Tigers blank East Hickman
Win and leave no doubt. The Marshall County Tigers (5-5, 4-4 District) cemented a spot in the playoffs by going on the road and defeating the East Hickman Eagles 28-0 on a cold and blustery Friday night.
MCHS had won all three previous meetings against the Eagles and built a 14-0 lead in the first half of Friday's contest before tacking on two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cruise to the 28-point victory.
Thanks to Friday's win, the Tigers finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the District standings and earned the seventh seed in Quadrant 2 of the Class 4A playoffs where they will play the East Hamilton Hurricanes in the first round on Nov. 2 in Chattanooga.
Although East Hickman held a huge edge in time of possession (39:07-8:53) and ran three times as many plays (78-26) as Marshall County, the Tiger defense limited the Eagles to just 242 yards of total offense by forcing two turnovers and recording 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for -107 yards.
The Eagles (4-6, 2-6 District) kept the ball on the ground for much of the night, but finished with just 107 yards rushing on 55 carries after quarterback Austin King was sacked seven times for -71 yards.
Tailback Joseph Collier turned in a workmanlike performance for East Hickman and toted the ball 28 times for 115 yards. Landon Graham also added 28 yards rushing on five carries, and Trey Phillips tallied 27 yards on four carries.
King was effective when he did get time to throw and completed 13-of-22 passes for 135 yards, while Phillips had his lone pass attempt picked off by Tiger defensive back Kevin Peterson in the first quarter.
Phillips was King's primary target and hauled in six passes for 66 yards. Graham had five receptions for 44 yards as well, while Brandon Harvill snared two passes for 25 yards.
Defensive end Brandon Outzen had a monster night and helped the Tigers notch their first shutout of the season by recording a team high 14 tackles and three sacks. Middle linebacker Jalen Jones also tallied 13 tackles, registered two sacks, and returned a blocked punt 10 yards for a touchdown, while O'Shea Tears and Jay Murphy both had 11 tackles with Tears recording one sack. Rekeem Alexander added 10 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery as well for MCHS, and Husain Jefferson and Barry Mayes chipped in nine and six tackles respectively.
The Tigers, meanwhile, finished with only 215 yards of total offense, but committed just one turnover.
Despite being without the services of sophomore wide out Chris Walker, who is sidelined for the rest of the season due to a broken arm, Marshall County quarterback Austin Stacey put up solid numbers and completed 7-of-10 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown to go along with one interception.
Malik Crawford and Rhye Stephens both caught three passes for 80 and 40 yards respectively with Crawford scoring a touchdown. Peterson also had one reception for five yards.
Except for a scintillating 85-yard touchdown run by Peterson, the Tigers had trouble getting their ground game going and rushed for only 90 yards on 16 carries.
Peterson led MCHS with 77 yards on six carries, while Crawford toted the pigskin three times for 16 yards.
"It was kind of a strange game," said Marshall County coach Aaron Pitts. "Defensively we played well and made big plays when we had too. Offensively, we didn't execute how we wanted all the time, but we scored enough points to win."
The Tigers got off to an inauspicious start, as Phillips picked off Stacey on the first play off the game to give East Hickman the ball at their own 44.
After the Eagles failed to pick up a first down, Marshall County caught a break when Phillips mishandled the snap on the punt attempt and Mayes tackled him for a 19-yard loss at the East Hickman 29.
MCHS advanced to the 13 thanks to a 16-yard catch by Stephens, but saw the drive stall out after that point and were stopped on downs when Peterson was dropped for a 10-yard loss on a 4th and 4 run.
The Eagles moved the ball to the Tiger 24 in six plays with the help of a 47-yard run by Phillips on a fake punt, before Peterson snuffed out the threat by picking off a pass by Phillips on a trick play and returning it 49 yards to the East Hickman 36.
Marshall County then found pay dirt four plays later when Stacey scored on a three-yard touchdown plunge while Aaron Medley tacked on the extra point to give MCHS a 7-0 lead with 2:44 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles drove from their own 30 to the Tiger 12 on their ensuing possession, but Marshall County's defense bowed it's neck and stopped East Hickman on downs when Outzen and Murphy dropped Collier for a two-yard gain on a 4th and 3 run.
Peterson then broke loose for an 85-yard touchdown run two plays later to stretch MCHS' lead to 14-0. After making several tacklers miss during the long TD jaunt, Peterson was knocked off balance at the Eagle 35, but rolled on top of the East Hickman defender before popping back up and outrunning the rest of the defense to the end zone.
The Eagles came up empty on their final two drives of the first half, prior to advancing deep into Tiger territory on their second possession of the third quarter and had a 1st and goal at the MCHS 6.
Disaster struck for East Hickman a few moments later when the center snapped the ball over King's head on first down and Tears dropped him for an 18-yard loss. The Eagles eventually had to settle for a 35-yard field goal attempt, but the holder was unable to catch the snap cleanly and Mayes tackled kicker Curtis Nims for six-yard loss.
Following a Marshall County punt, East Hickman picked up one first down prior to being forced to kick the ball away. Quantae Alderson then broke through the Eagles' punt protection and blocked Phillips' kick before Jones scooped up the ball up at the 10 and rumbled into the end zone to push the Tigers lead to 21-0 with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter.
After MCHS stopped East Hickman on downs at midfield, the Tigers were called for a holding penalty, but Crawford caught a short swing pass from Stacey and weaved his way through the Eagle defense for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 with 5:39 remaining.
East Hickman then advanced to the Marshall County 29 in the waning moments of the game before Alexander recovered a fumble by King to preserve the shutout for the Tigers.