Photo by Ronnie Day
Quarterback Eli Pearson (2) is forced out of bounds along the Marshall Academy sideline. At right is Boyce McKinney (88).
Photo by Theresa Bolden DeVore
Canaan Pearson (3) makes a catch between two Deer Creek players for a 21-yard gain.
MA blanks Warriors; Stars next
Coach Barrett Donahoe said his Marshall Academy Patriots were “dialed in” Friday night at home.
The result was a 43-0 beatdown of Deer Creek School in round one of the Class A-AA state football playoffs.
“Playoff wins are special – great job tonight,” he told his team at midfield after the shutout. “Whatever it was that had us focused, we have to keep that.”
Next up is a road trip to Winona Christian for the quarter-finals. The Patriots (8-3) are the fifth seed and the Stars (9-2) the fourth seed.
“We’re trying to push them to the next level,” Donahoe said. “We have to go to work this week in practice. Winona is a fundamentally sound football team that will present a great challenge for us.”
MA started its domination of Deer Creek with a 51-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Eli Pearson to Wil Summerlin with 8:19 to go in the first quarter. Tyler Bolden then threw to Ryan McAlexander for the two-point conversion.
Later in the first, it was another 51-yard touchdown connection for the Patriots. This time, E. Pearson found Everette Jones down the left sideline. Justin McDoniel kicked the first of his four extra points for a 15-0 lead.
The Warriors, yet to get a first down in the game, went for it on fourth and 2 at the 3:20 mark of the first. But Mitchell Lafever denied Drew Rexrode on the quarterback sneak.
On Deer Creek’s next possession, Jones picked off a pass, putting the Marshall offense in business at the Warriors’ 42-yard line.
The Patriots put together a nine-play drive for more points. Canaan Pearson caught a big 21-yard pass from his brother and then he ran 3 yards for the score.
On Deer Creek’s first play after the kickoff, Summerlin recovered a fumble.
MA used an 11-yard run by E. Pearson and a personal foul penalty on Deer Creek to reach the Warriors’ 15. C. Pearson ran the ball into the end zone from there. It was 29-0 with 5:41 to go in the second quarter, and that score held until halftime.
Less than three minutes into the third quarter, Deer Creek’s Walter Warren made a catch but fumbled when hit hard by a host of Patriots. Marshall’s Cade Crouch picked up the loose football and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
Jones followed that with his second interception of the evening, but Marshall fumbled the ball back to the visitors.
After a short Deer Creek punt to end the third, Rahmon Rutherford closed the Patriots’ scoring with a 19-yard carry to the end zone.
MA had 168 yards rushing, led by C. Pearson’s six carries for 52 yards. Eight different Patriots ran the football in the game.
E. Pearson was five of seven passing for 129 yards.
“I was extremely pleased with Eli (Pearson) and the receivers,” Coach Donahoe said. “When we’re at our best is when we take advantage of what the other team gives us.”
He said Deer Creek was keying on running back C. Pearson, with seven defensive players in the box.
“Because of that, we were able to hit some big plays in the passing game,” he said.
The head coach said the long touchdown pass to Jones was “a fantastic play call” by offensive coordinator Sam Pearson.
“We used a timeout to get it set up right, and our players did a great job of executing it,” Donahoe said.
He was not happy with his team’s penalties, particularly the holding calls.
“If we do that this week (versus Winona), it could be a difference-maker,” he said.
Leading the Marshall defense in the win over Deer Creek were Jones with three tackles and two interceptions, Everett Hickman with four and a half tackles, and Summerlin, Ryan Brock and McAlexander each with three and a half tackles.
“Defensively, I believe it was our best effort of the season, and we have to have that same effort and more this Friday night,” Donahoe said.
The Stars will primarily run the football out of the Wing T formation, but “pass enough to keep you honest,” Donahoe said.
They are led by Junior Graham, a very successful, veteran high school football coach in Mississippi.
“He’s an outstanding coach who understands how to teach kids to block and tackle,” Donahoe said.
“There are eight teams left (in the Class A-AA playoffs) and I anticipate a lot of good games Friday night. Those eight are all very good football teams.”
The Marshall-Winona winner will face the Canton Academy-Prentiss Christian winner on Friday, Nov. 11, in the state semi-finals.