Thursday, October 30, 2014
MA wins district; playoffs next
By BARRY BURLESON
Marshall Academy trailed 14-13 midway through the second quarter Friday night. Then the Patriots hit another gear.
They reeled off 50 unanswered points in West Helena, Ark., and destroyed the DeSoto Thunderbirds 63-14.
After the final horn, the Patriots hoisted the District 1-A championship trophy. They will be making the school’s eighth straight trip to the state playoffs.
“We were concerned that we would get into a battle where they moved the football and melted the clock,” coach Sam Pearson said. “It took us a few drives to make the defensive adjustments, and then we took away what they were having success with.
“That’s when we started getting the ball back and executing well offensively.”
MA started the scoring on its first possession of the game. Two passes from Dakota Dailey to Colt Lindsey ate up most of the yardage. Then Devin McGreger, who scored the Pats’ first six touchdowns of the game, carried for the 3-yard score.
Christian Compton nailed the first of his seven extra points on the night.
After a Patriot fumble, the Thunderbirds lit up their part of the scoreboard early in the second quarter. A roughing-the-punter flag on MA kept the drive going. They got the touchdown on an 18-yard run and completed a pass for the two-point conversion. MA trailed 8-7.
DeSoto’s onside kick try failed, and MA’s offense scored in just four plays. McGreger went in standing from 12 yards out. MA went for two, to try to make it a seven-point margin, but was unsuccessful.
The Patriots’ onside kick attempt also failed, and on a fourth and 2, DeSoto got six more points on a 45-yard run. The try-for-two failed, and the Patriots were down again by one (14-13) with 7:16 to go in the first half.
That’s when the quick-striking Marshall offense answered with three touchdowns before intermission.
Dailey threw a shuffle pass to McGreger, who carried it 16 yards for the score, and then the same two connected for the two-point conversion. The lead was 21-14.
Hunter Huff, Canaan Pearson and Wesley Bolden threw the DeSoto quarterback for a big loss on third and 10.
After a short punt, the Pats took over at the Thunderbird 48.
Again, the Pats made rapid work of finding paydirt. On the fifth play of the possession, McGreger ran for 10 yards and the touchdown with 2:54 to go in the second quarter.
The MA defense got the ball back for the offense with just less than a minute left.
That was plenty of time.
On the first play, Dailey again made the short shuffle pass to McGreger, who dashed 53 yards for a score. It was 35-14 at halftime.
The trend continued to start the second half.
Dailey tossed a screen pass in the middle to McGreger, who this time sprinted 42 yards for his sixth touchdown of the evening.
MA, which didn’t punt in the game, kept clicking for three more scores.
Later in the third, Dailey scored on a 3-yard keeper to make it 49-14.
In the fourth, Jordon Harris, who shifted to quarterback, kept for a 4-yard touchdown.
With 3:18 left, Cordarius Thomas completed the scoring with a 6-yard run.
Dailey was 11 of 15 passing for 207 yards. McGreger caught three for 111 and also had eight rushes for 81 yards.
Top tacklers were Harris with six, Bolden and Lindsey with five each and Thomas Faulkenbery with four.
Pearson, in his first season as head coach at MA, said the district championship is nice but the Patriots’ goal is to make it to a third straight state championship game and this time win it. The Patriots have never won a state title in football.
“It’s our goal to get there this year and finish our business,” he said. “This (the district crown and state playoff berth) is a step in that direction.”
The next step for the second-seeded Patriots (9-1 on the season) will be a home game this Friday in the first round versus Wilkinson County Christian Academy. The 15th-seeded Rams will make the 336-mile trek from Woodville with a 2-8 record.
Coach Pearson said he believes his Patriots, who are averaging more than 50 points per game this season, are playing their best football at the right time of the season.
“I feel like we’ve put together three solid games (versus Benton County, Lee and DeSoto),” he said. “We had a focused effort on eliminating mistakes, and each week we’ve done a better job of that.”
The winner of the Marshall-WCCA matchup will face the Benton Academy-Sylva Bay winner in round two.
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