For the second consecutive year, Marceline rung the fabled Bell after restraining Brookfield to another scoreless outcome. Friday night's 28-0 result at Burlington Field marked the fifth Bell Game victory in the past 21 years for the Tigers, and Marceline narrows Brookfield's all-time lead to just four games with the series now shaved to 42-38-1.
Marceline advances to a perfect 3-0 on the young season, and Brookfield falls to 1-2. Including South Shelby, both Brookfield losses have come at the hands of stingy opponents regarded highly in the state polls.
In the 81st iteration of northern Missouri's best rivalry, the Tigers managed to quadruple the seven-point offensive output they had last year, although they found the endzone just once in the first half.
"You know, in that first half, our defense is definitely what kept us in that game despite being in bad position too often," Brookfield coach Scott Stevens said after his inaugural Bell Game at the helm. "Hats off to our defense, they played a great first half. Offensively, we were never able to get anything
going, we took a step back. As a coach, it's my job to find what we do well and highlight those things.
"There's not much you can say in the locker room (after the game), we went into that game expecting to win; thinking we could win. There's no consolation for the kids after a loss like that, we came up short."
Brookfield converted seven first downs on a total of 69 offensive plays. Marceline moved the chains 13 times on 58 plays from scrimmage.
Marceline began each of its first five possessions with excellent field position, but found itself unable to capitalize. After returning the opening kickoff to its own 36 before a turnover on downs cut the drive short on the Bulldogs' 31-yard line, Marceline began each of its next four possessions at its own 44 or better.
"We turned the ball over on downs and followed up with three punts, but we'd done some good things," Marceline coach Greg Hough said after his team's first back-to-back wins in the series since 2008 and 2009.
"In big games like that, special teams units are overlooked. I knew if we'd quit shooting ourselves in the foot, we'd kick the door down. We had some penalties and a dropped pass in the end zone near the end of the half, so 7-0 going into the half, I told the kids I was confident."
Early in the second quarter, Marceline feature running back Rylan Chrisman took control. After just two touches in the first quarter, Chrisman's third carry of the game resulted in a 32-yard scamper to the Brookfield 12-yard line. The Tigers elected to give him the ball twice more on consecutive plays, resulting in a 7-0 Marceline lead with 7:47 remaining in the half.
Chrisman finished with 119 yards on 23 carries in his team's victory. He also scored the game's final touchdown from the 1-yard line with 2:59 left to play. His punch-in capped a 13 play drive that chewed enough clock to take the Bulldogs entirely out of contention in the 81st classic.
"It's pretty awesome," Chrisman said of his side pulling out a second consecutive victory against its I-36 neighbor. "We had a pretty good game plan coming in. We started off slow, but we were more physical there toward the end. I think that's what sealed the deal."
Marceline's two other touchdowns both came in the third quarter. Senior Hunter Teeter scored from nine yards out on the first play of the third quarter, and Levi Terrell finessed his way across the threshold on a 22-yard bubble screen with 5:54 left to play in the quarter.
Hough especially complimented the dual-threat capability of Brookfield's Castor Dodd under center, the agility of Khalil Walker in all three facets of the game, and the physicality of Brooks Baker on the defensive line.
"You prepare the same whether it's a Bell Game, a quarterfinal game, or hopefully someday a state championship game," Hough said. "The stress and the anxiety is a little bit higher, and you doubt things a little more, but we as a coaching staff put in a lot of hard work and effort."
Brookfield travels to face an ever-dangerous, 3-0 Centralia team next Friday, and Marceline hosts undefeated Fayette.