Thursday, November 9, 2006
MA wins 13-12, just misses playoffs
By BARRY BURLESON
The Marshall Academy Patriots closed the season on a high note by driving 96 yards for the game-winning points at West Memphis.
“Our kids finished Friday night, and I’m very proud of that,” said head coach Wade Griffin.
Pinned at its own 4-yard line after a punt and trailing 12-6, MA put together a picture-perfect, 13-play march to the end zone that ate four minutes off the clock. Taylor Dempsey opened the drive with two runs, moving the ball to the 14. Quarterback Brent Adams threw to Wesley Harris for three first downs in the possession, the longest being for 15 yards. Adams also ran for two first downs and scored the touchdown on a 15-yard carry with 2:23 left in the game. That tied the game at 12, and then Colby Curtis trotted onto the field and calmly kicked the go-ahead extra point.
“The blocking was good and we made some good decisions (on that last drive),” Griffin said. “I’m just very pleased for these kids. They did a lot of good things Friday night.”
Then the Marshall defense had to rise to occasion one more time. A short kick meant the Black Knights took over at their own 49. They picked up a first down to the MA 37. Then they went backwards. The big play came on fourth and 14, when Hunter Bolden sacked West Memphis quarterback LaTony Sims for a 12-yard loss to secure the win.
“The players were all excited when we left Friday night, and they deserved it,” Griffin said. “They were all impressive.”
Then the morning after the win the Patriots learned they fell oh-so short of a wildcard berth in the Class 2A state playoffs under the new Mississippi Private School Association power point system. Indianola advanced with a 10.6 power point rating, while Marshall had a 10.4 power point rating. Indianola finished 4-6 overall and lost 58-6 last Friday to Leake. Marshall finished 5-6 overall.
“I hate it for the kids,” Griffin said. “We were told Friday if we win and Canton loses, we’re in. That happened, and then all this other stuff comes up. I’ve heard all different scenarios. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It was hard to wake up (Saturday) to that type news.”
Friday night at West Memphis, the Patriots grabbed the early momentum. Tyler Sanders took a toss and raced 61 yards for a touchdown with just about a minute into the contest. The extra-point failed.
The Black Knights answered on their first possession. Joel Chong and Sims did the bulk of the work. Chong ran 25 yards to the MA 28. Sims had an 11-yard run to the 7, and after a couple of losses, he threw to Justin Craven for a 12-yard touchdown. The Marshall defense denied a two-point conversion try.
West Memphis’ last points of the night came on their next possession. Sims was almost stopped for a loss, but broke free and completed an 80-yard touchdown run. A try-for-two again failed. The Black Knights had a 12-6 lead with 2:24 to go in the first quarter.
The defenses of both teams then bent some the rest of the half but didn’t break.
They swapped interceptions late in the half, Harris picking off a pass for the Patriots and Bradley Sechrest snagging one for the Black Knights. Before Sechrest’s interception, Marshall scored twice on the possession and had both called back due to penalties.
The Patriots survived a scare in the third quarter after West Memphis blocked a punt and took over at the MA 16. The Black Knights went backwards, but MA was flagged for a questionable pass interference call on fourth and 19, giving the home team a first down at the 13. The Marshall defense then held again, this time on a fourth down from the 9.
The Patriots then drove to the West Memphis 20 in 15 plays but was stopped on a fourth and 12. Dempsey did the bulk of the running in the drive.
The Black Knights took over with 9:59 to go in the last quarter and drove to midfield before being forced to punt.
That’s when the Patriots took over and marched for the game-winning points.
Marshall produced 300 yards of total offense, 222 on the ground and 78 through the air. Sanders carried 10 times for 102 yards, Dempsey 10 times for 65 yards and Adams 14 times for 49 yards. Adams was 11 of 19 passing. Harris caught eight for 60 yards.
Leading the stout defensive effort were Chase Samples with eight tackles, Spenser Autry with seven and Tyler Childers, Bolden, Adams and Dempsey with five each.
West Memphis had 150 yards rushing in the first half but just 41 in the second half. They were three of seven passing for negative yards.
The Patriots lose just three seniors off this season’s squad – Samples, Jonathan Allen and Justin Elliott. West Memphis had 13.
“I appreciate the leadership of our seniors,” Griffin said.
“This is a good core of kids, and their work ethic is above average. I like where this program is going, and most of all, these kids are better in the classroom, too. They know they will be held accountable.”
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