Thursday, September, 22, 2005

Patriots earn much-needed win at Marvell

By BARRY BURLESON
Editor

The Marshall Academy Patriots had some extra motivation Friday night.

Their head coach, Wade Griffin, was not at the football game. He was at home taking care of his wife Brenda, who had just been released from the hospital.

“They wanted to win for Coach Griffin and his wife,” said assistant Jimmy Hicks, who filled the head-coaching shoes on this night. “I told them nothing would make him feel any better than to do what they’ve been taught and play hard. They played hard for Coach. I saw a lot of emotion, and the situation had a lot to do with their emotion.”

The young MA Patriots celebrated a 25-0 victory at Marvell, Ark., and snapped a three-game losing streak. They improved to 2-3 overall, while the Eagles dropped to 1-4.

Coach Griffin and Brenda listened to the game on the radio. He was touched that his team dedicated themselves to winning for their head coach.

“It means a lot if I had some small part in it,” he said Saturday morning from his home. “You don’t do this for money, but hopefully you have an impact on the way young men handle situations.”

Defense was a big key in the victory. Marshall Academy intercepted five passes and sacked the quarterback six times. Tyler Sanders picked off three passes, two of those returned for touchdowns, while Thomas Rodgers and Wesley Harris had one each. Getting in on the sack attack were Blake Work, Jarvis Holloway, Rodgers, Spenser Autry, Cody Anglin and Jonathan Allen. Rodgers and Allen also had fumble recoveries.

Assistant coach Mike Bush called the defense.

“Defensively, it was the best game we’ve played all year,” Hicks said. “We played well in the secondary; everybody was in their zones. And we put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Coach Bush did a good job.”

The Patriots forced Marvell to punt from its own end zone midway through the first quarter. Justin Gray returned the kick 15 yards to the Eagle 30-yard line. Quarterback Will Forester threw to Brent Adams for 11 yards and a first down. After a loss, he then hooked up with Adams again, this time for 24 yards and a touchdown. Forester kicked the extra point, and the visitors were on top 7-0 with 2:38 to go in the first period.

The fired-up Marshall Academy defense came up big in the second quarter, holding the Eagles on fourth and inches.

The Patriots had one last attempt at scoring as time wound down in the first half, but a desperation pass was picked off in the end zone.

Marshall padded its advantage in the third. Sanders intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards for six points. The extra point try failed, and it was 13-0.

The Patriot defense had two quarterback sacks on Marvell’s next possession, but when the Eagles punted, the bouncing ball hit a Patriot, and the home team recovered at the MA 20.

Marvell got one first down, and then the Marshall defense stiffened again, forcing a fourth and goal from the 14. That’s when Harris intercepted a pass at the 2-yard line and returned it 52 yards to the Marvell 46.

“When some bad things went against us, we didn’t let it bother us,” Hicks said.

A costly penalty forced the Patriots to punt. Then on the Eagles’ next possession, Sanders struck again. He intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards for a score. The extra-point attempt was unsuccessful, and Marshall was up 19-0 with 6:44 to go in the game.

The Patriots tucked the win away with 2:12 left, thanks to an 18-yard touchdown toss from Forester to Sanders. The point-after try failed.

“It was the first game where we’ve met some of our teaching,” Hicks said. “I saw teaching brought to the field, along with some emotion. You have play football with an attitude, with some emotion.”

Forester was five-of-12 passing for 83 yards. Several Patriots contributed in the running game.

“Execution-wise on offense, we did OK,” said Hicks, who calls the plays. “We still need to improve. We’re still young, but we’re coming on.”

Defensively, Work led in tackles with 13. Holloway followed with 10, and Jake Paylor and Rodgers had nine each.

“The win came at a great time,” Coach Griffin said. “It makes everyone feel better. I pleased we did well. I’m proud of the the coaching staff and the players. I believe in this group.”

The Patriots have a tough road game ahead Friday night at Indianola Academy. Indianola beat Manchester Academy 52-33 last week to improve to 4-1 on the season.

“Indianola has good backs (including big Ben Stallings, a transfer from Bayou),” Hicks said. “They’re a good football team, very physical. They know how to make good things happen. We need to have a good week of preparation, and go over there with lots of confidence.”


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