Tigers pull away from Panthers
With the playoffs fast approaching, the Marshall County Tigers improved their chances of hosting a first round home game by defeating District 12-A foe Lewis County 41-18 at Preston Hopkins Field on Friday night.
The Panthers (5-3, 4-2 District) came into Friday's contest riding a five-game winning streak, but MCHS capitalized on several Lewis County mistakes in the first half and built a 20-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
After trimming the deficit to 20-12 at halftime, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 20-18 early in the third quarter, but the Tigers (6-2, 5-1 District) controlled the game from that point on and scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions to roll to their second straight victory over Lewis County.
Facing a Panther defense that had allowed just 9.2 points per game in their last five outings, Marshall County piled up 364 yards of total offense, which included 257 yards rushing on 49 carries.
MCHS senior tailback Trevor Irizarry broke the century mark for the fifth time this season by rushing for 152 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries, while Kevin Peterson added 59 yards on five attempts.
"We were prepared to throw the football tonight, but we didn't have to because we were able to run it," said Marshall County coach Tom Turchetta. "Trevor is very deceiving. Everyone thinks he's a scat back, but he runs hard between the tackles. He and Kevin both have a lot of speed too and can take it the distance anytime."
Tiger quarterback Austin Stacey had another effective night throwing the ball and completed 7-of-11 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Peterson led MCHS' receiving corps by snaring three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, while Irizarry and Chris Walker each had two catches for 34 and 21 yards respectively. Fullback Dusty Nance also caught an eight-yard pass from backup quarterback Zac Gordon.
Place kicker Aaron Medley continues to be a weapon on special teams for Marshall County as he converted 6-of-7 extra points and blasted four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Lewis County finished with a respectable 283 yards of total offense and rushed for 169 yards on 35 carries, but shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions and committed nine penalties for 65 yards. The Tigers, conversely, were flagged just one time for two yards.
Colby Cotham paced the Panthers with 105 yards rushing and a touchdown on seven carries, while running back Justin Sparkman toted the ball 13 times for 51 yards and a TD.
Lewis County quarterback Ronnie Yeiser made a couple of big plays through the air, but completed only 3-of-7 passes overall for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Zach Vandusen was the Panthers' leading receiver and hauled in three passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan Bell had one reception for 32 yards to go along with a 28-yard completion on a halfback pass.
Lineman Keifer Bolton and Davey Maddox paced the Tiger defense with eight and seven tackles respectively with Maddox recording a sack, while Mariel Nicholson and Nance each recorded five tackles. Dutch Church also notched four tackles, and D'Mykel Holman, J.B. Reese, Quan Greer, and Dre Lyttle had three tackles apiece.
Although Marshall County elected to receive during the coin toss, Lewis County actually got the ball first when they recovered a pooch kickoff by Jarrett King at the MCHS 42.
The Panthers managed to move the chains once, but the Tigers eventually stopped Lewis County on downs with the help of an illegal motion penalty.
Marshall County then took 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Irizarry scored on a four-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play 72-yard drive that was highlighted by a Panther personal foul and a 28-yard catch from Peterson.
Following a three and out by Lewis County, the Tigers marched 61 yards to pay dirt in 10 plays, punctuated by a Irizarry two-yard touchdown plunge, to push their lead to 13-0 early in the second quarter after Church ran for nine yards down to the Panther 32 on a fake punt attempt to keep the drive alive.
Lewis County closed the gap to 13-6 with the help of some special teams trickery, as Cotham raced 86 yards for a touchdown on a fake punt attempt on 4th and 16 before the Panthers botched the extra point attempt.
The Tigers mounted an immediate response and engineered a nine-play, 57-yard touchdown drive to push their lead to 20-6 with 5:08 left in the second quarter. After Irizarry ripped off runs of six, 14, and 17 yards to start the drive, the Tigers picked up 13 yards on two more carries before Irizarry scored on a three-yard touchdown jaunt four plays later.
The Panthers closed the gap to 20-12 late in the half on a three-yard touchdown run by Sparkman, but failed on the two-point conversion run to keep the deficit at eight.
Following a short kickoff, the Tigers advanced from their own 43 to the Lewis County 8 in the final minute of the half with the aid of a 30-yard catch and a 15-yard run by Irizarry, before Medley missed a 25-yard field goal as time expired.
Lewis County appeared to still have the momentum at the start of the second half, as Yeiser hit Vandusen for a 47-yard touchdown strike on a flee flicker to whittle the deficit to 20-18 prior to failing on the two-point conversion pass.
After a very favorable exchange of punts, the Tigers started their second offensive series of the half at the Panther 15. MCHS cashed in on the excellent field position when Irizarry scored on a four-yard run five plays later to make it 27-18 midway through the third quarter.
Lewis County was forced to punt again on their ensuing possession before the Tigers stretched their lead to 34-18 early in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard touchdown catch by Peterson.
On the Panthers next possession, Maddox blocked a punt by Cotham to give Marshall County the ball at the Lewis County 45. Irizarry then burst up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown jaunt two-plays later to seal the Tigers 41-18 victory.