Photo by Dillon Day
MA quarterback Eli Pearson (3) makes the pitch on an option play Friday night versus West Memphis Christian.
Photo by Theresa Bolden Devore
MA Patriots Tyler Bolden (4) and Jordan Bowen (71) celebrate after Bolden’s two-point conversion.
Marshall ‘finds a way to win’
Mistakes still hampered Marshall Academy in its third game of the season, but at least this time around, the outcome was different.
The Patriots picked up their first win, 29-21 over West Memphis Christian (Ark.). They survived a four-turnover night.
After the victory on the home field, head coach Barrett Donahoe praised his team for “battling and finding a way to win.”
“The hardest thing to do sometimes is to get that monkey off your back,” he said. “We still made a lot of mistakes, and we have a lot to fix, but you never quit playing hard and I appreciate that.”
The first turnover occurred on the Patriots’ first offensive play. The Black Knights’ Hayden Ellis picked up the fumble and returned it 8 yards for a touchdown. The visitors added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The two teams then swapped a couple of possessions to wrap up the first quarter.
Early in the second, West Memphis picked off an MA pass and was in possession at its own 39. The drive moved into Marshall territory but went backwards due to a couple of penalties and the stout defensive play of the Patriots.
The Black Knights had to punt from their own 9, and the Pats took over at the West Memphis 45.
On a third down play, Eli Pearson, scrambling away from pressure, threw to Tyler Bolden for 17 yards and a first down.
Pearson then passed to Anthony Mayfield for an 11-yard gain to the 3, and on the next play, Pearson kept for the score. Justin McDoniel tied the game at 7 with his extra-point kick at the 5:40 mark of the second quarter.
McDoniel followed that with a kickoff that pinned West Memphis back at its own 6-yard line.
“We had some chances in the game to build momentum but we didn’t capitalize,” Donahoe said. “And this was one of those chances.”
West Memphis picked up four first downs and moved to the MA 45.
But there, the Patriot defense did step up, particularly Devarius Harris. He caused and recovered a fumble at the West Memphis 49.
The Marshall offense, however, couldn’t get additional points before intermission. A sack on a third-and-10 play ended the first half at a 7-7 deadlock.
The Patriots opened the second half by fumbling the ball away on the kick return.
Six plays later, the MA defense did its part to spark the home team. West Memphis faked a field-goal try and attempted a pass. It was intercepted by Drayton Potts and returned 75 yards for six points. McDoniel’s kick made it 14-7 with 9:25 left in the third.
The Black Knights bounced back quickly. Malik Barrow scored on a reverse from 30 yards out. The kick was no good. MA was up 14-13.
Four minutes later, the Patriots faced a fourth and six from the West Memphis 24. Pearson stepped back into a well-protected pocket and threw to Potts, who made an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for the score. Pearson threw to Bolden for the two. It was 22-13 with 2:31 to go in the third.
The Black Knights would not go away. They marched 53 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. The 2-yard quarterback keeper by Parker Benson came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Thomas Warren ran for the conversion. MA’s lead had been trimmed to 22-21.
The Patriot offense answered, going 63 yards in 10 plays. Pearson ran for a couple of first downs and Ryan Brock carried for another. Brock scored on a 15-yard carry up the gut. McDoniel added the kick to make it 29-21 with 7:39 left.
Late in the game, MA turned the ball over via an interception and the Knights drove to the Patriots’ 15 with six seconds left. One pass fell incomplete and the next was intercepted by Mitchell Lafever to seal the victory.
“We’re just excited to win a football game,” Donahoe said.
“We had opportunities to push the lead out more in our favor in the game and we never took advantage of it. And we got soft defensively some in the second half.
“Offensively, I did see some signs that we are making progress, and we must continue to do that.”
MA rushed for 120 yards and threw for 130 for 250 yards total offense.
Defensively, McMillen had nine tackles and one assist and Lafever eight tackles and three assists. Other top tacklers were Potts and Harris with six solos and two assists each, Cade Crouch with five solos and three assists and Will Hanggi with five solos.
This Friday night, the Patriots (1-2) will host public school Falkner. The Eagles are 1-1 with a win over East Union and a loss to Walnut.