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Tim Mason, left, and Jarquise Peoples have scored 14 of the 18 touchdowns for the Tanner Rattlers this season. Tanner (4-0) travels to East Limestone (3-1) on Thursday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders
Tim Mason, left, and Jarquise Peoples have scored 14 of the 18 touchdowns for the Tanner Rattlers this season. Tanner (4-0) travels to East Limestone (3-1) on Thursday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Tanner tandem
Running backs Mason, Peoples ready to score on every play

By Brooke Milam
DAILY Sports Writer 340-2460

TANNER — Tanner High running backs Tim Mason and Jarquise Peoples are quick to give all the credit for the Rattlers' success in the running game to head coach Laron White.

They say his game plans, encouragement and expectations are all much appreciated, but there's one place where the two running backs disagree with their coach.

"Coach tells us we don't have to always try to do it all on every play, like we don't have to score every single time," Mason said. "But when I run the ball, I want to score every time. I want to break loose every time."

Then he added with a smile: "Sometimes coach gets mad."

The big play — that's exactly what this week's opponent, East Limestone, has been preparing for.

"(Mason) does an outstanding job of missing defenders and breaking away," East Limestone coach Jeff Pugh said. "We're going to try to eliminate the big play and really try to keep them from that."

The Limestone County rivals face off when Class 2A No. 6 Tanner (4-0) travels to 4A No. 10 East Limestone (3-1) on Thursday night at 7. East Limestone knows that Tanner has literally run over its opponents this season, while Mason and Peoples have accounted for 14 of Tanner's 18 touchdowns.

Mason's scoring includes touchdown runs of 67, 59 and 30 yards, while Peoples has a 42-yard scoring run to his credit.

Since a 44-15 opening week loss to Athens, East Limestone has reeled off three straight wins, surrendering an average of just nine points while allowing four rushing touchdowns.

Not bad, but Peoples and Mason have combined to score 3.5 touchdowns a contest for Tanner.

"Athens ran the ball pretty good on us, so we've worked on it every week to try to improve on that," Pugh said.

"And I think we have improved. We've shut down the run in the last three weeks, and we'll see how well we've actually progressed when Tanner comes over here Thursday. Tanner runs the ball as well as Athens did. They really load up and come at you."

Mason, a senior, and Peoples, a junior, are next in a long string of outstanding Rattler running backs during White's four-year tenure as Tanner's head coach.

Three past Rattler runners are playing collegiately — Reshard Langford (2004 graduate) is starting at safety for Vanderbilt, while Ryan Powers (2006) has seen playing time on special teams for Arkansas, and Curtis Garth (2006) is playing for Division II Arkansas-Monticello.

"A whole lot of backs have come through this school, and they've put us at the top," Mason said. "We just want to live up to the standards."

White said both Mason and Peoples have potential to follow in those footsteps.

"They have a chance," White said. "The fact that they can run opens up a lot of possibilities. If you're fast, colleges can find some place to use you."

Mason has racked up 483 yards this year and averaged 7.1 yards a carry, while Peoples has totaled 297 yards for an average of 7.6 yards a carry.

Each has scored seven times this season.

Both are linebackers as well, and Peoples is the Rattlers' leading tackler with 22 solo stops and nine assists.

With almost identical stats to this point in the season, whether they've thrived in spite of each other or because of each other is no mystery.

White said the two "are friends" and that they have pushed each other to excel.

"We're not selfish players," Peoples said. "We compete with each other to make each other better. Our team sees that and it makes the whole team better."

Tanner has put the I-formation in place this year for the first time since White took the head job, and he said it has opened the door for some major success in the running game.

White said he knew he had the personnel this season to make it work: a physical offensive line and a corps of fullbacks, made up of Marquez Langford (younger brother of Reshard Langford), George Adams and Jay Dubose, who White said have been key blockers paving the way for the running backs.

"My goal for the season is 800, 900 maybe 1,000 yards," Peoples said. "I try to set my goals high, but (Coach White's) goals for us might even be a little higher."

Mason agreed and added that White's vote of confidence is what has kept the two running their hardest week after week.

"Coach expects even more out of us than we do ourselves," Mason said.

White said that's true and that he also thinks his star running backs will live up to those expectations.

"We're going to need them this year. So far they are doing a great job," White said. "I expected it and I expect a little more out of them."

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