Tigers suffer near miss in overtime

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
The Tigers line up for the last play of the game Friday night at Cane Ridge.
Tribune photo by Mike Inglsbee

A week before the first regular game of the season, WUXP (Channel 30) announced the Marshall County versus Cane Ridge contest would be the Nashville Friday Night Lights Game of the Week.

That decision pretty much assured that the Tigers would be playing in front of the other major Midstate press corps--all who had chosen the Ravens to cruise to an early victory over Marshall County.

It became clear very early when Tigers running back Elijah Taylor scored a touchdown run in the first quarter to answer the first Cane Ridge score that this game would be a fight to the end.

And although ultimately, the Ravens scored the only touchdown in the overtime period to claim a 35-28 win, the Tigers’ performance assured the fans that this season is going to be every bit as competitive as the last three.

"There is no moral victories, we work too hard for that," Tiger coach Thomas Osteen said. "But I'd be lying to tell you there wasn't a bunch of nervous people wondering how we were going to respond tonight, coaches included."

"I'm just happy the way we fought," Osteen added. "We didn't back down from a team that was really more talented than us. And we gave ourselves a chance to win."

The Tigers had numerous players that had never played more than special teams before Friday night turn in great performances that once again put MCHS in the postseason hunt for the title.

Quarterback Malik Thomison, who did not play a single snap behind center last season, turned in a masterful performance in his starting debut.

The senior signal caller went 7-for-11 through the air for 147 yards and two touchdown throws and also led the Tigers on the ground with 91 yards on 10 attempts, including a 67-yard touchdown run.

Junior Javarria Rucker also turned in a magical performance with 62 receiving yards on three catches along with a game-tying 54-yard snag with less than a minute to play.

Rucker also notched 27 yards on the ground on seven carries and 95 kick return yards to lead the team.

A'ky Howard led the Tigers in receiving with 63 yards and a score and Dagon Stacey chipped in one catch for 17 yards.

Senior Marcellus Campbell led the Tigers with 10 tackles and 40 kickoff return yards, while Kel Greer and Antonio Greer each chipped in six tackles apiece.

Jayshon Wilcox added five tackles and a sack.

For the Ravens, Devon Starling, who holds offers from Howard and UT-Martin, was the Tiger killer, rushing for 236 yards and four touchdowns on 24 attempts, while backfield mate Jacquez Norman, who holds offers from Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, UT-Martin, Southern Mississippi and Tennessee State finished with 122 all-purpose yards (61 rushing on six attempts and 49 receiving on three catches).

But the Tigers stayed in the game on a barrage of big plays.

After the Ravens had a 50 plus yard touchdown run called back, the Tigers tied it 14-14 on a tremendous 63-yard touchdown catch from Howard.

"Coach called bunch and I was like, cool, because we ran this a lot in 7-on-7's (summer ball) and he said flow, so I go into the flats," Howard recalled. "So I'm in the flats and saw the linebacker come, just straight up blitz and I looked up and Malik threw it."

"I caught it and my eyes, I tell ya….my eyes got so big. I saw the corner come up and when I got to the 20, I saw Javarria (Rucker) cut off the last man and all I saw was green grass, so I exploded through it."

The Tigers took the lead midway through the third quarter when Thomison got loose for a 67-yard touchdown run, but a botched extra point gave the Tigers a 20-14 lead.

The Ravens wasted little time reclaiming the lead at 21-20 when Norman ran straight up the middle for a 27-yard run.

Cane Ridge looked to have finally put the game away on the next possession by putting together an almost six minute touchdown drive to claim a 28-20 lead with 1:16 remaining in the contest.

And although Thomison had never been in a game-ending two-minute drill in a varsity game, the senior quarterback calmly drove the Tigers down the field before hitting Rucker for a 54-yard touchdown pass and Rucker followed with the two-point conversion run, tying the game at 28.

"(On the tying TD) some men are running their man off and then I'll fake a hand off and then I'll fake my best release on the outside and make basically a wheel route," Rucker said. "If I'm open, then I'm open and Malik will put it on me and if not, he has another choice."

"#5 (Starling) was coming at me on an angle and I knew I had to make him miss to keep us in the game."

Heading into overtime, the skies opened up to let down a mini-monsoon on the sellout crowd and covered the field in water.

On the first play of overtime, Starling dropped the direct snap, but somehow did not just manage to recover, he also danced around four would-be Marshall County tacklers for the score.

The wet field turned out to be too much for the Tiger offense.

On the second play from scrimmage, Rucker slipped and fell while making a run and the final play flew out of the outstretched hands of the Tiger receiver.

"We're gonna be playing a bunch of teams like that this year that have more speed and athleticism than us, so we learned as a coaching staff that this type of game plan was going to be our best," Osteen said. "We executed it well for the most part. We've got to tackle better and hold on better, but this team is a whole lot better than we were a month ago."

And on top of top-notch coaching, the Tigers also have a stable of seniors that have won and lost in huge games to let the underclassmen know that once a game is over, it's time to focus on the next opponent and not dwell on a loss.

"I just tell them to keep their heads up because when we came in from middle school to high school my freshman year it was my first time losing a game really," Xavier Garrett said. "So really, I just tell them to keep their heads up because there's another game to focus on and get ready."

The Tigers travel to 5A Shelbyville Central on Friday.

Marshall County 7 0 13 8 0-28

Cane Ridge 14 0 7 7 7-35

Marshall County Offense

Passing: Malik Thomison 7-11-147-2TD

Receiving: Ak’y Howard 1-63-TD, Javarria Rucker 2-62-TD, Dagon Stacey 1-17, Elijah Taylor 1-4, Christian Stacey 1-1

Rushing: Thomison 10-91-TD, Rucker 7-27, Taylor 9-20-TD, Dagon Stacey 5-5, Christian Stacey 1-1

Kicking

PAT: John Estes 2-for-3

Kickoffs: Dylan Hazard 5-141

Punts: Dagon Stacey 2-70

Returns

Kickoffs: Rucker 2-95, Marcellus Campbell 2-40, Howard 1-9

Defense

Tackles: Marcellus Campbell 10, Kel Greer 6 (.5 sack), Antonio Warren 6, Jayshon Wilcox 5 (sack), Dagon Stacey 4, Christian Stacey 4, Keylin Talley 4, Malik Thomison 3, Boo Shirey 3, Tez Allen 3 (.5 sack), Kaden Whitson 2, Austin Wright 2 (sack), Hayden Sheppard 1, Connor Hilton 1 (INT), Ethan Petty 1, Xavier Garrett 1 (.5 sack), Abel Gray 1.