Page upsets Tigers
You can't take anything for granted. The Marshall County Tigers hit an unexpected bump in the road on Friday night when they traveled to Franklin and lost 7-3 to longtime District rival Page.
Although the Patriots turned in an inspired defensive effort and desperately needed a victory to stay in the playoff race, Marshall County (6-3, 5-2 District) held a 3-0 lead late in the contest thanks to a 21-yard field goal by Aaron Medley early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to run out the clock.
Disaster struck a few moments later, though, as Page (5-4, 4-3 District) recovered a Tiger fumble at the MCHS 41 with 2:19 remaining. The Patriots then cashed in on the break four plays later when quarterback Zak Mizell hit wide receiver Booker Leach for an 11-yard touchdown pass with :13 left to keep Page in line for a wildcard spot in the playoffs.
Despite facing an eight-man front almost the entire evening, the Tigers still rushed for 214 yards on 47 carries against the Patriots' hard hitting defense en route to finishing with 262 yards of total offense, but committed two turnovers and mustered only three points in three trips inside the red zone.
Senior tailback Trevor Irizarry turned in a valiant performance in defeat and broke the century mark for the sixth time this season by toting the ball 38 times for 195 yards.
Quarterback Austin Stacey, meanwhile, was harassed by Page's pass rush and completed just 3-of-10 throws for 48 yards and an interception.
Freshman wide out Chris Walker caught two passes for 50 yards, while Kevin Peterson hauled in one pass for -2 yards.
"I knew coming in that it was going to be a game like this. Page has some good athletes and are a physical football team. They definitely played inspired tonight," said MCHS coach Tom Turchetta. "We didn't get things done when we had a chance to score. It was a bunch of little things that added up to big things."
Page also had a tough time moving the ball against the Tiger defense and finished with a modest 243 yards of total offense, which included 105 yards rushing on 28 carries, while committing three turnovers.
Stephen White paced the Patriots' ground game with 68 yards on seven carries, while quarterback Zak Mizell completed 11-of-18 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Austin Madge was Mizell's favorite target and snared four passes for 51 yards.
Linebacker Dutch Church led Marshall County's defense with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries, while Jalen Jones and Davey Maddox each registered eight tackles. Dusty Nance also notched six tackles, Cain Hendrix had three tackles and a fumble recovery, and Justin Scarbrough recorded a sack.
After Stacey was picked off by Leach on the Tigers' first possession of the game, Marshall County forced Page to punt before driving from their own 17 to the Patriot 15 in 12 plays behind runs of 23, 10, and 10 yards from Irizarry.
Facing a 3rd and 2 situation, MCHS failed to gain a yard on an Irizorry run before Medley narrowly missed wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Although Page picked up three first downs on their ensuing offensive series, the Tigers stopped the Patriots on downs at the Marshall County 41 after Maddox tackled Anthony Casella well short of the marker on a fake punt attempt.
The Tigers then advanced to the Page 11 in six plays with the help of a 38-yard catch by Walker, but had to give up the ball when Irizarry was stopped inches short of a first down on a 4th and 2 run.
After Church recovered a Patriot fumble at the MCHS 34 on the Patriots next drive to keep the game tied at 0-0 heading into the break, both teams were forced to punt on their first two possessions of the second half.
Marshall County's defense set up their offense in good field position late in the third quarter when Hendrix recovered a fumble by Damian Lockridge at the Page 44.
Despite an illegal motion penalty, the Tigers moved down to Patriot 9 with the help of a Walker 12-yard catch and a 26-yard run by Irizarry. MCHS then gained only five yards on their next three plays, but Medley split the uprights from 21 yards out to give Marshall County a 3-0 lead with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, Church recovered a fumble by Taylor Wallace at the Tiger 33 with 4:40 remaining after Quan Greer and Mariel Nicholson jarred the ball loose from the Patriot wide receiver on a 14-yard catch.
Marshall County picked up a first down on 1-yard quarterback sneak by Stacey on 4th and inches, but Peterson fumbled the handoff from Stacey on the next play and White pounced on the ball at the MCHS 41.
Having been given new life, Page quickly advanced to the Tiger 7 on a 34-yard reception by White before losing four yards on their next two plays.
Leach then hauled in a pass from Mizell in the right flat on third and goal and dove into the end zone while Streator Ward tacked on the extra point to stake the Patriots to a 7-3 lead.
After Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff to the MCHS 37, Irizarry picked up 20 yards on a draw play before being tackled at the Page 43 as time expired.