Tigers fall to 6A Brentwood
Marshall County (4-5) entered Friday night’s final non-region contest versus Brentwood (7-2) on a virtual stretcher with almost every key player nursing some sort of injury or out of action all together, leaving most spectators expecting a huge win by the perennial 6A juggernaut out of Williamson County.
And for all intents and purposes the expected outcome was not a shocker as Brentwood came into the contest with just two losses, one by just three points to undefeated Cane Ridge 27-24 and the other by nine points to 2105 5A State Champion and 2016 runnerup Independence.
But just like every game this season in which the Tigers were the unanimous underdog, the blue and white gave the opposing squad all it could handle, taking an 11-0 lead deep into the second quarter and trailed by just three points (21-18) with the ball with under four minutes left in the contest before a pick-six ended Marshall County's hopes with a 28-18 loss.
"That was a 6A team out there and they came in here and thought they were going to run all over us," sophomore receiver A'ky Howard, who grabbed a 49-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, stated. "That's probably what everyone in the state expected, but we fought hard and we prepared to win all week long and we never had a doubt that we could. And that really showed out there."
The Tigers finally wrapped up a brutal non-conference schedule that included undefeated 6A Cane Ridge (9-0), a 7-2 Shelbyville Central squad, a Pearl-Cohn (7-2) team that is 14 points from heading into the final week undefeated and of course, Brentwood.
Brentwood was shell-shocked initially as the usually high-scoring Bruins were blanked by Marshall County and the Tigers capped off a scoring drive with a 12-yard tailback pass from Javarria Rucker to Marcellus Campbell and quarterback Bryson Hammons added the two-point conversion run for the 8-0 advantage.
With starting quarterback Malik Thomison playing sporadic minutes while nursing a serious injury, the freshman Hammons (5-22, 89 yards, TD) proved capable of leading the offense, putting the Tigers in scoring position once again midway in the second quarter, setting a Jon Estes 29-yard field goal to put Marshall County up 11-0 to stun the capacity crowd on the visitors side.
Brentwood finally put points on the board later in the second quarter but the Tigers lock down defensive unit was able hold tight and Marshall County took a 11-7 lead into the break.
"We didn't come out hot headed and we knew who we were and I think that showed," Kel Greer, who turned in a monster defensive effort, said. "We had a good week of practice and we planned on coming out and fighting to the end and that showed."
To say the Tigers and Bruins would be in a fight to the end would be an understatement.
Brentwood came out in the second half and scored two quick touchdowns for a 21-11 lead that thinned out half of the crowd on the Tigers side of the field.
The Marshall County fans that stuck around for the ending would be in for a treat.
The Tigers first opportunity came on a Brentwood fumble.
Marshall County had the ball inside the 20-yard line, yet failed to put the ball into the end zone, setting up Estes for a chip shot.
Unfortunately the ball hooked to the right, giving the ball back to the Bruins, which seemed to end any hopes of a comeback.
After the Tigers defense held once again, coach Osteen used a little trickery to keep the home team in the ballgame.
Setting up around the middle of the field, Hammons took the flea flicker and spotted a wide open A'ky Howard streaking down the field for a 49-yard pass to trim the lead to 21-18.
"That play really wasn't designed for me," Howard explained. "So, it was supposed to go to Bryson but the corner moved and I just stuck and I looked and Bryson threw it."
"It was kind of under thrown a little bit, but that's ok," Howard added. "I came up, caught the ball, I saw Boo (Shirley) in the corner of my vision and saw he had the block and ran in for the touchdown."
The Tigers defense starred one last time on the night, stopping the Bruins offense on third down and in one of the biggest stops of the season, Marshall County stuffed the middle on fourth-and-one to gain possession for the potential final drive of the contest at midfield down just 21-18.
After gaining four yards on the first three downs, Bruin defensive end Xiere Howard stepped in front of a Hammons pass and ran 50 yards untouched to put the game out of reach at 28-18 with just minutes left to go.
"We just knew we had to score on that play," Greer said. "Coach Osteen put together a couple of good plays he knew we were going to have to have toward the end of the game. We used a couple of them and they worked well, we just ran out of time to get the win."
The Tigers end the season Friday night with the most important game of the campaign at its newest rival-- Nolensville (5-4, 2-2).
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The Knights and Tigers are tied for third place in the region with the winner taking third and the loser ending the season with fourth place and going to visit the number one seed from region 3-3A.
The Knights 5-4 record is a bit deceptive, just as the Tigers 4-5 is equally off putting.
Nolensville lost to tie for first-place Maplewood by just a score (20-13) last week and lost to the same Brentwood club by just one score (27-19) in week six.
The Knights are just 28 points away from an undefeated season.
However, the Tigers held a two-touchdown lead on the same Maplewood team with under two minutes left in the first half and lost to the other 4-4A first place squad by a mere point (14-13) in week three.
The difference between team one through four in region 4-4A is a matter of inches.
"I feel like we're in a good spot," senior lineman X'Zavier Garrett said. "I feel like we can still do big things in the playoffs and I feel like if we continue to grow tighter like coach Osteen's been saying we can, we'll be a force in the postseason and have a great run."
Brentwood 0 7 14 7-28
Marshall County 3 8 0 7-18
Marshall County-John Estes 29-yard Field Goal.
Marshall County-Marcellus Campbell 12-yard pass from Javarria Rucker, Bryson Hammons two-point run.
Brentwood- Jordan Nicholas 6-yard run, Tabor Miller PAT.
Brentwood-Walker Merrill 10-yard pass from Cade Granzow, Miller PAT.
Brentwood-Michael Burke 6-yard run, Miller PAT.
Marshall County-A’Ky Howard 49-yard pass from Hammons, Estes PAT.
Brentwood-Xiere Howard 55-yard interception return, Miller PAT.
Marshall County Offense
Total Offense: Rushing 42, Passing 101.
Rushing: Javarria Rucker 11-39, Kel Greer 9-16, Malik Thomison 5-13, Elijah Taylor 6-7, Bryson Hammons 5-(-33).
Passing: Bryson Hammons 5-22-89-TD-2INT, Javarria Rucker 1-1-12-TD, Malik Thomison 0-1.
Receiving: Marcellus Campbell 5-53-TD, A’Ky Howard 1-49-TD.
PAT: John Estes 1-1.
FG: John Estes 1-2-29
Kickoffs: John Estes 4-205.
Punts: Joseph Gold 3-103.
Kickoffs: Javarria Rucker 3-77, Marcellus Campbell 1-36, A’Ky Howard 1-17.