The Marshall County Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Region) suffered their first loss of the season Friday night when defending Class 3A state champ David Lipscomb (9-0, 6-0 Region) defeated MCHS 38-14 at Preston Hopkins Field on the strength of a dominant second half performance.
Seeking to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Mustangs, the Tigers battled David Lipscomb to a 14-14 tie at halftime and appeared poised to wrest the Region 5-3A crown from the private school powerhouse.
Marshall County's championship dreams quickly turned into a nightmare at the start of the second half, as the Mustangs scored two touchdowns in the first three minutes and thirty-five seconds of the third quarter to seize a 28-14 advantage. MCHS then drove deep into David Lipscomb territory late in the third quarter, but the Mustangs stopped the Tigers at the one-yard line on 4th and goal to snuff out Marshall County's comeback hopes before tacking on a field goal and a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cement their twenty-four-point victory.
With their loss to David Lipscomb, MCHS must now defeat arch rival Giles County in their regular season finale to finish second in the Region and secure a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Marshall County came into Friday's contest averaging 31.5 points and 352 yards of total offense per game, but found it tough sledding against David Lipscomb's defense, which appeared vulnerable after yielding 28 points and 337 yards to Giles County in their previous contest. The Tigers finished with a season low 204 yards of total offense and mustered just 64 yards in the second half, while committing four turnovers overall.
"We turned the ball over and did some bad things that really hurt us tonight," said Marshall County head coach Don Thomas. "We just have to come out and play a complete game."
MCHS had a particularly difficult time running the ball, as they rushed for only 46 yards and averaged a paltry 1.5 yards per carry.
"They're just good. They have a lot of clones on defense. Teams that run downhill against them usually give them problems, but they have a lot of 6'3" 210 pound guys that can run," said Thomas.
Senior tailback Justin Braden tallied 64 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries to pace the Tiger ground game, while backup tailback Cody Tucker was held to just three yards on seven carries.
Marshall County quarterback Jake Morris had some success through the air and completed 13 of 22 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, but tossed a season high three interceptions. Morris was also sacked three times and finished with -21 yards rushing on six carries.
After missing the last two games due to injury, wide out Broderick Tears led MCHS' receiving corps with eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Kareem Peterson also had 47 yards on three receptions, while Trevor Carter and Jordan Anderson each had one catch for 10 and 7 yards respectively.
David Lipscomb, conversely, racked up 374 yards of total offense despite playing without starting wingback and Tennessee commitment Zach Rogers, who was shelved by a shoulder injury. The Mustangs did much of their damage on the ground and galloped for 283 yards rushing while averaging a robust 6.7 yards per carry.
Running back William Officer spearheaded David Lipscomb's offensive stampede, as he rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. Trevor Hunt also gained 30 yards for the Mustangs on four carries.
David Lipscomb quarterback Caleb Simpson kept the Tiger defense honest by completing 4 of 6 passes for 91 yards. Halfback Michael Saggio and split end T.J. Hoelzer each hauled in two passes for 48 and 43 yards respectively.
Free safety David Tadajewski paced the Tiger defense with nine tackles and defensive tackle Michael Murphy registered eight stops. Defensive end Eric Cottle also notched six tackles and a sack for MCHS, while Tyler Clift and Shelby Sharp both had four tackles. Cameron Evans recovered a fumble for Marshall County as well to go along with two tackles.
MCHS got off to a slow start, as they were forced to punt on their opening possession, before the Mustangs put together a four-play 46-yard touchdown drive, capped by an Officer one-yard TD run, to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Tigers quickly picked themselves up off the canvas and marched 57 yards to the end zone in seven plays on their second possession to knot the game at 7-7. After Braden broke loose for a 28-yard run on the third play of the drive, Morris found Tears for an 11-yard gain to move the ball down to the David Lipscomb 12. Following an eight-yard run by Tucker, Braden scored from three yards out two plays later before Sam Estes tacked on the extra point.
The Mustangs grabbed a 14-7 advantage late in the first quarter when Officer scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to cap a five-play 56-yard scoring drive by David Lipscomb, highlighted by a Hunt 17-yard run and a 27-yard reception by Saggio.
Marshall County then failed to pick up a first down on their ensuing offensive series before the Mustangs drove down to the MCHS 28 on seven straight running plays. The Tiger defense though bowed its neck and David Lipscomb lost one yard on their next two plays before Tadajewski dropped Officer for a three-yard loss on 4th and 2.
On Marshall County's fourth possession, David Lipscomb safety Kyle Lehning picked off Morris in the end zone to snuff out a MCHS scoring threat, but the Tiger defense set up the offense in excellent field position late in the second quarter when Evans pounced on a fumble by Saggio at the Mustang 46.
It took Marshall County just three plays to cash in on the turnover, as Morris hit Tears for a 24-yard touchdown strike to tie the score at 14-14 with twenty-seven seconds left in the first half after hooking up with Tears and Peterson for consecutive 11-yard completions.
The Tigers were unable to carry that momentum into the third quarter, as David Lipscomb opened the second half with a four-play 57-yard touchdown drive to take a 21-14 lead. Following a 26-yard run by Officer, Hoelzer hauled in a 26-yard pass from Simpson two-plays later before Officer bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out while Lehning converted the extra point.
Disaster then struck for Marshall County on their ensuing possession when Ben Brewer picked off Morris deep in MCHS territory before Officer scored on a 24-yard touchdown run one play later to give the Mustangs a 28-14 advantage.
After a favorable exchange of punts, the Tigers drove down to the David Lipscomb 4 with the help of a 15-yard facemask penalty on the Mustangs and a 24-yard catch and run by Peterson. Unfortunately, Marshall County was unable to punch the ball into the end zone, as they picked up three yards on their next three plays before Saggio and William Stevens tackled Morris just short of the goal line on a quarterback keeper.
"We fought back after they scored two quick touchdowns on us, but when they stopped us at the one that took something out of us," said Thomas.
David Lipscomb immediately flipped the field position when Officer broke loose for an 88-yard run on a trap play one snap later. MCHS managed to keep the Mustangs out of the end zone thanks to a 15-yard personal foul penalty on David Lipscomb's Evan Webb and a 10-yard sack by Cottle, but Lehning booted a 42-yard field goal to make it 31-14 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for the Tigers a few moments later when Peterson mishandled the kickoff and the Mustangs recovered the ball the Marshall County 8, while Peterson was injured on the play.
Webb then recovered a fumble by Officer in the end zone two plays later to stretch David Lipscomb's lead to 38-14.
MCHS made one last gasp and advanced to the Mustang 5 with the aid of a 68-yard kickoff return by Tears and 10-yard catch by Carter, but lost eight yards on their next three plays and gave up the ball on downs.