Eli Pearson (2) gains yardage on a quarterback keeper.

Photos by Dillon Day
Cordarius Thomas (9) wraps up a DeSoto ball-carrier Friday night.

Photos by Dillon Day
Marshall Academy held its Senior Night activities Friday night. Honored were (front, from left) Hannah Carpenter, Blake Martin, Hailey McMinn, Bailey Blaker and Macy Thompson; and (back, from left) Jacob Gadd, Canaan Pearson, Wyatt Bain, Wesley Bolden, Samuel Morris, Cordarius Thomas, Wil Summerlin, Ryan McAlexander, Everett Hickman, Boyce McKinney and Whitt Rodgers.

Boyce McKinney (88) breaks away from some Thunderbirds after making a catch.

Ryan McAlexander (10) avoids a DeSoto defensive player.

Patriots unbeaten in district • State playoffs begin Friday at home versus Deer Creek

The heavy favorite scored 20 points in the first eight minutes Friday night and eased to victory.

Marshall Academy thumped the winless DeSoto School (Ark.) Thunder­birds 40-7 to finish unbeaten (4-0) in District 1-AA.

“We took care of business early, and that was good to see,” said coach Barrett Donahoe, whose team improved to 7-3 overall. “Now it’s time to get ready for the playoffs.”

The Patriots will be making their 10th consecutive trip to the post-season. In the opening round of the Class A-AA playoffs this Friday, they will host Deer Creek School at 7 p.m. at Patriot Field.

“The season starts now,” he told his team after the game last week. “We are four weeks away from our goal (a state championship). That’s 16 quarters, and it’s our goal to win every quarter. It will take maximum effort on our part every day (in practices and the games).”

The Patriots’ first touchdown versus DeSoto came just 27 seconds into the contest.  The shuffle pass was successful, with Eli Pearson tossing to Canaan Pearson, who traveled 24 yards to the end zone. Justin McDoniel added the extra-point kick.

After the Thunderbirds were pushed backwards on their opening possession, the MA offense quickly struck again. The big play in the 65-yard drive was a short pass from E. Pearson to Ryan McAlexander, who got loose for 56 yards to the DeSoto 9. After losing 5 yards on a penalty, E. Pearson and Wil Summerlin connected for  14 yards and a touchdown. McDoniel’s point-after made it 14-0.

The Patriot defense forced another three and out by the DeSoto offense.

Then Marshall went 82 yards in just seven plays for more points. E. Pearson found Boyce McKinney over the middle for gains of 33 and 35 yards. He later passed to McAlexander for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:50 to go in the first quarter. The conversion try was not successful.

The second period opened with a 12-yard sack of the quarterback by MA’s Everett Hickman, forcing a punt.

With 9:32 left in the first half, the E. Pearson to Summerlin connection struck again, this time for 13 yards and six points. McDoniel booted the extra point.

On third and 8, Cordarius Thomas intercepted a DeSoto pass at the Thunderbirds’ 46-yard line.

Ryan Brock ran 25 yards for a first down. Rahmon Rutherford got the touchdown on a 5-yard carry up the middle. McDoniel’s kick made it 34-0 with 6:49 to go in the second quarter, and DeSoto asked for a non-stop clock the rest of the game.

In the first half alone, the Patriots had 374 yards total offense.

The Thunderbirds got on the scoreboard via a 7-yard run with 9:20 left in the fourth and added the extra point.

Marshall’s final points came on Drayton Potts’ 23-yard quarterback keeper with 1:59 remaining.

E. Pearson finished 11 of 15 through the air for 221 yards. McAlexander caught four for 96 yards and McKinney two for 68.

C. Pearson was the leading rusher with three carries for 65 yards.

Top tacklers for the Pats were Cade Crouch with five, Brock with four and a half and Hickman with three and half plus a sack.

Coach Donahoe said the Class A-AA playoff bracket includes several solid contenders for a state crown, but  his Patriots must be concerned most about themselves. MA is seeking its first state championship in football.

“We have to take the same approach and get better at the things we do,” he said. “We have to play the game the way we want to play, no matter the opponent.

“We have a lot of guys contributing right now, and it’s fun to watch. Every single player has do his part to make this playoff run successful.”

Marshall, the fifth seed in the playoffs, and its first-round opponent Deer Creek, the 12th seed, have had common opponents.

Marshall beat Lee (Ark.) 50-6, Tunica 47-6, Oak Hill 42-7 and DeSoto (Ark.) 40-7.

Deer Creek lost to Lee 26-14 in the first game of the season and beat Tunica 41-8, Oak Hill 28-7 and DeSoto 35-6.

“We have to do things right to beat good football teams, and Deer Creek is a good football team,” Donahoe said. “Every week is a challenge, and we have to meet that challenge.”

The winner of the Marshall-Deer Creek game will face the winner of Winona Christian versus Carroll Academy in round two November 4 at a site to be determined.

Holly Springs South Reporter

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