Thursday, September 3, 2009
Junior high Pats knock off Chiefs
The Marshall Academy junior high Patriots traveled to Senatobia to face Magnolia Heights in their season opener. The game came down to the closing moments and the Pats prevailed 22-14.
MA found itself behind 6-0 after failing to move the ball on its first two offensive possessions. The Patriots got a break when Zack Pritchett recovered a Chief fumble near midfield.
Pritchett, the quarterback for Marshall, connected on a pair of passes to John Wesley Ray. The first was a 17-yard gain and the second a 31-yard play that resulted in the tying score. Pritchett added the two-point conversion to put Marshall up 8-6 early in the second quarter.
After forcing the Chiefs to punt, the Patriots took possession on the 46. Pritchett connected with Aaron McAlexander on a 35-yard pass, Ray on another for 8 and Dakota Dailey on a 26-yard slant route for another touchdown pass. Pritchett again added the two-point conversion to give the Pats a 16-6 advantage at the half.
In the third quarter, both teams traded possessions with neither able to get on the board. But on the first play of the fourth, the Chiefs’ Kevin Barber busted up the middle of the Patriot defense for a 42-yard touchdown scamper. They were also successful in their two-point conversion, which closed the Pats’ lead to 16-14.
Marshall responded with its best offensive possession of the game. Pritchett and Chase Smith earned some hard-fought yardage on the ground and Ray caught his sixth pass of the game to put MA deep in Magnolia Heights territory.
The Patriots then faced some adversity. Pritchett’s leg cramped, which forced coach Keith Owens to place McAlexander in the quarterback position. A pair of sweeps by McAlexander put the Pats just inches from a first down. Pritchett re-entered the game and followed a mighty surge from his offensive line to gain the first down on a quarterback sneak. On the next play, McAlexander reached paydirt with a 6-yard run. The two-point conversion failed but Marshall held an eight-point advantage with 2:53 to go.
The Chiefs had a nice gain to place the ball around midfield with just under 2:00 to go. But on the next play, MA’s Brian Novarese broke through the line unscathed for a sack of the Magnolia quarterback. It was the biggest defensive play of the game as the Chiefs tried a pair of desperation passes, the second of which McAlexander picked off to seal the win.
This marks the third year in a row the junior high Patriots have defeated Magnolia.
“The kids played hard and deserved to win,” Owens said. “We competed down to the final whistle. It was a total team victory. I am proud of all of them.”
Offensively for MA, Pritchett was eight of 15 passing for 151 yards. Ray caught six for 93 yards. Pritchett was the team’s top rusher with 48 yards on 13 carries. Novarese was the team’s leading tackler with five solos.
This week the junior high Patriots open conference play as they travel to West Memphis Christian. The game is set for Thursday at 7 p.m.
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