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Thursday June 24th, 2021 8:56AM

Tigers expect an exciting 2020 campaign

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

COMMERCE — Commerce has been a part of its fair share of big-time games. The Tigers own a pair of Class A state titles and as a program, they have been to the quarterfinals or better 22 times in their history.

But for coach Michael Brown, now in his seventh season at the helm of one of the state’s winningest programs, the 2020 campaign could be one the Tigers’ most exciting.

The newest round of reclassification by the Georgia High School Association last year created a new-look Region 8-A that has brought back together one of the more storied Class A rivalries as the Tigers will be joined by perennial state power Lincoln County. 

The new region, consisting of old 8-A holdovers Commerce and Towns, is a power-packed region with four of the six teams combining for 18 state titles in their histories. The Tigers and Indians will be joined by Lincoln County (11 state titles), Washington-Wilkes (four championships), Greene County (one title), and Socal Circle.

“I think this schedule as a whole for us will be exciting for sure. We’re really looking forward to playing this schedule,” Brown said. “There are some new teams for our fans to get to see and every team in this region will be athletic and well-coached. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

As for the current group of Tigers, the key will be 20 returning seniors who all have seen significant varsity action in their time. 

The offense will be led by a pair of 2019 All-Region 8-A players in senior halfback Tyelon Brock and senior center Payton Freeman. Senior receiver Jake Frates returns and a group of three among seniors Elijah Burns and Michael Sherman and junior Dreylan Martin will rotate at fullback in the Tigers’ patented triple-option attack.

But the key area to watch will be at quarterback where sophomore Trey Huff takes over for the dynamic Nate Ray.

“Nate was a great player and we think Trey, who is very intelligent and talented, will be able to step in and run the offense,” Brown said. “We like what we see from the fullback group and the guys up front should be strong as well.”

The defense, which allowed just 16.6 points per game in 2019, is loaded with senior linebackers Grey Holbrook and Burns and senior lineman Chauncey Jackson taking on the leadership roles. Senior Creed Dunbar should anchor the secondary while Frakes and junior Collin Hall will add some quality depth.

Overall, the Tigers schedule features five playoff teams, including a pair of quarterfinalists in Athens Academy (a state runner-up in 2017 and 2018) and of course, Lincoln County in the new region alignment.

Lincoln County and Commerce both won nine games in 2019 and the Tigers were ousted by the Red Devils in the second round of the Class A Public playoffs. Expect plenty of athleticism each week in what should be of the more competitive regions in the area.

Expect the Tigers' and Red Devils' season-ending meeting Nov. 20 to decide the region title. However, a tough road game at Washington-Wilkes the preceding week will offer a challenge.

“This region will be just as tough as the old 8-A but just a different type of animal,” Brown said. “I expect that most every team will be in the playoff race the whole way.”

As with most teams, special teams always plays a part and the Tigers should be more than okay with senior placekicker Eric Diaz and punter Bo Childers, who both return.

 

COMMERCE: NEED TO KNOW

  • MASCOT: Tigers
  • TEAM COLORS: Black and Gold
  • CURRENT REGION: 8-A 
  • HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Michael Brown, seventh season, 62-23
  • 2019 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 9-3, 2nd round Class A Public
  • KEY LOSSESQB Nate Ray, FB Sam Roach, OL Conner Kyle, WR TJ Trudnak, TE Trahvon Wiggins
  • OFFENSIVE STYLE: Triple option -- The Tigers like to control the ball and chew up the yardage in their traditional attack to help keep their defense fresh while going to the air at opportunistic moments.
  • KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. HB Tyelon Brock (All Region 8-A 2019), Sr. C Payton Freeman (All Region 8-A 2019), Sr. WR Jake Frates
  • DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4/multiple -- Commerce will attack and blitz at any opportunity
  • KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. LB Grey Holbrook, Sr. DL Chauncey Jackson, Sr. LB Elijah Burns
  • SPECIAL TEAMS: Sr. PK Eric Diaz, P Bo Childers
  • STRENGTH: Senior leadership: The Tigers boast 20 seniors on the roster with experience across the board.
  • QUESTION: Offensive backfield: Replacing the likes of Ray and Roach in their triple-option could hold the key to any deep playoff run.
  • KEY GAMES: The Tigers schedule features five playoff teams, including a pair of quarterfinalists in Athens Academy (a state runner-up in 2017 and 2018) and Lincoln County in the new region alignment. Expect the Tigers' and Red Devils' season-ending meeting Nov. 20 to decide the region title. However, a tough road game at Washington-Wilkes the preceding week will offer a challenge.
  • TRENDING: The Tigers made their 23rd straight state playoff appearance in 2019 and much like 2018 were just seconds away from their first semifinal appearance since 2015. Despite having to revamp their patented triple-option offense in 2020 the Tigers continue to be a team that will challenge for region and state titles. With nearly two dozen seniors they could be poised for another deep playoff run. 

2020 SCHEDULE
Sept. 4 at Banks County
Sept. 11 Union County
Sept. 18 at Athens Academy
Sept. 25 Elbert County
Oct. 9 at Mt. Paran Christian
Oct. 16 Greene County*
Oct. 23 Towns County*
Nov. 6 at Social Circle*
Nov. 13 at Washington-Wilkes*
Nov. 20 Lincoln County*
*- Indicates region game
(Commerce home games kick off at 8 p.m.)
(All away kickoffs scheduled for 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

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