Tigers win double overtime thriller at Spring Hill
The Marshall County Tigers traveled to Maury County on Friday night for its second to last contest of season against a tough and streaking Spring Hill team.
The Raiders (2-7, 1-3) brought a two-game winning streak into the game and almost upset the fourth-ranked Tigers (8-1, 4-0), taking a 14-7 lead after the first play of overtime before Marshall County scored two unanswered touchdowns to escape with a hard-fought 21-14 double overtime win.
"Really happy that our guys found a way despite the adversity we faced in the game," Tiger coach Thomas Osteen, who now sports a 9-0 all-time record versus the Raiders, said. "Hats off to our guys for finding a way to win in overtime after Spring Hill scored quick and first. I felt we have improved throughout the year in handling adversity."
The Tigers are riding a 13-game winning streak against Spring Hill and have not lost to the Raiders since a 42-25 home loss during the one-win 2009 campaign.
The dominance was in doubt on Friday night as the two teams locked horns in a defensive battle that was tied 7-7 going into halftime and held each other scoreless for the entire second half.
The Tigers had two chances to take the lead in the second half, but a missed Jon Estes field goal and a Demari Braden fumble on the five-yard line resulted in a Spring Hill touchback to keep the contest knotted at 7-7 entering overtime.
The two teams combined for just 119 total yards heading into the half with the Tigers holding the Raiders to just two first downs and both teams each punting four times.
"We prepared great all week going into the game," senior linebacker Christian Stacey, who finished with nine tackles, stated. "We have really put an emphasis on playing physical and forcing turnovers."
The Tigers picked up a huge turnover on the opening drive as Connor Hilton blocked a Spring Hill punt to give Marshall County the ball on its 27-yard line.
Six plays later Lamarion Pierce crossed into the end zone for a five-yard score to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Kaden Whitson became the seventh Tiger to record an interception in 2020 on the next possession, setting Marshall County in prime field position with a 7-0 lead.
But like much of the entire game, the Raiders forced the Tigers into a three-and-out to waste its second forced turnover of the contest.
The Raiders tied the game at 7-7 with 7:16 left in the half on a nine-yard run by junior running back Mac Richie and the contest stayed knotted the rest of overtime.
The Tigers almost broke the stalemate early in the final quarter of regulation with Bryson Hammons hitting a streaking A'Ky Howard for a 51-yard gain on third-and-21 but Braden fumbled the ball after a nice eight-yard pickup to keep the game even heading into overtime.
The Raiders struck pay dirt on the first play of overtime as quarterback Luke Boylan hit Richie for a 10-yard touchdown for the 14-7 Spring Hill advantage.
The Tigers ran twice to start its first offensive possession before a throwback pass to Stacey and a PAT by Estes tied the game at 14-14, sending the contest into another extra frame.
"When (Osteen) called the play I knew that it would most likely be open because of how hard they had been playing the run," Stacey, who also added two carries on offense, recalled. "As I was running the route I thought it was going to be there and all I had to do from there was to make sure and look the ball in on the catch."
The Tigers needed just three more plays to take the lead for good.
Lamarion Pierce got the series rolling with a second effort eight-yard gain after initially being stopped in the backfield.
Braden followed with a one-yard gain before Hammons got the call on the quarterback sneak for the final, decisive score in the 21-14 overtime win.
Hammons finished the contest with 109 yards in the air with one touchdown pass and one interception, just the junior quarterback's third on the season across nine games.
A week removed from a career-high rushing night, Pierce was held to just 13 yards on 10 carries, but with all the attention focused on Pierce, Braden was able to step in and gain 89 yards on just 19 attempts to lead the Tigers.
Howard continues a standout senior campaign, leading the Tigers with 55 yards on three receptions with Devonte Davis adding three catches for 23 yards and Hunter Rolof chipping in two balls for 11 yards.
The real story was the Tigers defense.
Marshall County has not allowed more than 15 points since the 50-35 win over Shelbyville Central in Week 3 and have now allowed over 15 points just twice (Tullahoma, Shelbyville).
Two Marshall County seniors had career games with two more having one of the best games of their 2020 season.
Senior defensive lineman Chandler Davis terrorized the Raider offense the entire night with eight total tackles, five tackles for a loss, a whopping three and a half sacks and a quarterback hurry.
The few times the Raiders’ ball carriers made it past the defensive line, senior Connor Hilton was there to make the play, finishing with a team-high 11 tackles with three and a half tackles for a loss, a field goal block, and a pass defended.
Stacey and senior defensive back Hayden Sheppard finished with nine and eight tackles, respectively, with Sheppard adding 1.5 tackles for a loss and Stacey finishing with one tackle for a loss.
Senior linebacker Logan McKnight also chipped in five tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, half a sack, and a pass defended while Kaden Whitson added four tackles and an interception to round out an incredible night for the Marshall County seniors on defense.
The Tigers will now enter a bye week with a matchup at Nolensville looming as the regular season finale and just like last season when the two squads played for an outright region title on the final day of the regular season, the 2020 edition will have just as much on the line.
"I think the bye week is coming at a very good time," Osteen said. "We have a good bit of guys nursing some nagging injuries."
"Also the bye will give us an extra week to prepare for a really good Nolensville team at their place where a lot will be at stake in terms of playoff positioning," Osteen added.
The Tigers easily handled Nolensville in last season's title tilt, winning 30-14 on a statewide MyTV30 broadcast, but were upset on a last minute touchdown pass versus underdog DeKalb County 28-24 in the second round, prematurely ending a much anticipated quarterfinal Marshall County-Nolensville rematch.
DeKalb County's Cinderella story came crashing down in the quarterfinals as Nolensville hammered the Tigers 42-6, allowing the Knights first ever state semi-final appearance, a 34-12 loss to eventual 4-A champion Elizabethton.
This week, the last two undefeated Region 4-4A teams will square off with Nolensville (4-2, 3-0) traveling to Tullahoma (8-0, 3-0) before the Knights and Tigers square off next Friday.
"We will use this week to heal up any bangs and bruises we have while watching plenty of film on Nolensville and beginning to install our game plan for them next week," Stacey, who leads the team in both tackles (73) and tackles for a loss (13), said. "We know that they are very talented up front and have good athletes all around."
"We will have to be prepared to put up four good quarters to beat Nolensville and bring a home playoff game back to Preston Hopkins Field."
A Nolensville loss to both Tullahoma then Marshall County will give the Tigers home field advantage for at least the first two games of the playoffs.
Any other result will unleash a bevy of possibilities for the Region 4-4A playoff seeding.
The Knights, in just its fifth full season of varsity play, are led by 6-0 senior quarterback Ryder Galardi, who is committed to play for FCS Long Island University after fielding offers from other FCS participants Dayton, Robert Morris, Valparaiso, Sacred Heart and Butler.
Marshall County 7 0 0 0 7 7-21
Spring Hill 0 7 0 0 7 0-14
Total Offense: Marshall County 211, Spring Hill 146.
Rushing: Marshall County 102, Spring Hill 71.
Passing: Marshall County 109, Spring Hill 75.
Marshall County Offense
Rushing: Demari Braden 19-89, Lamarion Pierce 10-13-TD, Christian Stacey 2-13, Connor Hilton 1-0, Bryson Hammons 10-(13)-TD.
Passing: Bryson Hammons 10-24-109-TD-INT.
Receiving: A’Ky Howard 3-55, Devonte Davis 3-23, Demari Braden 1-13, Hunter Rolof 2-11, Christian Stacey 1-5-TD.
PAT: Jon Estes 3-3.
Field Goals: Jon Estes 0-1.
Kickoffs: Jon Estes 2-60-2TB.
Punting: Joseph Gold 4-81.
Punts: Lamarion Pierce 2-14.
Tackles: Connor Hilton 11 (3.5TFL, BLOCK FG), Christian Stacey 9 (TFL), Hayden Sheppard 8 (1.5TFL), Chandler Davis 8 (5TFL, 3.5 SACKS), Logan McKnight 5 (1.5TFL, .5 SACK), Kaden Whitson 4 (INT), Joseph Gold 4, Devonte Davis 3, Jayden Hart 2 (.5TFL), Kortez Ingram 1, Jonathan Bair 1.