Tigers restore the roar

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Tigers bust out through the "Restore the Roar" banner before their big 40-26 opening night win over Shelbyville. Photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Marshall County Tigers presented first-year head Coach Thomas Osteen with a spectacular opening night win Friday, outgunning Shelbyville 40-26 in front of a packed house at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg.

"It feels real great with all the hard work we put in and hopefully it will solidify our kids that we are stepping in the right direction and doing things right with the program," said Osteen. "We talked about how they were going to face adversity at points in the game tonight and it was all about how we were going to handle that adversity and we handled it in a great fashion. We could have given up there in the fourth quarter, but we kept on plugging and found a way to win."

Walker leads team

MCHS put up 485 yards of total offense in the contest with senior standout Chris Walker leading the way in restoring the Tigers' roar.

"It felt good to put that many points on the board and as a coach I felt like we left some out there, but it was a great overall team win," said Osteen. "We talked about all week, creating turnovers taking care of the ball on offense and we didn't take care of it as good as we liked tonight and the game wouldn't have been as close as it was at the end, but hats off to the defense for creating all those turnovers."

Walker scored four touchdowns in the game with two coming on the ground, one on a touchdown reception, plus a 90-yard interception return.

Walker ended up with 244 all-purpose yards, including a team leading 141 yards on the ground as he toted the rock 13 times.

"I can't say enough about Chris Walker, he made big plays all night tonight and in my opinion he is a Division 1 football player and hopefully some of these colleges around here will be taking notice of that," said Osteen.

QB successful

Ashton Posey turned in a solid performance in his debut, throwing for three touchdowns as the junior signal caller completed 15 out of 29 passes for 151 yards and no interceptions, while running the ball 11 times for 60 yards.

The Tigers did not score on their first two possessions in the game before Shelbyville quarterback Mason Cunningham gave the Golden Eagles a 6-0 lead when he scored on a one-yard run with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter.

Chris Walker (9) beats Shelbyville's OJ Davis 92) for a touchdown pass from Ashton Posey to open the scoring for Tigers.

Marshall County answered quickly, marching 64 yard in just eight plays with the score coming when Posey scooped up a bad snap and rolled right before finding Walker in the end zone from eight yards out.

Damion Richard's extra point boot gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead with 3:16 left in the opening quarter.

Big stop

Shelbyville could not get much on their next drive as the Tigers' defense came up big when senior linebacker Cale Shelton sacked Cunningham on a third down play, forcing a Golden Eagles punt as the first quarter expired.

The Tigers took over and marched all the way to the Shelbyville 16-yard line where the drive was halted on three straight incompletions.

MCHS was in control on the defensive side of the ball, forcing a three-and-out with 5:24 remaining in the first half.

Kasey Pleas (10) and Darius McKenzie (18) celebrate Pleas' second quarter touchdown catch.

A penalty on the Tiger punt return put MCHS in a hole at their own 16-yard, but from there, Posey went to work, guiding the offense down the field before hooking up with Kacey Pleas for a touchdown after a holding call disallowed a score by the same combination moments earlier.

Once again, Richard's PAT was true and the Tigers led 14-6 at halftime.

Keeping it going

Jay Howard returned the second half kickoff to the 40-yard line and from there the offense went to work again.

Posey tossed a third down pass to Howard for a first down inside Shelbyville territory to keep the drive going before the Tigers pounded the ball six consecutive snaps with Walker busting in from four yards out for the score, making it 20-6 after the PAT sailed wide.

The Golden Eagles mounted a drive that went to the Tigers' 19-yard line when Walker picked off Cunningham and raced down the home sidelines 90 yards for a touchdown.

Richard split the uprights for the PAT and the Tigers were out in front 20-6 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.

Eagles threaten

Shelbyville came right back, scoring 67 seconds later on a Cunningham 12-yard touchdown strike to Centa Muse.

The Golden Eagles' defense stopped the Tigers on downs, but MCHS returned the favor and forced a Shelbyville punt three plays later, but the kick was fumbled and Jacob Davidson fell on the loose ball at the Marshall County 38-yard line.

A Payton Hood sack spoiled the turnover bid for Shelbyville and the Tigers' ensuing drive lasted just three plays before a punt gave the ball back to the Bedford County squad.

Two plays later, Cunningham hooked up with Muse on a 52-yard touchdown strike and after a Micah Thompson extra point, MCHS led 26-19 as the third quarter wound down.

Tie game

The Golden Eagles stopped the Tigers' offense for the third straight series and took over at their own 32-yard line after an MCHS punt.

Shelbyville drove the ball to the MCHS seven-yard line where Jamal Harden busted into the end zone and Thompson's game tying PAT was good with 8:42 remaining in the game.

The Tigers were not going to let the momentum fully shift as Posey found Pleas on a sideline pass two plays later that resulted in a 65-yard touchdown.

The PAT kick was no good with 7:43 left in the contest and the Tigers were ahead by six points at 32-26.

Tigers take control

The Golden Eagles mounted another drive and were looking to score, but a downfield strip, followed by a Peyton Williams fumble recovery gave the ball back to the Tigers at their own 15-yard line.

Three plays later, the Tigers gave it right back on a fumble and the Golden Eagles drove to MCHS six-yard where Walker made a diving interception in the end zone for touchback with 2:19 left in the game.

On the next play, Walker put the icing on the win when he raced 80 yards for a touchdown.

On the following snap, Tiger cornerback Josh Franklin ended the opening night festivities when he recovered a loose ball at the Shelbyville 44-yard line.

Tiger stats

Marshall County linebacker Cale Shelton (6), with help from Dartavious Lyttle (71), tackles Shelbyville quarterback Mason Cunningham (7).

Bennielle Hill was the workhorse on the ground for the Tigers, rushing for 89 yards on 16 carries, while D'Andre Brown had 11 touches for 44 yards.

Pleas led the receiving corps with three receptions for 99 and two scores and Jay Howard also had three catches for 16 yards.

Walker and Caleb Fields both had a pair of catches, while Brown, Darius McKenzie, Tre Crutcher, and Hill all had one reception.

Walker also had a team leading 11 tackles on defense, Cale Shelton had 10 tackles, Antonio Shelton (fumble recovery) came up with eight takedowns, Hood (sack) and Hill had six apiece, while Williams (sack, fumble recovery), Franklin, and Blair Conger all had four tackles.

This week

The Tigers will be back in action next week when they host the Independence Eagles, who beat the Tigers 49-14 last season in the first ever meeting between the two schools.

"They are a 6A team, they made the third round of the playoffs last year, so we will have out hands full next week, but no doubt we will be ready," said Osteen.