Tiger rally comes up short against Hickman County
Despite making a furious fourth quarter rally, the Marshall County Tigers were dealt their first loss of the season on Friday night when they dropped a 28-23 decision to the Hickman County Bulldogs at home.
Hickman County (3-0, 1-0 District) controlled the action for much of the game and held a 16-3 lead at halftime before opening up a 28-10 advantage early in the fourth period.
The Tigers (1-1, 0-1 District) narrowed the gap to 28-23 thanks to a couple of long touchdown passes by quarterback Austin Stacey before forcing a Bulldog turnover with 1:43 left.
Marshall County, however, was unable to complete the dramatic comeback, as Hickman County stopped the Tigers on downs to hold on for the five-point victory.
"It was a hard fought game and we lost. We came back and battled, but we were sleep walking in the first half, which is something that I have to fix." said MCHS coach Aaron Pitts. "Our kids kept fighting and never gave up though so that's a sign there's something here."
Having averaged 36.5 points in their previous two outings, the Bulldogs recorded four plays of 40 or more yards en route to racking up 438 yards of total offense.
Hickman County did most of their damage on the ground and churned out 285 yards rushing while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Senior tailback Blake Johnston was a workhorse for the Bulldogs, as he rushed for 260 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
Quarterback Zach Roberts supplemented Hickman County's ground attack by completing 8-of-15 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Hunter Tanner was Roberts' primary target and hauled in four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Facing a Bulldog defense that allowed just a total of six points coming into Friday's contest, the Tigers struggled offensively for most of the night and finished with a modest 274 yards from scrimmage overall, which included only 53 yards in the first half.
Hickman County was particularly tough against the run and limited MCHS to 90 yards rushing on 28 carries.
Stacey accounted for almost all of Marshall County's offensive production, as he rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries and completed 10-of-26 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns to go along with one interception.
"Austin was very frustrated in the first half, but in the second half he showed his toughness and tried to lead us back," said Pitts.
Tiger tailback Malik Crawford also toted the ball 12 times for 23 yards, while Quantae Alderson rushed for six yards on two carries.
Senior wide out Kevin Peterson hauled in six passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns to lead Marshall County's receiving corps. Kevin Walker also added a 48-yard touchdown catch, while Crawford had two receptions for 18 yards. Seth Payne caught one pass for nine yards as well.
Linebacker Jalen Jones and defensive end Tyrone March both recorded nine tackles to pace the Tiger defense, while Rakeem Alexander, Brandon Outzen, and Cain Hendrix notched seven tackles apiece with Outzen registering a sack and Hendrix recovering a fumble. Jay Murphy also tallied six tackles, and Mariel Nicholson and Antonio Shelton each had five tackles.
Hickman County staggered MCHS at the start of the game, as Roberts hit Tanner for an 80-yard touchdown strike on the opening drive of the contest before Trenton Taylor tacked on the extra point to stake the Bulldogs to a 7-0 lead with 10:26 left in the first quarter.
After stopping the Tigers on downs near midfield, Hickman County was forced to punt on their second offensive series, but managed to pin MCHS at their own four-yard line with the kick.
The Bulldogs then tackled Stacey in the end zone two plays later for a safety to open up a 9-0 advantage, before Johnston broke loose for a 68-yard touchdown run on Hickman County's ensuing possession to make it 16-0 with 3:17 left in the opening quarter.
Marshall County drove from their own 24 to the Bulldog 12 on their third offensive series with the aid of two 15-yard penalties by Hickman County and a 14-yard catch by Crawford, but lost four yards on their next three plays and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Aaron Medley to trim the deficit to 16-3 early in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs threatened to reach pay dirt again after marching from their own 20 to the MCHS 2 in 10 plays on the strength of a 41-yard run by Johnson and a Tanner 14-yard catch. Marshall County managed to keep Hickman County out of the end zone and stopped the Bulldogs on downs with the help of two illegal motion penalties.
Following a three and out by the Tigers, Hickman County started their next drive at the MCHS 25 thanks to a 23-yard punt return by Johnston and a personal foul penalty on Marshall County, but lost the ball on downs again to keep the margin at 13 points heading into the break.
In the third quarter, Stacey was picked off by Johnston on the Tigers opening drive of the second half before the two teams exchanged punts.
Hickman County then stretched their lead to 22-3 when Johnston scored on a 46-yard touchdown scamper with 3:13 left in the third quarter to cap a six-play, 88-yard scoring drive by the Bulldogs.
The Tigers trimmed the deficit to 22-10 late in the third quarter thanks to a 24-yard touchdown catch by Peterson, but Johnston scored on a 20-yard touchdown run on the Bulldogs ensuing offensive series to give Hickman County a 28-10 advantage with 10:52 left in the fourth period.
After each team failed to pick up a first down on their next drive, Stacey swung the momentum in MCHS' favor when he hit Walker for a 48-yard touchdown pass while Medley tacked on the extra point to narrow the gap to 28-17 with 5:02 remaining.
Marshall County then forced a three and out by Hickman County before Peterson scored on a 70-yard touchdown catch to slice the deficit to 28-23 with 2:39 remaining after out jumping a Bulldog defender for the ball. The Tigers failed on the two-point conversion attempt to keep the deficit at five.
Following an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by Marshall County, Johnston fumbled on a third down run before Hendrix pounced on the pigskin to give MCHS possession of the ball at their own 43.
Stacey then scrambled for gains of 14 and 11 yards to move the ball down to the Hickman County 32, but he was called for intentional grounding two plays later to put the Tigers in a 3rd and 19 situation.
The Bulldogs then forced two more incompletions by Stacey to regain possession of the ball with :50 left before Roberts took a knee twice to burn the remaining time off the clock.