Thursday, October 11, 2007
move atop district race
By BARRY BURLESON
Back in August, just before Marshall Academy’s first football game, coach Keith Wicker didn’t know who would be kicking extra points and field goals.
A player stepped forward and said, “Coach, let me try it,” according to Wicker.
Friday night, in the seventh and most important game of the season, that Patriot, senior Brent Adams, nailed a 30-yard field goal with six seconds left on the clock to give MA a 17-14 win over district foe Lee (Clarksdale). It puts the Patriots in the driver’s seat for a district championship and opening round state playoff game at home.
“Brent can kick,” Wicker said. “I knew he was going to make it. But it wasn’t just the kicker.”
Justin Gray snapped it. Hunter Bolden held it. The offensive line provided the protection.
And the kick perfectly split the uprights and stirred a huge Patriot Field celebration.
“In the back of my mind, I was nervous, of course,” said Adams, who admitted he didn’t find out he could kick until the week before the first game. “But I felt pretty confident I could make it.”
The Colts called two timeouts, trying to add to Adams’ nervousness.
“The timeouts actually helped. I was tired,” said Adams, who had run for 110 yards from his quarterback position. “The timeouts gave me a chance to rest.”
The Marshall offense, taking over at its own 10-yard line with 5:32 left, drove 78 yards to get in field-goal position. The huge play came with the Patriots faced a first and 26 from its 19 after a penalty.
Adams threw deep to Tyler Sanders, who caught the ball in stride over his shoulder. The 42-yard play pushed the ball to the Lee 41.
“That long pass over the middle to Tyler (Sanders), Coach Hicks called that,” Wicker said. “We hadn’t really put it in (the playbook) yet.”
On second down after the pass connection, Tyler Childers ran for 10 yards and a first down. Three plays later, facing a third and long five, Adams gained another first to the 14.
With the clock ticking under a minute, two more plays pushed the ball to 12 and centered it on the field for Adams’ kick.
“I knew they (the Colts) had been moving the ball on us,” he said. “I knew overtime would be tough. It was definitely a relief after I made it.”
The Patriots put up their first points of the night on their first possession, driving 56 yards in eight plays. Adams threw to Wesley Harris for three first downs and to Sanders for another. On Harris’ third catch, he earned extra yards to the Lee 2. It took two quarterback sneaks for Adams to get the touchdown. His extra point kick made it 7-0.
The teams then swapped punts before Lee’s offense got on track. Quarterback Patrick Clark hooked up with Douglas Smith for a 45-yard pass and catch. Clark then did the bulk of the work on the ground. He scored the touchdown on a 19-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Rod Freeman’s kick tied the game at 7.
Later in the fourth, both the Lee and Marshall defenses held on fourth down plays.
MA’s big stand turned the ball over to the offense at its own 25 with 2:44 to go before intermission.
First downs came on Adams’ 12-yard run, an 8-yard pass to Bolden and a 13-yard toss to Harris.
Facing a fourth and six from the Lee 27 with 35 seconds to go, Adams handed off to Harris, who threw to a wide open Childers for a touchdown. Adams’ kick put MA up 14-7 at the half.
“We’ve practice that play from the first week,” Coach Wicker said. “We haven’t had an opportune time to use it. That was the opportune time.”
To start the second half, the Patriots faced a fourth and inches from its own 30. They went for it, and Adams’ sneak attempt was stopped just short.
“If I had it to do over again, I would still go for it,” Wicker said, “but I wouldn’t run that play.”
Lee cashed in. Clark threw to Warren Huggins for 11 yards and first. Devyn Shing ran for 17 yards to the 1. Clark scored the touchdown from there. Freeman’s extra point knotted the game at 14.
MA almost answered - driving to the Lee 8 before a turnover.
Perhaps the second biggest play of the game came on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Marshall defense stopped Lee on a fourth and two play from the Patriot 28. The Colts actually lost 2 yards.
“The defense really stepped up when it had to and shut them down,” Wicker said.
The “D” rose to the occasion one last time, forcing a Colt punt and giving the MA offense the ball in plenty of time to put together the game-winning march for a field goal.
“It was a very exciting game,” Wicker said. “The kids believe in themselves and they’re having fun.”
The Patriots rolled up 361 yards of total offense to Lee’s 246. Top tacklers for MA were Taylor Dempsey with eight, Josh Sharp and Bolden with seven each and Jake Paylor with 6. Jake Howell had a big quarterback sack.
Marshall improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the district. Lee dropped to 3-3 and 3-1. MA’s only remaining district contest is October 26 at home versus Carroll. A win gives the Patriots the district crown.
But next up for MA is a road trip this Friday night to non-district, Class A foe West Memphis. The Black Knights are 1-5 after a 27-16 loss last Friday to Tunica Institute of Learning.
“We still have to get to the next level,” Wicker said. “We still have to get better.”
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