Thursday, December 6, 2007
MA 12-2, second in state
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy led the state championship game for three and a half quarters. Then an inch turned the tide.
Centreville, trailing 21-20, went for it on a fourth and one from the MA 23-yard line with 6:22 to go in the game. The Patriot defense thought it had stopped Zach Sinclair short of the first down marker. The spotting of the football and the measurement showed otherwise. He made it by the tip of the nose of the football.
Two plays later Nick Goudeau scored on an 8-yard run and also carried for the two-point conversion.
Centreville, suddenly seizing the lead and the momentum, went on to claim the school’s seventh state championship, 36-21, and finished 13-2. Marshall, playing in just the second title game in school history, finished the season 12-2.
“That fourth down spot – I want to see it (on film),” Patriot coach Keith Wicker said after the game. “It didn’t go our way. Whether they got it or whether they didn’t, that’s part of it, but I don’t think they did.”
Tiger coach Bill Hurst said his team desperately needed the first down and “it was humongous.”
Ironically, the Class AA title game at Mississippi College in Clinton was as close as the two are friends. Wicker was an assistant coach for 16 years at Centreville.
“Coach Wicker and I are like brothers,” Hurst said. “His kids played their hearts out, and we did, too.”
MA went three and out on its first possession of the game. Then the Tigers put together a long drive that reached the Patriot 10. That’s where Justin Gray recovered a fumble to end the march.
Marshall’s big-play offense stunned the heavily-favored Tigers early.
Still in the opening quarter, the Patriots moved 76 yards in just six plays. The play that did the most damage was a 37-yard pass from Brent Adams to Hunter Bolden. It moved the ball to the Centreville 32. Adams carried four straight times from there, scoring on an 11-yard run with nine seconds to go in the first quarter. He added the extra point for the Patriots’ 7-0 lead.
Centreville’s next possession ended when Gray sacked quarterback Kyle Brown for a 4-yard loss on a third and six play.
Marshall took over at its own 45 after the punt. On second down, speedster Wesley Harris got loose along the right sideline and darted 52 yards for six points. Adams’ kick made it 14-0 with 10:07 to go in the second quarter.
The Tigers, using their grind-it-out offense, answered with a 67-yard, nine-play scoring drive. A hard-to-tackle Sinclair, who rushed for 178 yards in the game, did most of the damage on this possession. He scored on a 6-yard run. Brown kicked the extra point.
But once again, MA turned to the big play. On third and long, Adams threw for Harris near the left sideline. He somehow managed to keep his feet in-bounds and snag the football for a 30-yard gain and first down at the Centreville 48.
Then on second and five, Adams stepped back into the pocket but instead kept the ball, sprinting 44 yards for the touchdown. His third kick of the night put MA up 21-7 with 3:17 left in the first half.
The Tigers cut it back to seven before the intermission. Sinclair broke loose for a 23-yard run to the Patriot 37 and later carried 15 yards for the score. Brown’s kick was good.
At the half, Marshall had 207 total yards to Centreville’s 171.
“We knew it would be a physical game,” Coach Wicker said. “In the first half were able to get some big plays on them.”
But the second half was a different story.
“We didn’t execute the second half,” Wicker said.
Coach Hurst said, “We’re a second half team. The kids came back. I just told them we had one half left to win a state championship.”
The Tigers received and cashed in the possession – behind the running of Sinclair, Goudeau and Anthony Lopez. Goudeau ended the 68-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Marshall blocked the extra point and still led 21-20.
Marshall fumbled the ball away on its next possession.
But then Centreville was denied on a fourth and six play. Josh Sharp, Jake Paylor and Gray combined to make the big hit on Sinclair.
MA used another big play, this one an Adams to Harris pass and catch for over the middle for 42 yards to the Tiger 26. But the Patriots went backwards from there and ended up failing on a fourth and 16 try.
The two teams then swapped punts
Centreville took over at its own 45 early in the fourth period and pounded its way down the field for the go-ahead the points. That scoring drive included the successful fourth and one conversion by an inch.
On the ensuing kickoff, MA fumbled and the Tigers recovered at the Patriot 16. They converted another fourth down play and later scored with 1:31 remaining when Sinclair fumbled forward into the end zone and teammate Hunter Brabham recovered. Brown threw to Adam Perry for the two-point conversion.
“It’s a tough one to lose,” said Wicker, in his first season as the Patriots’ head coach, “but I’ve never been prouder of a group of young men. We did not lay down.
“This season was a fun ride. Our confidence grew each week.
“If you look back and see the improvement each week in our talents and in our leadership ability, it was a wonderful season.”
Marshall finished with 283 total yards to Centreville’s 317, with 313 of that coming on the ground. For MA, Adams was 12 of 18 passing for 142 yards, with the bulk being caught by Harris. Adams also had 83 yards rushing.
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