Tiger comeback falls short
The Marshall County Tigers fought tooth and nail with Independence Friday night at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg, leading late in the third quarter before the Eagles scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to win 31-25.
"We had a great opponent coming in here, there is no such thing as moral victories, we came here expecting to win, we prepared all week to win and it was the best we could practice all year," said MCHS head coach Thomas Osteen. "We were just two or three plays short and so hopefully that really ramps up what we can talk about all week about the detail to pay attention to on every play to win a big game, and hopefully we can handle this the best way and be better because of it."
Another big game
Senior Chris Walker turned in his second big game of the season, putting up 219 all-purpose yards in the contest, rushing the ball 14 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while catching three passes from quarterback Ashton Posey for 34 yards.
Independence took the opening drive for a touchdown, but Josh Franklin blocked the extra point for the Tigers, who came right back, scoring on a Posey 14-yard touchdown toss to Kasey Pleas.
Caleb Estes booted the extra point for MCHS, who led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
A Hunter Dupree interception gave the ball back to the Eagles, who took advantage of the MCHS miscue, turning it in to six points on an Andrew Bunch to Nathan Johnson 47-yard pass and catch for a touchdown.
The Tigers stopped the PAT once again and MCHS proceeded to march to the shadow of the Independence goal line, but could not convert on fourth down and gave the ball back to the Eagles with 4:46 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers' defense came up huge, stopping three straight Eagles' passes to force a punt and this time, MCHS put the ball in the end zone, scoring on a Posey quarterback sneak from the one-yard line with 43 seconds remaining in the first half.
Estes booted the extra point as the Tigers took a 14-12 lead to the locker room.
The Tigers took the second half kickoff and it looked like they would score again, but the Eagles stood firm and stopped the hometown boys on a fourth down and one play from the two-yard line with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
"We have to finish drives, I am really happy executing wise from play to play, we put ourselves in a position to win," said Osteen. "We are doing a bunch of good things, we just have to develop that killer instinct, we are not there yet, but we are getting closer."
In a little less than three minutes, Bunch found Johnson again for an 18-yard touchdown and for the first time in the game, Grayson Pantall was successful on the extra point kick, making it 19-14 Eagles with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Back on top
Pantall drilled the ensuing kickoff into the MCHS end zone, and after a two-yard loss on first down, Walker took a reverse handoff and ran for a spectacular 82-yard touchdown, through and over what seemed like the entire Independence defense as the huge crowd roared, making it 20-19.
Posey would punch in the two-point conversion run, putting the Tigers up by three points with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter.
"Wow! That's one of those moments you put on a highlight tape, I was in awe myself of that run he made," said Osteen. "Chris is the leader of our football team, he sets a great example for us and he will make sure we have a really special season and I can't wait for the things to come ahead."
The third quarter ended with Independence deep in MCHS territory at the eight-yard line, and three plays into the final period, Bunch hooked up with Johnson for another touchdown.
Cale Shelton came up with a huge block on the extra point try, keeping MCHS within a field goal at 25-22 with 11:17 remaining in the game.
Both squads were forced to punt on their next possession and the Tigers had the ball back with 7:48 left in the game.
Moments later, disaster struck when Ben Beavers picked off a Posey pass and Independence would go on to march 65 yards, scoring on a Dom Childress five-yard run with less than two minutes to play in the game.
The Tigers faced a nine-point deficit, but continued to fight, driving deep into Independence territory where Estes booted a 27-yard field goal with eight second left in the game, making it a 31-25 contest.
Estes' ensuing onside kick attempt was recovered by the Eagles, ending the game.
The Tigers (1-1) travel to Page next week to open up District 12-AA play versus the Patriots (2-0).
Posey finished with 276 yards passing, completing 23-35 tosses, while rushing for 18 yards and two touchdowns.
Pleas caught six passes for 89 yards, while Darius McKenzie caught four balls for 73 yards, D'Andre Brown had five grabs for 59 yards, and Jay Howard snagged three Posey passes for 24 yards.
Bennielle Hill rushed the rock for 57 yards on 10 carries.
On defense, Antonio Shelton led the squad with 11 tackles and a quarterback sack, Cale Shelton came up with nine tackles, Franklin finished with eight tackles, and Peyton Williams spent a lot of time in the Independence backfield, recording one sack, while tackling five Independence players behind the line of scrimmage.
"I knew we would play well tonight," said Osteen. "I'm really happy we put ourselves in position to be there at the end of the game, so now we have a lot of teachable moments on how to execute and win a big game, because if we are going to go deep in the playoffs like we plan to do, we have to beat a team like this and I am really happy with how far we have come, but we have a long way to go."