Marceline’s Magic Pants Topple Defending Champs

The Marceline Tigers are headed to the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class One State Championships.   The Tigers punched their tickets to this weekend’s Show Me Bowl in St. Louis by downing the defending State Champion Penney Hornets of Hamilton.
The game did not start off well for the boys in the magic gold pants, as Penney used two big plays to jump out to a 15-0 early lead.   On the third play of their third drive, Blake   Linebaugh connected with Duane Avila for a 58-yard passing touchdown.   Blake Belzer punched in the conversion run to put Marceline into the game.   With 1:03 left in the first quarter, the Tigers trailed 15-8.
The teams would exchange possessions for the rest of the first quarter, and most of the second quarter.   An interception by Linebaugh would set the Tigers offense up for their final drive of the first half at their own 31 yard line.
Two runs by Linebaugh, taking the load off of Belzer (who carried the bulk of the Marceline offense in the game), would reset the downs marker.   A few plays later, Linebaugh tried to connect with Avila, but the pass would be bobbled and end up in the arms of Dakota Lewis, who would score on the 13-yard touchdown pass.   The extra point was no good.   With 38 seconds left in the first half, Marceline trailed Penney 15-14.   The same score would carry to the halftime break.
While these offensive highlights are sure to be remembered by fans, it was the Black Rage defense that were the real stars of the game.   The first half featured stops for a loss by Lewis, Avila, Anthony Steffes, Jordan Elam, Cade Ewigman, and Trey King.
Penney would take the ball to start the second half, and the Black Rage defense again forced a three-and-out.   A key stop on the drive came on third and short from Belzer and Lewis.
Two runs from Belzer earned a Marceline first down.   Runs from Lewis would earn another first down, and runs from the seniors in the backfield would earn the third first down of the possession.   On First and Goal, Belzer gave Marceline the lead on a two-yard touchdown run.   Lewis would run in the two-point conversion to give the Tigers their first lead of the game.   With 7:41  left in the third quarter, Marceline led 22-15.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jared Best would recover the kick, which went off of a Penney defender.   Marceline would start this drive from the Hamilton 30, and would extend their lead to take advantage of the opportunity.
Three runs from Belzer, including a 19-yard gain, would reset the down marker for Marceline.   Belzer was stopped on First and Goal after a short gain, but Linebaugh finished the score from one yard out on Second and Goal.   The extra point was no good, after being moved back due to a penalty.   With 5:11 left in the third quarter, the Tigers led 28-15.
Penney would take the ensuing kickoff to their own 48 yard line.   The defending State Champions would ride their All-State running back into the end zone to draw within a score.   The Hornets would drive 52 yards on 11 plays, with the score coming on a six-yard run.   They would add the point-after to leave the Tigers with a 28-22 lead with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marceline would take the ball and drive into the final quarter.   Runs by Belzer and Lewis earned a first down for the Tigers.   Two more runs from the seniors in the backfield would again earn Marceline another first down.   Three plays later, Lewis would run in the final score of the game on a 13-yard run.   Belzer punched in the two-point conversion to put Marceline up 36-22 with 8:34 left in the game.
Penney went three-and-out on their next drive, with a stop for a loss by Lewis, and a pair of broken up passes by Trevor Hamilton.   On their next drive, Marceline would put the game away with one more score.
Belzer and Lewis would matriculate the ball down the field for a first down.   But it would be Belzer who would take it to the house on a   seven yard run.   With 4:40 left in the game, the Tigers led 42-22.
The Black Rage defense would continue the stellar game they played throughout the contest, putting a stop to the Penney offensive juggernaut one last time.   After one last punt, Linebaugh would take a couple of knees to end the contest.   The Tigers won the State Semifinal game by a final score of 42-22.
“This is an amazing feeling,” said Lewis after the game.   “No one thought we would get this far, but this team believed in each other.   Now we are going to the Dome.”
“It’s unbelieveable that we are heading to the State Championships,” said Linebaugh.   “Our line and our defense have played amazingly well throughout the season.”
“The key to this win was our ability to move the ball in the second half,” said Head Coach Paul Thomas.   “I feel blessed to have this great group of kids and coaches in such a great community. I want to thank everyone for supporting their team.”
Marceline will take on perennial powerhouse Valle Catholic on Saturday with kickoff starting at 2:30 p.m. at the Edward Jone Dome in St. Louis.   The stands in St. Louis are sure to be filled with fans decked out head-to-toe in black and gold.