Tigers fall to Giles
For the second straight year, the Marshall County Tigers will be traveling west in the first round of the playoffs after they dropped a 25-20 decision to archrival Giles County on Halloween night in Pulaski.
With second place in Region 5-3A on the line, the Bobcats led from start to finish en route to their third straight victory over MCHS.
Giles County held a 7-0 lead at intermission, before scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half to open up a 19-7 advantage midway through the third quarter. After trimming the deficit to 19-14 early in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard touchdown catch by Kareem Peterson, the Tigers got the ball back late in the game with a chance to take the lead.
The Bobcats though picked off Marshall County quarterback Jake Morris and quickly stretched their lead to 25-14 on a 43-yard touchdown run by Josh Smith with 2:12 left in the game before eventually claiming the five-point victory.
Due to Friday's loss, the Tigers finished third in Region 5-3A and will go on the road to take on Region 6-3A runner-up Lexington in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
Despite the disappointing finish to the regular season, MCHS head coach Don Thomas believes his team will be a tough out in the postseason. "We're in the playoffs and any game that we play, we have a chance to win," said Thomas.
Marshall County amassed 375 yards of total offense, but was haunted by four turnovers, which killed a couple of potential scoring drives.
Led by senior tailback Justin Braden, MCHS had great success running the ball against the Bobcats and churned out 259 yards on the ground while averaging a robust 9.3 yards per carry.
Braden accounted for nearly two-thirds of the Tigers' offensive output by rushing for 207 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to go along with a 39-yard TD reception.
"He played his heart out and performed really well tonight. We've just got to put some other things together and play well as a unit," said Thomas.
Morris also added 43 yards rushing on 8 carries, while Cody Tucker had nine yards on two carries.
Although he tossed a couple of touchdown passes, Morris was never able to find a rhythm throwing the ball and struggled with his accuracy for much of the night. Morris completed just 9 of 25 pass attempts for 116 yards and was intercepted three times.
Broderick Tears paced Marshall County's receiving corps with five catches for 54 yards, while Peterson hauled in two passes for 10 yards and a touchdown. Trevor Carter had one catch for 13 yards as well
Giles County, conversely, racked up 440 yards of total offense, but had several drives hindered by penalties and was flagged nine times overall for 61 yards.
Lining up primarily in a smokestack I-formation, the Bobcats played smash mouth football for much of the evening and gashed MCHS for 367 yards rushing while averaging a healthy 7.3 yards per carry.
Tailback Tobias Houston and quarterback Bo Wallace spearheaded the Bobcat ground assault. Houston rumbled for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, while Wallace tallied 113 yards on 13 carries.
Fullback Josh Smith added 61 yards and a touchdown for Giles County as well on only four carries.
Wallace also completed 6 of 13 passes for 66 yards and registered three interceptions on defense from his free safety position.
Defensive lineman Michael Murphy registered 11 tackles to lead the Tiger defense, while Eric Cottle, David Tadajewski, Cody Henson, and Shelby Sharp each had nine tackles with Cottle recording a sack as well. Casey Merchant and Cameron Evans also notched five and four tackles respectively for Marshall County.
MCHS advanced into Bobcat territory on their opening possession of the game with the help of a 12-yard run by Braden and a 20-yard reception by Tears, but saw the drive stall out thanks to a clipping penalty and was forced to punt.
Giles County then punched the Tigers in the mouth by embarking on a nine-play 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead with 4:33 left in the first quarter. After Wallace scampered for 11 yards on 3rd and 9, Houston broke loose for a 42-yard run to move the ball down to the MCHS 21 prior to scoring on a two-yard touchdown plunge four plays later.
Both teams punted on their next two possessions before the Bobcats recovered a Tiger fumble at the Marshall County 30 midway through the second quarter. The MCHS defense though was able to turn Giles County back with the help of a Pulaski holding penalty and forced the Bobcats to punt.
Marshall County quickly moved to the Giles County 40 with the aid of a 33-yard run by Braden and a 13-yard reception by Tears, but Wallace picked off Morris a couple of plays later to snuff out the Tiger threat.
Wallace then tried to engineer a late scoring drive and sandwiched a pair of 13-yard completions to Hunter Newton and Tyler Watson around a 29-yard reception by Cory Houston to move the ball down to the Tiger 9 with six seconds left in the first half. The Bobcats, however, came away with no points on the drive, as Tobias Houston was tackled at the eight on the final play of the half by Sharp and Tadajewski after catching a short pass from Wallace.
That proved to be only a temporary reprieve for the Tigers, as Giles County took their opening drive of the second half and marched 70 yards to the end zone in eight plays, capped by a Tobias Houston six-yard touchdown run, to extend their lead to 13-0, while Henson blocked the extra point attempt.
Marshall County finally got on the scoreboard on their ensuing offensive series by putting together a four-play 76-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 13-7. After Morris hit Tears for a 17-yard completion on 3rd and 9, Braden raced for a 56-yard touchdown run on the next play before Sam Estes tacked on the extra point.
The Bobcats mounted an immediate response and stretched their lead to 19-7 on an eight-yard touchdown jaunt by Tobias Houston after Wallace scampered for 64 yards down to the MCHS 12 two plays earlier. Evans tackled Houston in the backfield on the two-point conversion attempt to leave the deficit at twelve.
Wallace picked off Morris again on the Tigers' next possession before the Bobcats advanced inside the Marshall County 40, but MCHS stopped Giles County on downs when Murphy and Henson tackled Tobias Houston inches short of the first down marker on a 4th and 2 run.
The Tigers then marched 68 yards to pay dirt in 11 plays to cut the deficit to 19-14 with 7:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. After MCHS picked up a first down on three straight runs, Braden picked up 24 yards on consecutive carries before Morris hooked up with Carter for a 13-yard gain to move the ball down to the Bobcat 21. Morris then found Peterson in the corner of the end for a 6-yard touchdown pass four plays later, while Estes added the extra point.
On Giles County's ensuing possession, the Bobcats tried to bleed the clock and advanced past midfield, but were forced to punt after Wallace was flagged for intentional grounding.
With just 3:15 left in the contest, the Tigers appeared poised to make yet another dramatic game winning drive, but Morris was picked off by Wallace for a third time on a deep pass down the right sideline after Peterson was knocked down by a Giles County defender while trying to make a play on the ball.
Smith then raced 43 yards to the end zone on the very next play to extend the Bobcats' lead to 25-14 prior to dropping the two-point conversion pass from Wallace.
Marshall County made a last ditch comeback attempt and closed the gap to 25-20 when Morris found Braden in the back of the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers though failed on the two-point conversion attempt and Wallace recovered MCHS' onside kick attempt before Giles County ran out the clock.