Thursday, September 21, 2006
MA picks off six in 14-7 win
By BARRY BURLESON
An interception was a fitting end to Marshall Academy’s crucial district win Friday night over Lee (Marianna, Ark.)
The Patriots picked off six passes in all on the night, including one with less than 30 seconds left, and knocked off the Cougars 14-7. MA evened its overall record at 2-2 and its district mark at 1-1.
“We had to have it,” coach Wade Griffin said about the victory at home. “The win came at an opportune time; it’s what we needed. We did a lot of good things.”
Headlining those “good things” were the six interceptions against the pass-happy Cougars – two each by Wesley Harris and Brent Adams and one each by Tyler Sanders and Cory Simpson.
“I was pleased with the way we hit and, of course, with the interceptions,” Griffin said. “Hopefully, we can feed off that.”
The two teams swapped punts in the early going before Lee put together a 68-yard, 13-play drive for the go-ahead points. The Cougars converted two fourth down plays in the march and also benefited from a 15-yard penalty on the Patriots. Geoffrey White scored the touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. Taylor Clark kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead with 2:22 to go in the first quarter.
The first of MA’s interceptions, this one by Adams, led to points for the Patriots early in the second quarter. Adams returned the interception 15 yards to the Lee 18. It took six plays to score. Taylor Dempsey carried ran the ball on five on those plays, with Adams getting the touchdown on a 3-yard run. The extra-point try failed. Marshall trailed 7-6 at the 9:14 mark of the second.
The Marshall defense picked off two more passes in the first half – one by Sanders and one by Simpson. Both came in MA territory with Lee driving.
The MA offense struggled, punting two more times, the last coming with 45 seconds to go in the half.
“I thought we had a couple of more chances to score in the first half,” Griffin said. “Lee was gambling – crowding the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line is very young, but I didn’t see panic; I saw patience. We made adjustments as we went along.
“When they put all those people on the line of scrimage, it’s time for us to pitch and catch. We have to complete some passes to open things up.”
The second half started the same way as the first, with the teams swapping punts and an interception, this one by Adams.
MA’s offense showed some life late in the third period. Starting at its own 45, and then facing a first and 25 after a holding call, the Patriots drove for their first lead of the night. Dempsey had a big 17-yard carry to the Lee 40. Then on third and 10 from there, Adams and Jake Howell hooked up on a picture-perfect throw and catch down the middle of the field to the Cougar 10.
Adams scored the touchdown on a quarterback keeper from there. The try-for-two failed. Marshall was up 12-7 with 29 seconds to go in the third period.
On Lee’s first play after the kickoff, Harris picked off a pass and returned it 10 yards to the Cougar 22, but the Patriots couldn’t cash in.
MA got a break on Lee’s next possession. A bad snap sailed over the punter’s head and ended up going out of the back of the endzone for a safety. The Patriots’ lead improved to 14-7.
The two teams swapped punts again, before Marshall unleashed its most critical drive of the night. It didn’t result in points but it ate almost seven minutes off the fourth quarter clock. Sanders was the workhorse, finding the holes provided by his friends up front. He had two huge first down runs, each for 14 yards.
“That’s what we expect out of Tyler Sanders each time he touches the ball,” Griffin said. “He ran behind his blockers and did a lot on his own.”
The drive stalled at the Lee 6-yard line, but left the Cougars only 35 seconds to try and march 94 yards. Harris prevented any drama by picking off MA’s sixth pass of the night to end the game.
“I saw more consistency Friday night,” Griffin said. “In the second half we hit better than the first half. I thought we got stronger as the game went on.
“The atmosphere was good in the locker room afterwards.”
Adams was six of 16 through the air for 65 yards. Howell had 30 yards receiving, Justin Gray 24 and Sanders 11. Leading rushers were Sanders with 50 yards, Dempsey with 38 and Adams with 24. MA had no turnovers.
Top tacklers were Chase Samples with eight and Jake Paylor with seven.
The Cougars had 85 yards rushing. They were 12 of 28 passing for 131 yards.
Each team was penalized eight times.
This Friday night the AA Patriots step up in classification, traveling to Senatobia to face AAA Magnolia Heights. The Chiefs are 4-0, coming off a 34-28 win last week over Oak Hill Academy.
“They’re the real deal,” Griffin said. “They’re big and good. They will bang on you with some power formations and also spread you out with three and four wide.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to play a team the caliber of Magnolia Heights. We have to play a physical game.”
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