Tigersí two-point overtime conversion shocks Stone Memorial
One of the most popular sports adages is the phrase 'it's never over until itís over.'
And despite its massive overuse in every different sport and everyday life, on Friday night the Marshall County Tigers proved why that rally cry will always remain relevant.
Down 29-22 to region 3-4A number-one seed Stone Memorial (9-2) in overtime, the fourth-seeded Tigers (5-6) faced a second-and-goal from around the 40-yard line.
With the Panther crowd reaching a fever pitch looking at what seemed to be a miraculous Stone Memorial comeback, the stunned Tiger crowd watched Marshall County line up to attempt what seemed like an futile mission.
"We've got to make the right play call and we've got to trust coach and whatever he says we've got to do," senior offensive lineman Halen Bryant recalled thinking. "Whatever he decides we've got to run the play to the best of our ability."
Lining up with over 35 yards to the goal line, the Panthers expected a pass and coach Thomas Osteen gambled correctly, handing the ball off to Javarria Rucker, who ran through a massive gap for a 28-yard gain to shock the home crowd and put the Tigers at the eight-yard line for fourth down.
The Panthers gave the Tigers a pair of gifts with two straight offside calls to put Marshall County on the two-yard line with one last play to run.
"I just had faith, that's all," senior quarterback Malik Thomison, who turned in a monster game after playing limited minutes while nursing an injury the previous two contests, said. "I just had faith in the Lord that's he's going to do something and just went out there and ran the play coach dialed up."
Naturally, the Tiger brain trust went with Rucker once again and the junior running back delivered, scoring his third touchdown of the night to prolong the game one more play.
If the suspense before the previous play had not been enough, Osteen put every person in the stadium on their feet by making the call to go for a two-point conversion for the win instead of the standard extra point kick to tie the game and prolong overtime.
"In general my thought is always extend the game and let the players play the game on the field," Osteen, who has won the opening round playoff game in four-out of his five seasons in Lewisburg, explained. "I'm a guy that wants to kick the extra point and tie it more than go for two."
"But as good as their quarterback was I felt we were going to have a tough time stopping him every time down here," Osteen continued. "I felt like on the next overtime series, if they would have went second, they would have went for two for the win."
"We saw how they lined up, they had number 45 (Ethan Norris-RB) on the right side over here, and we wanted to run sweep right because we felt like number 45 could not outrun Javarria and it worked out in our favor."
Left for dead with just two plays to gain 35 yards and a touchdown the Tigers, who overcame an extraordinary amount of injuries to key players to even qualify for the postseason, believed in their coaches and believed in each other to stun the state and knock off a heavily favored top-ranked Stone Memorial squad on its home turf.
"Let's go, three yards and get it," Thomison said to his teammates prior to the two-point conversion. "Season's on the line, we've got to get it. Let's go."
For the third year in a row, the Tigers will match up against a fellow region 4-4A team in the second round as 4-4A once again swept 3-4A.
Marshall County garners a much-anticipated rematch against Tullahoma (9-2), which beat Livingston Academy (5-6) 37-23.
Top-seed Maplewood (10-1) easily took down DeKalb County (3-8) 56-7, while Nolensville (7-4) blew out Macon County (5-6) to set up a rematch between the Panthers and Knights.
The Tigersí win over Stone Memorial marked the second time in three years the Panthers went into the postseason as the number one seed and went home after the first week of the playoffs.
In 2016 the Panthers took an undefeated 10-0 record in the playoffs before losing 28-8 to a 4-6 Spring Hill squad.
Stone Memorial started 2018 with seven straight wins before suffering it's only regular season loss to 5A Lenoir City (5-6) and came into the playoffs full of confidence after easily beating 6A William Blount 27-0 on the final game of the regular season.
However, the Tigers looked to be its own worst enemy at the start, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter, all of which were called back on penalties to end the first quarter with a 0-0 stalemate.
Both teams scored a touchdown in the second quarter but a Christian Stacey safety gave the Tigers a 9-7 advantage heading into the second half.
Marshall County started a clock-eating drive midway through the third quarter with Thomison and Rucker alternating runs before Rucker broke off a 28-yard run to set the Tigers up at the 10-yard line.
The talented running back needed just two more runs of seven and three yards to push the Tigersí lead to 16-7 with just 2:03 remaining in the third quarter.
Stone Memorial answered with a five-yard touchdown pass over the middle and kicked the extra point to bring the game back to one possession in the fourth quarter.
On second-and-20 on the next Tiger possession, Thomison aired it out to Marcellus Campbell, who turned on the burners and outran the Panther secondary to score on a 60-yard play with 9:38 left in the game.
"The play call was just me running a drag and him rolling out one way and then looking back my way and I told him I would be open," Campbell recalled. "I'm glad he looked at me. Throw, touchdown, another week."
The Tigers left the door open for the Panthers after a missed extra point kept the game at one possession for Stone Memorial at 22-14.
The missed extra point would come back to haunt the Tigers on the final drive after the Panthers converted on three fourth down plays before finally scoring a 40-yard heave to the back of the end zone and adding a two-point conversion to tie the game at 22 with just 21 seconds remaining.
Marshall County almost pulled out a little magic of its own on the following possession with Thomison hitting Campbell well within field goal range, but Osteen helplessly watched the clock tick out with no timeouts to stop the clock and send out Jon Estes for the attempt.
The Tigers go on a revenge tour of sorts, with a trip to Tullahoma, who beat Marshall County 14-13 during week three of the regular season.
"(Tullahoma) has two key players, number 21 (Kobe Burks-RB) and number 12 (Ben Fulton-QB)," sophomore wide receiver A'Ky Howard stated. "We need to stop them if we want to win."
"Come in Sunday with a hard hat on and like I said before, be prepared to work," Howard added. "We've just got to keep fighting and win round two against Tullahoma. One week at a time."
The Tigers would then face Maplewood or Nolensville in round three after a potential Tullahoma win.
Both teams beat the Tigers in the regular season by slim margins.
"This is a bunch of kids who have been through fires all year and obviously it's felt like the universe is against us a lot this year at various times," Osteen said. "These kids have battled through that and never quit."
"I'm sure there's been lots of times where they felt 'what else can we do?'," Osteen added. "We worked so hard and been on the short end a few times. I feel like these kids deserve this tonight for their hard work all year round."
Marshall County 0 9 7 6 8-30
Stone Memorial 0 7 0 15 7-29
Marshall County-Christian Stacey safety.
Stone Memorial- Ethan Norris 3-yard run, Jaiden Sadowski PAT.
Marshall County- Javarria Rucker 11-yard run, John Estes PAT.
Marshall County- Javarria Rucker 3-yard run, John Estes PAT.
Stone Memorial-Ethan Norris 3-yard pass from Thomas Arnold, Jaiden Sadowski PAT.
Marshall County-Marcellus Campbell 60-yard pass from Malik Thomison, PAT NG.
Stone Memorial-Jacob Brown 35-yard pass from Thomas Arnold, Thomas Arnold 2-point run.
Stone Memorial- Will Delk 10-yard pass from Thomas Arnold, Jaiden Sadowski PAT.
Marshall County- Javarria Rucker 1-yard run, Javarria Rucker 2-point run.
Marshall County Total Offense: 304 yards.
Rushing: 214 yards.
Passing: 90 yards.
Marshall County Rushing: Javarria Rucker 32-181-3TD, Kel Greer 7-17, Malik Thomison 11-16.
Passing: Malik Thomison 6-10-90-TD-INT, Kel Greer 1-1-0.
Receiving: Marcellus Campbell 3-66-TD, Dagon Stacey 2-18, Javarria Rucker 2-6.
PAT: John Estes 2-3.
Kickoffs: John Estes 4-154.
Punts: Joseph Gold 3-104-34.7.
Kickoffs: Javarria Rucker 2-43, Marcellus Campbell 2-0, Kel Greer 1-0.
Tackles: Marcellus Campbell 8, Malik Thomison 7, Keshun Gentry 7 (.5TFL, SACK, INT), Kaylin Talley 7, Christian Stacey 6 (Safety, SACK), Dagon Stacey 5, Jayshon Wilcox 5, Tez Allen 4 (.5TFL), Kel Greer 4 (1.5TFL), Carter Shirey 4 (TFL),
Riqkyous Summers 3 (TFL), Connor Hilton 2 (TFL), Joseph Gold 2 (TFL), Kaden Whitson 1.