Thursday, November 12, 2009
By BARRY BURLESON
The game appeared over. Marshall Academy, outplayed for three quarters, trailed 21-7.
“We looked to be dead in the water,” said Keith Wicker, head coach of the Patriots. “I’ve never been involved in one like that. It was unreal - good gracious.”
MA scored three touchdowns in just over five minutes and rallied to beat Leake Academy 28-21 in the opening round of the Class AA football playoffs Friday night at home. Next up for the Patriots is Lamar School in the quarter-finals.
“That win says a lot about our kids,” he said. “They kept battling. It was amazing.”
The turning point may have come late in the third. The Rebels, with their 14-point lead, had driven to the Marshall 5-yard line. But thanks to a 5-yard flag and a botched 26-yard field goal try from the visitors, the Patriots escaped.
“After that, we had a different look in our eyes,” Wicker said. “I don’t know if we could have come back if they had gotten more points there.”
The two punts swapped punts. MA gained possession from its own 18 early in the fourth. Using Coach Wicker’s newly-installed “magnum set,” also known as the double wing, Tyler Childers took a handoff, found running room and darted 82 yards for the score. Chase Carpenter added the extra point. Marshall trailed 21-14 with 10:16 to go in the game.
It was an offense Wicker was familiar with from his coaching days at Centreville Academy.
“We had not practiced it until this week,” he said. “I decided we had the backs to do it. It’s a quick-hitting offense. We used in the first quarter when Tyler scored (on a 68-yard run) and we went back to it in the fourth quarter. It hurt them. They didn’t know how to adjust.”
The Patriots, after two Leake pass attempts fell incomplete, got the ball back with 9:20 left in the fourth. Behind the running of John Tomlinson, Hank Owens, Josh Vanderburg and Childers from the “magnum set,” the Patriots reached the Leake 30 where they faced a fourth and eight. Wicker called timeout and decided to go for the first down.
“We drew the play up in the dirt,” he said. “We faked to Tyler on the speed play and told John to run a post route. Hank hit him in stride.”
The Owens to Tomlinson 30-yard connection and Carpenter’s kick knotted the game at 21 with 5:43 to go.
The Rebels, against a fired-up MA defense, couldn’t move again. This time three pass tries failed, and they were forced to punt.
On first down, quarterback Owens made the quick handoff up the middle to Vanderburg, who raced 57 yards for what proved to be the game winner. Carpenter added the extra point for a 28-21 lead at the 5:02 mark.
Leake didn’t die. The visitors, starting at their own 28, drove as far as the Marshall 23 with 3:13 remaining. On third and three, they were flagged for illegal procedure. Then on third and eight, Will Patton sacked the Rebel quarterback, Grant Wilson, for a 12-yard loss. A desperation pass on fourth and 20 was well defended by the Pats and fell incomplete.
The celebration started. MA simply ran out the clock. It was the Pats’ ninth straight win as they upped their record to 10-1.
The Marshall offense rolled up 416 total yards - 334 rushing and 82 passing. Childers carried 21 times for 193 yards and Vanderburg four times for 70. Owens was six of 13 through the air for 82 yards, and he also ran for 45 yards. The longest pass play went to Jake Delashmit for 33 yards.
Leake took a 7-0 lead with 7:33 left in the first quarter on a 33-yard pass from Wilson to Jake Wall. Dylan Alford made the first of his three extra-point kicks.
MA bounced back to tie, thanks to Childers’ first 68-yard run at the 1:31 mark of the first and Carpenter’s kick.
Early in the second quarter, Elgin Lafever intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a Leake threat.
The Pats then failed to get a first down on a fourth and inches and gave the ball back to the Rebels at the MA 30.
Leake scored in four plays. Brad Hunter carried 24 yards to the 6. Wilson threw to Aaron Shepard for the touchdown.
Marshall got a break late in the first half. The Rebels fumbled and Neil Murphy recovered at the Leake 48. The Pats could only move it 13 yards in 31 seconds. Carpenter tried a 52-yard field goal as the clock ran out. It had the distance but barely missed the mark. MA trailed 14-7 at the break.
Leake received the second-half kickoff and drove for more points. Hunter had a big 17-yard run, and Wilson completed three passes, the latter to Wall for 9 yards and the score. The Rebels, with all the momentum on their side, led 21-7 with 8:58 to go in the third.
But things changed in the fourth.
MA, thanks to its dramatic comeback, advances to meet the Lamar Rebels in round two of the state playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. this Friday night, Nov. 13, at Patriot Field.
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