In each of the three seasons under coach Richard Tisdale, the Slocomb RedTops surged at the end of the year, forging into a tie for a final playoff spot in tough Class 3A, Region 2.
Two of the years, Slocomb found itself on the outside looking in, though it earned a berth two years ago.
The RedTops seek to avoid a similar scenario in 2019 and earn a playoff spot without the drama of looking at the tiebreaker rulebook.
“One of the things we have talked about is expecting to get into the playoffs,” Tisdale said. “We want that to be the norm. We don’t want it to come down to waiting, checking and calling to see if we made it. We want to earn that spot and get to the point where ‘Are we are at home or are we are on the road?’”
A year ago, Slocomb finished 5-5, including 4-3 in region play, but lost three games by seven or less points, two in the last minute. One was a region contest (Houston Academy, 27-24 on a last-play field goal). Even the other two losses to the region’s top teams Pike County and Providence, who made deep playoff runs, were respectable (32-10 and 31-14).
“Last year, we didn’t finish some games in the fourth quarter,” Tisdale said. “We got a lot of games to the fourth quarter. With a few better finishes, we could have been 8-2 and been in the playoffs. We have to finish stronger.”
The RedTops, as they did in Tisdale’s previous two seasons, ended on a positive note, winning the last three games, a 63-56 shootout over Geneva and routs over Opp (47-7) and Geneva County (43-7). The combined 157 points is second most in program history for three consecutive games to a 179 total in 1931, a figure inflated by a 124-point game.
Tisdale doesn’t believe the strong finish could directly play a role this season, but does feel it could have an indirect impact.
“I think where it helps is in the offseason,” Tisdale said. “The players want to get into the weight room and work out in November and December following the end of the season like that whereas if you lose three or four in a row, it is tougher for them to get motivated because they don’t feel as good.”
Leading last year’s strong offense was three-year starting quarterback Cade Price, who accounted for 2,158 yards rushing and passing and 17 touchdowns last season. Price has graduated, but Tisdale believes the position is in good hands with senior Braydon Whitaker, a quarterback on the junior varsity level who played in some late-game varsity situations last year.
“He is a coach’s son so it feels like having another coach on the field,” said Tisdale of Whitaker, the son of RedTop assistant coach Jeremy Whitaker. “We are losing Cade, who could run and fly, so we are fortunate to have someone who can step in and play quarterback after losing a three-year starter.”
A basketball standout at Slocomb, Whitaker is known for his ability to deliver in the clutch. He hit four buzzer-beating shots in basketball, including game-winners against Pike County and Pike Road in the postseason playoffs.
“You know about the pressure shots he hit in basketball, so you know pressure doesn’t bother him,” Tisdale said. “That is a strong point for him.”
The RedTops return six starters on offense. One of the key returners is running back Jaylen Nobles. In the shootout win over Geneva, Nobles rushed for 263 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Nobles started as a freshman last year and he is back as a 10 th grader,” Tisdale said. “He is 5-foot-11, 185 and he can run. He is a leader for us. He doesn’t mind blocking.”
Also returning to the offense is Tanner Berry, a multi-talent athlete who played quarterback on junior varsity, but will be utilized at wide receiver.
“Tanner could be a quarterback for us as well, but his size – he is 6-foot-3, 180 and can dunk a basketball – makes him a threat as a receiver,” Tisdale said. “He is a big weapon for us. He can run as he has got some speed. He is big and strong and I think he will be a match-up problem for opponents.”
Jarrett Hendrick (Jr., 5-4, 220) returns as the starting tight end.
The Slocomb coach was especially upbeat about the offensive line, which returns starters Wyatt Rosenthal (Sr., 5-7, 270), Taylor Phillips (So., 5-10, 225) and Jackson Register (Sr., 5-5, 220).
“I think our offensive line is going to be good,” Tisdale said. “I don’t necessarily think we will be the biggest, fastest and strongest, but there are five kids who all varsity experience. I think it is the first time we have returning starters on the majority of our offensive line. Usually, we have only one or two that have played.”
Colton Cook (Jr., 5-9, 250) and Kaleb Drake (Jr., 5-5, 240) are likely other offensive line starters.
Defensively, Slocomb returns five starters. Phillips and Rosenthal are back on the line with Trey Baker (Sr., 5-8, 180) and Hendrix returning at linebacker and Whitaker at cornerback.
Tisdale noted a lot of inexperienced players will fill out the defense, but feels the unit could be a solid one as the season goes along.
“Defensively, we are going to be young. We tried to do a ton of 7-on-7s this summer to get them live reps against good athletes. At some points last year, we had eight-nine seniors on defense, so they will be a lot of guys that are young,” Tisdale said. “It will be learning on the fly and I think they will get better each week.”
Tisdale said twin brothers Isai and Asael Morin (both 5-7, 150 pound sophomores) and Jordan Brown (Jr., 5-8, 150) will play in the linebacker rotation. Dawson Hill (Jr., 5-0, 135) and Christopher Beshears (Jr., 5-5, 145) – two players who “want to hit you” – will play safety in the secondary.
The kicking game lost Gabino Morin to graduation, but his twin brothers along with Jamey King will try to fill his shoes. King has previous varsity kicking experience.
>> REDTOPS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Richard Tisdale (4th year at Slocomb and as a head coach, 14-17)
>> 2018 record: 5-5 overall, 4-3 in Class 3A, Region 2
>> 2018 results: at Cottonwood (L, 7-14); Wicksburg # (W, 14-13); at Straughn # (W, 21-6); Providence Christian # (L, 14-31); at Ariton (L, 32-35); at Houston Academy # (L, 24-27); Pike County # (L, 10-32); at Geneva # (W, 63-56); Opp # (W, 47-7); Geneva County (W, 43-7)
>> Points scored/per game: 275/27.5
>>Points allowed/per game: 228/22.8
>> Returning offensive starters (6): RB Jaylen Nobles (So., 5-10, 175); WR Tanner Berry (Sr., 6-3, 180); OL Wyatt Rosenthal (Sr., 5-9, 270); OL Jackson Register (Jr., 5-5, 220): Taylor Phillips (Sr., 5-10, 255); TE Jarrett Hendrix (Jr., 5-4, 220)
>>Returning defensive starters (6): DL Taylor Phillips (Sr., 5-10, 255); DL Wyatt Rosenthal (Sr., 5-9, 170); LB Trey Baker (Jr., 5-8, 180); LB Jarrett Hendrix (Jr., 5-4, 220); CB Braydon Whitaker (Sr., 5-6, 140).
Aug. 30 Cottonwood
Sept. 6 at Wicksburg #
Sept. 13 Straughn #
Sept. 20 at Providence Christian #
Sept. 27 Ariton
Oct. 4 Houston Academy #
Oct. 11 at Pike County #
Oct. 18 Geneva #
Oct. 25 at Opp #
Oct. 31 (Thu) at Geneva County
# Denotes region games