COMMERCE -- Commerce on Friday night begins the first of a three-week, three-team showdown with Hebron Christian, that will also include Riverside Military Academy, for the top spot in the Region 8-A North subregion.
Commerce (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-A North) has been as dominant as any in Class A and is ranked No. 4 in latest Class A Public power ranking. The Tigers are in the top 10 in scoring (247 points, 41.1 points per game) and are No. 3 in defense allowing just 47 points (7.8 ppg) on the season. The Tigers’ triple option has been grinding up its opponents while the defense has been hard-hitting and stingy.
Commerce can take temporary control in the subregion with a win Friday over the Lions (4-2, 2-0 Region 8-A North) and will close out the subregion schedule against RMA (3-3, 1-0 Region 8-A North) before the region play-in game.
AccessWDUN’s Jeff Hart caught up with Commerce coach Michael Brown, who has led the Tigers to their best start since 2002, and discussed what makes this particular Tigers team tick and where he goes for BBQ.
QUESTION: Coach, thanks for taking some time to talk Commerce football. This team is off to the best start by a Tigers team since 2002. Who and/or what is driving this group right now? Attitude-wise? Talent-wise?
ANSWER: Well, there’s a lot of factors but really the big thing for us has been our senior leadership. As individuals and as a whole they have been outstanding. They have really taken ownership of the team and taken on the responsibility like leading things in practice and making sure the younger players understand what is expected of them. I can’t say enough good things about this senior group. From a talent standpoint we’re probably driven by our three senior halfbacks in Caleb Mason, Dylan Deaton, and Dajuan Wood. (Junior quarterback) Nate (Ray) gets everyone in the right place. Also our fullbacks (senior) Nick Patrick and (junior) Sam Roach have just done great jobs all year in whatever is needed on any play from them.
Q: Y’all have been known for your triple option attack for years. But this season the defense has been nearly impenetrable. What is the difference this year?
A: Our (defensive) coaches, led by our new coordinator in Doug Huff, are doing a fantastic job of coaching the kids up. They are really playing fast and physical. We haven’t changed anything scheme-wise, we’re still a 3-4 team. We also haven’t moved a lot of guys around. I think being another year older and understanding and just buying into what the coaches want them to do. We still have about six to eight guys that are going both ways but we always put our best guys on the field and don’t worry about playing both ways or not. Our secondary has been the real backbone with Caleb, Dylan, and Dajuan just playing outstanding all season.
Q: Right now y’all are in a top four spot in the Class A Public power rankings. How important is it to stay in that spot for the playoffs for home field advantage, especially with the spectre of long road trips in the playoffs?
A: Honestly it’s probably just way too soon to worry about the rankings and everything. There are just so many variables out there that could happen you couldn’t plan for all that. Of course you want to finish as high as you can. That’s our goal. But we just try to focus on us and what we do. We’re just taking things one game at a time and then we’ll see where we are at the end of the season.
Q: How nice is it to have longtime stat guy and Commerce historian Jeff Prickett back involved with the program? [Prickett had retired after last season but came back when his successor left for a spot in another school district.]
A: It’s just awesome to have him back with us. There’s not another guy like him. He does so much for us. He’s the epitome of the small-town high school football program. He’s an encyclopedia of Commerce football knowledge. It was weird thinking he wasn’t going to be around anymore but he’s always there for us. I doubt that there are too many places in the entire country that have a guy like him. We’re very fortunate and appreciative.
Q: What is your go-to BBQ place in the area? Why?
A: To be honest, my brother Gary Brown. He makes his own sauce and everything and it’s as good as any place out there I have ever eaten. He uses a vinegar-based sauce that is outstanding. We’re both busy with our jobs and family so we don’t get to eat it every week. But if I called him up and said I wanted some, he would make it. To me his signature thing is his brisket. It’s pretty good.