Caruthersville's Darrell Monroe. All-State RB and DE. [Order this photo]
The Tigers had another stellar season last year, posting an 11-2 overall record and making their third straight appearance in the Class 2 quarterfinals.
Taking the snaps for the Tigers last season was sophomore Tyler Grissom. Grissom was fortunate to have not one, but two All-State running backs behind him in Elbie Fonda and Darrell Monroe, but Grissom was no slouch himself at toting the rock.
The sophomore quarterback ran for 438 yards and 8 touchdowns with his bruising style of rushing. In the passing game Grissom had his highs and lows in 2011. He threw for 878 yards and 8 touchdowns, but also tossed 8 interceptions and at times had trouble throwing the ball down field.
Last year, the Tigers ran the ball 478 times and only elected to pass 161 times, but Morgan believes that this year the offense may be a tad more balanced now that his QB had another year under his belt.
When most people think of the Caruthersville football team the first thing that comes to mind is, phenomenal running backs. In the last 10 years the Tigers have had four players win the prestigious Carr Trophy, which is given to the best overall player in the Southeast Missouri area. All four of those recipients were running backs.
Last season, Caruthersville put up some prolific rushing numbers. As a team the Tigers ran for 5,169 yards and scored eye popping 69 touchdowns on the ground in only 13 games. "We had tremendous production on the ground last season," said Morgan. "This says a lot about the offensive line and the talent we had at running back. We knew he had the ability to put up big numbers, but I don't think anyone could have predicted what we accomplished."
And 2,415 yards and 33 of those touchdowns came from the departing Carr Trophy winner Elbie Fonda. "Losing a young man like Elbie is tough because of his production on the field and more importantly, his presence in the locker room," said Morgan. Usually replacing an all-state running back is extremely hard, but fortunately for Caruthersville they have another all-state back still on the team. Last season, as a sophomore, Darrell Monroe received 92 carries out of the backfield in 12 games. Monroe made the best of those carries, rushing for 1,398 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns. "With Elbie graduating, it becomes Darrel's time," said Coach Morgan.
The Tigers have proven in the past that their offense has plenty of room for more than one back. This year will be no different according to Morgan. "Our cupboard is full at running back. We are going to be blessed with young talent again," said Morgan. "Roddrick Jones will be a freshman this year and he is an extremely talented runner. Along with Jones, I'm looking at Hunter Trevathan as a running back." Trevathan was the Tigers back up quarterback last season, but showed that he could use his wheels, rushing for 127 yards on 12 carries. The list doesn't stop there, Morgan also cited Antonio Rodgers, Matthew Hopkins, Dennis Hunt and Daniel Fugate as talented runners.
If there was a soft spot on last season's team, it may have been at the wide receiver position. The Tigers were led in both catches and yards by running back Elbie Fonda, who did most of that damage on screen plays. As for actual receivers, the Tiger were led by a trio of seniors Tyler Cobb, Phil Lancaster and Travis Murray. Cobb caught 12 balls for 107 yards, Lancaster had catches for 87 yards and Murray had 9 receptions for 122 yards.
With losing all three of his top receivers to graduation, Coach Morgan is once again faced with the challenge of putting together a receiving corp that is not steeped in experience. As a sophomore in 2011, Jamal Johnson caught 10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. He will definitely be looked at to pick up production this season. Along with Johnson, returning this season will be sophomore Jeremy Grant who posted 7 receptions in 2011 for 70 yards and a touchdown and senior Hunter Dickey who had two receptions last year for 22 yards and a touchdown.
"This year we are excited about our depth and experience," said Morgan. "Hunter Dickey, Jeremy Grant, Steve Rodgers, Jamal Johnson, Colt Callens, Myron Woods, Abdule Johnson, Antonio Mackins, Kendall Pittman and a few younger guys make what we feel could be a great receiving corp," said Morgan.
The anchor of last year's prolific offense was the boys up front on the offensive line.. Thanks in large part to the O-Line, the Tigers calculated a whopping 6,047 yards of total offense last season, 5,169 of that coming on the ground.
The Tigers graduated a few key members of last year's line in May. They will have to replace three starters from last years line; Kendic Bradley Lamar Gray and Jerry Hudgens.
The offensive line cupboard is far from bare for the Tigers. Returning this season for his senior campaign is Jay Stricklin. Stricklin received All-Conference, All-Region and All-State honors in 2011 and put his name on the radar for recruits around the area. His 6'4 300 plus lb frame is a load for any opposing defensive lineman to handle and for his size, he is very nimble on his feet. To go along with Jay, two more players that received time starting on the offensive line will be returning. "This season we have both the Stricklin brothers and Joey Middleton returning," said Morgan. "All three were starters last year and bring a ton of experience and strength to the position."
Malik Monroe, Tyler Quertermous, Blaine Gordon and Trevonne Leatherwood will also battle for playing time.
Caruthersville football is known for high scoring offenses and speedy, hard-hitting defense. The Tigers are also known for thrilling the fans and changing the game through special teams play.
The 2011 Tigers received great performances from all of their special teams, but the biggest improvement probably came in their kicking game. In his junior season of 2011, kicker Steve Rodgers successfully booted 39 extra points and also kicked in a field goal. Rodgers was also able to give the Tigers good field position on kickoffs more times than not. His accolades earned him a spot on both the All-Conference and All-Region teams as a kicker. Rodgers was also honored at the Caruthersville sports banquet as the Tigers special teams Most Valuable Player. Much like the kicking position, Morgan knows who his punter will be this season. Last year, in his sophomore campaign Colt Callens averaged 31.96 yards a punt, with four landing inside the 20 yard line and a long of punt of 54 yards.
The biggest hole the Tigers will have to fill will be in the kick return game. Last season the Tigers were blessed with two of the areas best return men, in Tyler Cobb and Elbie Fonda. Fonda averaged approximately 35 yards on both his kickoff and punt returns. Cobb was no slouch in the return game either, averaging 23.70 yards on kickoff reruns and 12.67 yards on punt returns. Together the dynamic duo returned 5 kicks for touchdowns in 2011.
When most people think of the 2011 Caruthersville Tigers' football team the first thing that comes to mind was the explosive, record setting offense, but the defensive unit was also extremely important in the Tiger's quarterfinal run. The Tigers' defense held opposing teams to a respective 15.7 points a game and were able to hold 6 of their 13 opponents in single digits. A big portion of that success came from the defensive front seven, which consist of the defensive line and linebacker corps.
Morgan will have some sizable voids to fill on the defensive front seven. Not only did he lose a pair of All-Region players in Kendric Bradley and Phil Lancaster, but Morgan also has to replace a pair of All-State caliber players in lineman Lamar Gray and linebacker Jamar Oliver. Morgan does return a solid core of players starting with Division 1 prospect Monroe, who will be returning to defensive end this season. Returning at the two interior spots on the line will be the Stricklin Brothers, Jay and Landon. The other defensive end position is currently a spot that has plenty of competition vying for it. Joey Middleton, Blaine Gordon, Tyler Hendrickson, Trevonne Leatherwood and Grant Marshall are all in the running for the positon. When it comes to the linebacker corps, Coach Morgan believes that one starting spot has been solidified - Callens. After that, Kenneth and Kendall Pittman, Jeremy Grant, Rodrick Jones and Eric Villegas, along with Middleton and Trevonne Leatherwood are competing.
Morgan believes he should have plenty of talent and experience throughout his secondary, starting with the cornerback position. Guys in the running for a starting spot are Steven Rodgers, Myron Woods, Jamal Johnson, Abdule Johnson, Hunter Trevathan and Jeremy Grant.
At safety, Morgan knows he has one guy who can fill the spot in Dickey. Other guys up for the spot are Myron Woods and Abdule Johnson.
Note: Caruthersville's football schedule is available at this link: Click Here for Schedule