Thursday, November 24, 2011
MA falls in final four, goes 11-2
By BARRY BURLESON
One of the best football seasons ever at Marshall Academy ended Friday night five hours from Holly Springs.
The Patriots, who battled back from a 22-8 halftime deficit, lost 28-22 to defending state champion River Oaks, La., in the Class AA north half title game.
MA finishes 11-2, the third most wins in school history. The Pats won 13 in 1988 and 12 in 2007.
“It was one heck of a ride,” coach Barrett Donahoe told his team after the game. “It has been a special season.
“You fought tooth and nail tonight with a very good football team. It was just not meant to be.”
The mistake bug also bit the Patriots at a bad time. They turned it over four times, had a punt blocked and were penalized eight times for 62 yards.
“That’s hard to overcome,” Donahoe said later. “Our kids tried, but we just couldn’t.”
The Mustangs dominated the first half – starting with the game’s opening drive when they went 66 yards in 13 plays and ran more than eight minutes off the clock. The touchdown came on a 15-yard pass play from Ryan MacGregor to Jacob Little on third and goal. Little also kicked the extra point.
MA had two penalties on its opening possession and failed to convert on a fourth-down try.
Josh Petree’s sack and Neil Murphy’s hard hit then forced River Oaks to punt.
But the Mustangs got it right back on a fumble at the Marshall 22. It took them five plays to pad their lead. MacGregor kept for 8 yards and six points. Little’s kick made it 14-0 with 5:31 remaining.
The Marshall Academy offense started clicking. Quarterback Kevin Fitzpatrick had 9-yard and 15-yard completions to Aaron McAlexander and then he scrambled and fired a pass to Neil Murphy for a 27-yard touchdown. Fitzpatrick, on a faked kick try, ran for the two-point conversion.
River Oaks tacked on more points with 1:51 to go in the first half. Alex Biedenharn dashed 25 yards to the end zone. MacGregor ran for the two.
MA fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but Murphy blocked the Mustangs’ 32-yard field goal try on the final play of the first half.
The Patriots struck quickly in the second half, using five plays to go 67 yards in less than two minutes. McAlexander had 16- and 25-yard catches. Chase Ferrell ran for 20. Fitzpatrick kept for the 5-yard score. A try-for-two failed. The Pats trailed 22-14 with 10:29 to go in the third.
The Marshall defense stopped the Mustangs on a fourth and four from the MA 12 on one possession and on the next forced a punt later.
The Pats’ electrifying play of the night came on first and 20, following a holding infraction. Fitzpatrick, under pressure, lofted a short shovel pass to Ferrell, who raced 60 yards for a touchdown. McAlexander reeled in the toss for the two. The game was knotted at 20 with 1:01 to go in the third.
Kirby Jones’ 6-yard tackle for loss halted River Oaks’ next possession.
A holding flag put a dent in Marshall’s next try for points.
Marshall’s defense continued to shine in the second half when Tyler Cook made a hit for no gain with 6:25 left.
The Pats got the ball back near midfield but fumbled.
Murphy’s 3-yard hit for loss forced another Mustang punt.
MA was backed up in its own territory, couldn’t move the ball and on fourth down had its punt blocked by Mustang Slade Daniel.
River Oaks took over at the Patriot 15, gained 10 yards on first down and then scored on third and goal from the 6. MacGregor threw a strike to Little in the corner of the end zone. A try-for-two was foiled by the Marshall defense.
River Oaks’ lead was 28-22 with 2:13 to go.
After the kick, the Patriots took over at their own 26. Mixing the pass and the run, they reached the River Oaks 30 with less than 20 seconds left. MacGregor picked off a pass to wrap up River Oaks’ win and spot in the state championship game opposite south state champ Simpson Academy.
“I’m so proud of you,” assistant coach Bart Jenkins told the Patriots after the contest. “I saw a football team that poured so much heart into a football game. You played your hardest.”
Coach Donahoe, in his first season as head coach, praised his 11 seniors for buying into a new system.
“I’m am so proud that I was able to be your coach your senior year,” he said. “I can’t describe how much we will miss you. Thank you for your hard work and effort.”
Fitzpatrick was 21 of 27 passing for 305 yards. McAlexander had 11 catches for 132 yards. MA had 63 yards rushing for 368 yards total offense.
River Oaks had 251 yards total offense – 193 rushing and 58 passing.
Cook, Evan Hickman and Murphy had 15 tackles each to lead the Patriot defense. Fitzpatrick had 10.
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