Tigers’ season ends at Tullahoma
The Tigers first round upset over Stone Memorial last Friday set up a rematch against Tullahoma, a squad Marshall County (4-8) lost to by a single point, 14-13, in the third game of the season which started a three game losing streak.
Fast forward to Friday night as Marshall County had a boatload of confidence after the Stone Memorial win and also held the advantage in the experience column, having played in three straight quarterfinal games (3-0), while the Wildcats had made the quarterfinals just three times in their entire history (1979, 1987, 2010).
Unfortunately, like so many games in the 2018 season, the Tigers were their own worst enemies and the Wildcats came away with the 16-14 win.
The Wildcats (10-2) face another region 4-4A squad in the quarterfinals after Maplewood (11-1) easily took down Nolensville (7-5) 28-3 in Nashville.
The game was a defensive battle with Tullahoma gaining just 243 yards and the Tigers finishing with a dismal 161 total yards with 60 coming on one play, a 60-yard touchdown pass from Malik Thomison to Javarria Rucker.
"Our defensive strategy going in was knowing they liked the outside run a lot," senior defensive back Marcellus Campbell stated. "After we stopped that we knew it would be a long game for them offensively."
Campbell set up the first score by either team after picking off a halfback pass by the Wildcats in the first minute of the contest.
The Tigers methodically marched down the field, alternating runs by Rucker and Kel Tears before Tears crossed in the end zone on the seventh play of the drive from three yards out.
Marshall County held a 7-0 lead the entire first quarter, but the second period belonged to the home team.
Wildcat signal caller Ben Fulton hit Ty Cox for a 10-yard score before hooking up with Hunter Palmer from 34-yards out to give Tullahoma the 14-7 advantage with halftime close at hand,
The Tigers had a great opportunity to put points on the board before the half was over, driving down to the 13-yard line, but in a move that would come back to haunt the visitors, instead of taking the points with a field goal, a fourth down fake field goal did not pan out and the score stayed at 14-7 at the intermission.
The Tigers defense owned the second half, stopping the Wildcats time after time before Marshall County finally came alive on offense to tie the contest up.
With 3:48 remaining in the third quarter, Thomison hit a streaking Rucker for a 59-yard bomb to tie the contest at 14-14.
Marshall County looked ready to take the lead in the fourth quarter when Riqkyous Summers picked off a tipped Fulton pass to give the Tigers possession with a short field to work with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
A 15-yard pass to A'ky Howard put the ball inside the 10-yard line, but three straight runs went nowhere to send out the field goal unit.
The tie-breaking field attempt never happened as the Wildcat special teams unit blew past the Tiger blockers and holder Bryson Hammons was forced to attempt a run that was quickly snuffed out.
The Tigers’ defensive unit came up huge once again to give the offense the ball with a chance to win the game.
However, Thomison dropped back to pass into his own end zone and was called for intentional grounding and ultimately gave the Wildcats the game winning points at 16-14 via a safety.
The Tigers got one last chance to put together a winning drive, but the first play from scrimmage would result in a Thomison interception and end Marshall County's season in the second round.
But despite the early playoff exit and the 4-8 record, the Tigers were just a play or two away from winning every game of the season while playing one of the toughest schedules in the entire state.
The Tigers started the year with an overtime loss to 6A Cane Ridge (11-1) and were down just three points with the ball at midfield against 6A quarterfinalist Brentwood (10-2) before a pick six ended the game.
If not for a barrage of injuries to almost every key player, the Tigers may have had the stamina to make a much deeper run.
"Some positives that I took away from the season were seeing what my family in the locker room was about," Campbell said. "Everyone could have easily rolled over and gave up when we found out our then-quarterback was transferring."
"Big shout out to my guys for handling it as good as anyone could possibly handle it and leaving their hearts out on the field every Friday night," Campbell continued. "We've had a lot of bumps in the road on this journey but we toughed it out and that's all that matters."
Marshall County 7 0 7 0-14
Tullahoma 0 14 0 2-16
Marshall County-Kel Greer 3-yard run, John Estes PAT, 7:13
Tullahoma-TY Cox 10-yard pass from Ben Fulton, Justus Chadwick PAT, 9:11.
Tullahoma-Hunter Palmer 34-yard pass from Ben Fulton, Justus Chadwick PAT, 7:18.
Marshall County-Javarria Rucker 59-yard pass from Malik Thomison, John Estes PAT, 2:48.