The Marshall County Tigers (9-3) advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs for the first time in nine years by defeating the Sequoyah Chiefs 31-6 at home on Friday night in the second round of the Class 4A bracket.
MCHS had their way with Sequoyah (6-6) early on and scored on all four of their first half possessions to forge a 24-0 lead at the break. The Tigers then tacked on another touchdown late in the third quarter to open up a 31-0 advantage before coasting to the 25-point victory.
Thanks to their win over Sequoyah, Marshall County will host archrival Giles County in the quarterfinals, who they defeated 26-7 during the regular season. The Bobcats beat Chattanooga Brainerd 20-12 in their second round matchup .
Senior tailback Trevor Irizarry broke the 200-yard barrier for the third straight game by toting the ball 20 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Kevin Peterson also tallied 38 yards rushing on four carries, while quarterback Austin Stacey added 33 yards on five attempts.
Stacey also had an efficient night throwing the ball, as he completed 5-of-8 passes for 90 yards to go along with two touchdowns. Freshman wide out Chris Walker hauled in three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Peterson had two receptions for 33 yards and scored once.
"We prepare every week for people to load the box against us so we add a wrinkle every week to help us get a guy out of the box," said MCHS coach Tom Turchetta. "We've been talking about winning the state championship since the beginning of the playoffs. I told the guys to dream the dream and to think about everything they've wanted in their athletic careers."
Place kicker Aaron Medley continues to give Marshall County a significant edge in special teams, as he hit all four extra point attempts, made a 41-yard field goal, and blasted five kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
The Tiger defense, meanwhile, neutralized Sequoyah's option attack for much of the evening, as the Chiefs rushed for a modest 142 yards on 38 carries and finished with only 243 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Trey Dyer accounted for a majority of Sequoyah's offensive output and carried the ball 24 times for 104 yards and a touchdown while completing 11-of-17 passes for 101 yards.
Fullback Blake Huffman paced the Chiefs' receiving corps with three catches for 25 yards to go along with 15 yards rushing on five carries.
"Our main goal is to stop the run because we have faith in our secondary. As long as we get a good push upfront we should be fine," said MCHS senior defensive tackle Davey Maddox. "We figured that if we stopped their running game their quarterback wouldn't be able to beat us throwing the ball."
Linebacker Jalen Jones recorded a team high 10 tackles for Marshall County, and Quan Greer and Dutch Church both had nine tackles with Church recording a sack. Mariel Nicholson and Maddox also tallied seven and six tackles respectively, while Cody Newsom and Rakeem Alexander each had four tackles. Dusty Nance also notched three tackles and a sack.
The Tigers seized the momentum on the opening possession of the game, as Stacey hit Walker for a 34-yard touchdown strike on 4th and 14 to stake MCHS to a 7-0 lead with 7:22 left in the first quarter after Irizarry ripped off runs of 14, 11, and 10 yards earlier in the drive.
Marshall County then forced Sequoyah to punt before opening up a 14-0 advantage late in the first period when Irizarry broke loose for a 38-yard touchdown run to cap a five-play, 66-yard scoring drive.
The Chiefs had a chance to close the gap on their third possession after marching from their own 20 to the MCHS 21 in nine plays with the help of a 14-yard catch by Huffman and a Dyer 13-yard run.
The Tiger defense, though, bowed it's neck and limited Sequoyah to only five yards on their next four snaps to take over the ball on downs at their own 16.
On their ensuing drive, Marshall County quickly advanced to the Chief 30 on four straight runs, highlighted by a 23-yard scamper by Irizarry and a Peterson 14-yard jaunt. The Tigers then gained just six yards on their next three plays, but Medley drilled a 41-yard field goal to stretch MCHS' lead to 17-0 with 5:10 left in the second quarter.
Following another Sequoyah punt, Irizarry weaved his way through the Chief defense while scoring on a scintillating 70-yard touchdown run to give Marshall a 24-0 advantage at the break.
In the second half, the two teams combined for five straight punts before Marshall County pushed their lead to 31-0 thanks to a 26-yard touchdown catch by Peterson on the final play of the third quarter.
Dyer got the Chiefs on the board late in the fourth period when he scored on a 21-yard touchdown run with 4:17 left for the 31-6 final.