A state championship in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech University. It's a rematch of the Rams' 1997 state-title win and the first time Tyner has played for a championship since that night.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Webb is similar to Craddock in that he's an emotional leader and team captain and is one of the Rams' most versatile athletes. On any snap today, Webb, a four-year starter, may line up at either running back or receiver, and he is a physical, shut-down cornerback on defense and handles kickoff- and punt-return duties.facebook
"You can move him around pretty much anywhere you need him and he'll get the job done," Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. "He's a team leader and captain and one of those people you can go to on Friday nights because you know you're going to get 100 percent effort from him.
"We need him more on defense just because of his experience and he's a good tackler in space, but he's got great hands so we'll throw it to him a lot and get it to him however we can, becaue Ke'un can flat-out make plays."
Despite being limited by a sprained ankle in recent weeks, Webb has averaged 13 yards every time he touches the ball, whether as a receiver or runner, with seven touchdowns. He also has 53 tackles and two interceptions, although most opponents throw to the opposite side of the field rather than test his cover skills.
Going into today's game, Webb said the ankle injury is finally almost completely healed and he doesn't expect to come off the field much against the Golden Tornadoes, who rely on a bruising veer offense that avearges 39 points per game.
"On defense my first job is to make sure everybody knows where they're supposed to be," said Webb, one of 21 seniors on Tyner's 44-player roster. "Union City hasn't thrown much at all this year, so I'll just try to be the guy who's got support on my side of the field and be ready. I like going against the teams that like to run it, because I like the game to be physical. It's football, so that's how it's supposed to be.
"We just have to have everybody do their job on every snap. Don't take even one play off, because that could be the play that decides the game. We all want to go out and honor the other guys who built this program into what it is, like Doc, the best way we know how. That's by winning it all again."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.