The chance was there to put Marshall into a third-and-18 situation from the 36-yard line Friday instead of getting a first down to generate momentum towards scoring a game-winning touchdown.
The Owls were facing a third-and-8 from the 23 when Marc Plummer was behind the line of scrimmage and near the Owls sidelines when he caught a swing pass from quarterback Alex Maupin. A Moberly player was about to try and tackle Plummer when he appeared to be pushed from behind and fell to the ground.
But there were no yellow markers on the field to support that possibility, and Plummer ended up advancing the football 9 yards for a first down and keeping the Owls alive in overtime.
Four plays later, Maupin scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak and Marshall came away with a 20-17 overtime win against Moberly in the teams’ Class 4 District 6 opening-round playoff game here on Friday.
This was the second meeting between these North Central Missouri Conference rivals this 2012 season because of the new MSHSAA playoff system.
Moberly (7-3) defeated the Owls 41-12 a month ago, but because this encounter had playoff implications Marshall won the game that counted most.
“This was a disappointing loss and I feel bad for our kids. We have a great group of kids and seniors who will be leaving us. It was sad that we could not get one more win for them. I really loved this year’s group of football players. They worked together as a team and supported one another,” said Spartans football coach Jason Ambroson. “The team had a tremendous season and accomplished so many goals. There were a lot of positives all around, and they committed themselves to do things the right way.”
The Marshall Owls (6-4) advance to play No. 1 seed Hannibal (9-1) in a district semifinal Wednesday.
Spartans coach Ambroson would not comment on what may have taken place on Marshall’s third down play in overtime, but he did say he thought the Spartans missed too many opportunities on both sides of the ball, and that Moberly hurt themselves more than what Marshall did on the football field.
“We needed to do a better job getting off blocks, wrapping up the ball carriers for a tackle and do a better job of making plays. We missed out of opportunities to make plays in this game. Part of that is our offense’s fault because we did not move the football like we needed to in order to keep our defense off the field, especially in the first half,” said coach Ambroson. “That has been our ‘M-O’ all year. When we move the football on offense, our defense is pretty salty. I think our defense played pretty well in the first half.”
Page 2 of 3 - “During those first two quarters we had three penalties on three runs that would have resulted in a first down, and it would have kept our offensive drives going. It was disappointing that during our first possession of the game we reach inside their 5 and we turn the football over. We also had two or three dropped passes during some critical situations.”
Defense was a staple for both teams in the first half as the schools went into intermission scoreless, and each team had a turnover. Marshall’s Brandon Johnson intercepted a pass thrown by Moberly junior quarterback Justin Connaway at the Owls’ 4-yard line, and Spartans senior defensive end Jalen Troy recovered a fumble at the Marshall 26.
Marshall owned the third quarter. The Owls used up nearly 10 minutes of the game clock on just two possessions. They capped an 11-play 70-yard drive with a Maupin 5-yard touchdown run with 7:56 left.
After a three-and-out by Moberly, the Owls second possession of the period carried over into the fourth quarter and ended with a score.
This time, Marshall’s scoring drive went for 69 yards using 17 snaps of the football. Maupin threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Stickels with 10:36 remaining and the Owls led 14-0. Maupin would complete 3-of-9 passes for 30 yards in the game.
Plummer rushed 34 times for 185 yards to pace Marshall’s offensive attack. Tyler Cott had 52 rushing yards and Maupin added 48.
“Marshall got off the snap of the football much better in the second half than they did in the first. We had problems wrapping up their ball carriers and they moved the ball down the field, especially in the third quarter,” said Ambroson. “We did not get off their blocks very well and we did not make plays.”
The Spartans scored on their final two possessions of regulation, and a short field aided Moberly’s first trip to the end zone.
Starting from the Marshall 44 the Spartans only used three plays to cut its deficit to 14-7. Connaway ran for a yard, and he ended up throwing two passes to the same target. Senior receiver Brandon Elkins made a spectacular catch, juggling the football as he fell forward for a 32-yard gain. Connaway also found Elkins near the right pylon marker for an 11-yard TD reception with 4:35 left.
On their ensuing possession, Marshall ate up 2 minutes of the clock and was forced to punt from its 35. Cott’s punt pinned Moberly at their own 4 with just 2:11 remaining in regulation.
However, Moberly’s offensive rose to the occasion and Connaway orchestrated a remarkable 13-play scoring drive while having just one time out to use. He completed 7 of 10 passes during this stretch, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Jalen Troy with just 0:21 left to tie the score and force overtime.
Page 3 of 3 - Connaway threw for 213 yards completing 18 of 30 passes; two touchdowns and he threw an interception.
Blake Joiner caught eight passes that netted 127 yards, and Elkins had five receptions for 62. Scott Mason caught three passes for 12 yards, and Troy had his 12-yard TD catch.
Leading Moberly rusher was Connaway, who ran 10 times for 52 yards. Senior running back Joe Galaske rushed for 17 yards and sophomore Gregg Bain had 16.
“Our offense executed some really nice things in the last 5 minutes of the game that we could not accomplish earlier, and that was too bad,” said Ambroson. “We thought about going for the 2-point conversion, but we felt good having Ricky Webb to kick the extra point to tie the score, and take our chances in overtime hoping our defense would make the stops.”
MSHSAA rules in overtime allow each team to have at least one possession of the football, and start at the 25.
Moberly’s offense went first in OT and settled for a 37-yard field goal by Webb. That gave the Spartans a 17-14 advantage before Marshall was given their chance and would win on Maupin’s short run for a touchdown.