Thursday, October 22, 2009
Jr. high Patriots dominate Strider, finish perfect 8-0
The Marshall Academy junior high football team put its undefeated record on the line as they hosted Strider Academy in the Champions Bowl last Thursday. The Patriots jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead en route to a 26-0 victory.
Head coach Keith Owens said, “This bowl game was created for the kids. They played like the champions they are. They played their hearts out.”
The Champions Bowl pitted the Patriots, who were the champions of District 1-AA against the Rams, who were the winners of District 2-A. Both teams came in with 7-0 records. The Rams proved to be no match for the junior Patriots as they managed only four first downs the entire game.
“Our kids never let them get in a groove,” Owens said. “We attacked them from the opening kickoff and they could not move the ball. This was another very physical game from both teams.”
Marshall’s first score came with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Zack Pritchett scored on a 1-yard run, a play after he had completed a 14-yard pass to Aaron McAlexander. Chase Smith added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Once the Patriots got the ball back, they wasted little time adding to the score. After forcing the Rams to punt from deep inside their own territory, MA took over on the 36. On the second play from scrimmage, McAlexander scored on a reverse to make the score 14-0.
With just under three minutes to go before halftime, the Patriots took possession and looked to add to their lead. The first play of the drive, Pritchett connected with John Wesley Ray on a 37-yard pass play. After three plays failed to gain much ground, the Pats faced a fourth and 9. Pritchett again went to Ray, who with second effort, was able to come up with the needed yardage for the first down. On the next play, Pritchett hooked up with Chase Smith on a swing pass that went for a 15-yard score.
Owens said, “John Wesley’s second effort that got us the first down gave us a chance to add to our lead. Chase’s touchdown just before the half broke their backs.”
The point-after attempt failed, but with 41 seconds to go in the half, MA led 20-0.
The Patriots only score of the second half came late in the third quarter. Smith caught his fourth pass of the game for a 32-yard gain, placing the ball on the 2-yard line. Two plays later, McAlexander cashed in from 1 yard out. The point-after try failed but MA had a commanding lead.
The dominant Patriot defense would hold strong and keep the Rams off the scoreboard for their first shutout on the season.
Dustin Allen, who had missed the District 1-AA championship game the week before with a concussion, returned to lead the defensive corps. He registered a team leading seven solo tackles and assisted on five others.
Defensive coordinator Rick Hickman said, “Having Dustin return after his injury meant a lot to the team. Make no mistake about it, he is our leader on defense.”
Also turning in stellar defensive games were Ray, who had five solo tackles and a pair of assists along with a pass interception and a caused fumble. Pritchett added five solo stops. Thomas Faulkenbery had a pass interception and Devin McGreger and Stephen Pannell each recovered a fumble. McAlexander was credited with two pass deflections.
Owens praised his offensive line’s effort.
He said, “We knew going in that we were going to be undersized but we challenged them before the game and they stepped up. I have told them all year that the success of this team starts up front.”
The offensive linemen are Vince Hoyt, Josh Mask, Hunter Vanderburg, Wood Morris and Brody Martin. Tight end is Pannell.
Pritchett was successful on 10 of his 21 pass attempts for 149 yards and a touchdown. Smith had four catches for 72 yards, Ray three catches for 51 yards and McAlexander two for 29. McAlexander was also the leading ground gainer with 43 yards on three carries.
The Patriots’ win streak has now reached 15 games.
Owens said, “This was another special season. I am fortunate to have a great group of kids to work with and even more fortunate to have Gary (Hickman) and Rick (Hickman) as my assistants.”
Marshall will return only two full time starters next year. Running back/corner back Dakota Dailey and defensive specialist Brian Novarese are the only two players who started every game who will return.
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