Knights nip Tigers in third place battle
When Marshall County (4-6, 2-3) scores over 20 points in the game this season, the odds are in the Tigers’ favor.
The blue and white are 3-1 this season when scoring over 20 in 2018 with the only loss being the season opening 35-28 overtime thriller versus undefeated 6A participant Cane Ridge (10-0) the only blemish under those circumstances.
Unfortunately, the Tigers offense sputtered on Friday night with a 21-17 loss against its newest region rival Nolensville (6-4, 2-3) in a game that determined the third and fourth place positions for region 4-4A in the opening round of the TSSAA state playoffs Friday night.
The loss sent Marshall County on the road to Crossville where the Tigers face once beaten Stone Memorial (9-1), while the Knights will head to Lafayette to take on Macon County (5-5).
"We did a lot of things we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to win," Tiger coach Thomas Osteen stated. "On defense we got a bunch of big stops, some big fourth down stops. We had a great takeaway and had a blocked kick."
"We knew we had to fight like crazy to give ourselves a chance to win, especially being down seven, eight or 10 starters, however you want to look at it," Osteen added. "Offensively and as a head coach, you always want to use your best plays. You know your strengths and weaknesses, know when to roll the dice and not to roll the dice and all of that kind of stuff."
"We needed one more play to win tonight and just couldn't find that play."
For the second straight game, starting quarterback Malik Thomison was limited in action while nursing an arm injury that forced the Tigers to rely on freshman quarterback Bryson Hammons for a large portion of the contest.
"I'm just trying to get healthy again and trying to help my team as much as I can in the process," Thomison, who threw just seven times and ran the ball nine times for 25 yards, said. "I'm doing whatever I can and I'm teaching Bryce what I know to help him lead the team."
With Thomison limited, Hammons was able to control the offense for the Tigers but the passing game was severely limited with the freshman quarterback completing just one pass out of only three attempts.
The lone completion, a 30-yard strike to receiver Marcellus Campbell at midfield with under a minute remaining, set the Tigers up for one last play for the win.
But for the second straight game, a Tiger turnover ended the contest as a fumble occurred while Hammons tried to spike the ball to set up the final play.
The Tigers lost last week to Brentwood on a pick-six to end the game as Marshall County was driving, down 21-18.
The Knights, in just their second year of varsity football, looked like a brand new squad that lost to Marshall County 49-6 to end the season just one year prior.
The Williamson County squad struck first on a long run by Colton Dooley for the 7-0 advantage heading into the second quarter.
With leading rusher Javarria Rucker out with an injury, fellow junior Kel Greer saw extensive action at running back, finishing with 100 yards on 17 attempts and two scores.
The first of two scores came in the second quarter to tie the game back at 7-7.
Nolensville quarterback Ryder Galardi answered with a beautiful 55-yard strike to the Knights leading receiver, Zach Campbell, to regain the lead at 14-7.
"We knew Campbell was going to be the key to stopping them," Tiger defensive back Keshun Gentry explained. "We kind of let him get away with some things but we got better throughout the game and stopped them on some key runs later on."
The next Tiger drive was cut short near the red zone, but placekicker Jon Estes nailed a 32-yard field goal to trim the lead to 14-10 at the break.
The Knights pushed the lead to 21-10 in the third period but once again the Tigers called on the running game and Greer answered, scoring his second touchdown on the night and the Nolensville lead was cut to 21-17.
Unfortunately, the Tigers would not score again.
But it wasn't without several chances.
The Tigers made it inside the red zone, but a fumble dashed the rally.
Following yet another Marshall County stand, the Tigers had one last chance to set up a play for the win, but the second turnover of the half finished off the game.
"We've just got to keep getting better," Gentry stated. "We get down on ourselves too easily and started thinking that one play will win the game and that's not how it is."
"We've got to play the full game until the end."
Greer got some help with the ground game from Elijah Taylor, who finished with 38 yards on 12 carries and A'ky Howard put the Tigers in good starting position with 47 kickoff return yards.
On the defensive side, Campbell and Kaden Whitson led the Tigers with eight tackles each,
Tez Allen added seven tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery, while Gentry chipped in two tackles, both for a loss, and a sack.
"We knew we weren't going to let them score very much," Campbell said. "We really only gave up two touchdowns because the other score happened because we started in bad field position and then gave them the ball on their side of the field."
"So we aren't really disappointed in our defense tonight."
Marshall County 0 10 7 0-17
Nolensville 7 7 7 0-21
Marshall County Total Offense: (185) Rushing 145, Passing 40.
Rushing: Kel Greer 17-100-2TD, Elijah Taylor 12-38, Malik Thomison 9-25, Kaden Whitson 1-1, Bryson Hammons 3-(-19).
Passing: Malik Thomison 1-7-10, Bryson Hammons 1-3-30.
Receiving: Marcellus Campbell 1-30, Kel Greer 1-10.
PAT: John Estes 1-1.
FG: John Estes 1-1-32.
Kickoffs: John Estes 3-179-2TB.
Punting: Joseph Gold 3-81.
Kickoffs: A’Ky Howard 2-47, Marcellus Campbell 1-8, Riqkyous Summers 1-0.
Tackles: Marcellus Campbell 8, Kaden Whitson 8 (BLOCKED PUNT), Tez Allen 7 (FUM REC, TFL), Keylin Talley 5 (2TFL), Joseph Gold 4, A’Ky Howard 3, Jayshon Wilcox 3 (.5 SACK, TFL), Carter Shirey 2 (.5 SACK), Keshun Gentry 2 (SACK, 2TFL), Hunter Rolof 2, Austin Wright 2, Lamarion Pierce 1, Kel Greer 1 (TFL).