Marceline had no troubles against Santa Fe in the district semifinal on a Friday night in which wind chill dropped the temperature as low as 19 degrees. The Tigers defeated the Chiefs 54-14 in a game that was running-clock throughout the second half.
"They whooped our (backsides), they won all the battles," was the full extent of what Santa Fe coach Alex McClafferty had to offer following his team's defeat.
The Tigers improve to 11-0 on the season, and Marceline is one of the 16 Class 1 teams left standing. Santa Fe, fourth-seed in District 6, finishes its year 7-4.
With the exception of a Rylan Chrisman fumble for a turnover on the Santa Fe four-yard line, the Tigers scored on every drive in the first half, including a flukey 28-yard Chase Billups throw into the endzone as time expired that bounced off of a Santa Fe player's helmet before being hauled in by Levi Terrell. The Tigers returned to the locker room with a 48-6 lead at the break, and the brevity of the second half was a relief to the wind-battered fans who saw it through at Chester Ray Stadium.
Santa Fe's Devin Breland scored both of his team's touchdowns, one of which capped a 57-yard drive in the first half, and on the other, he was able to get out into space and bumble down the sideline.
Terrell said that his boys have to do a better job moving forward of eliminating those types of plays.
"There were some times when we lacked focus, and that's what hurts us most as a team," the senior captain said. "We probably had the ability to keep them from scoring two touchdowns."
Offensively, Terrell led the way with four touchdowns on seven receptions for 134 yards, with one of those touchdown receptions coming from Clayton Stallo. Stallo also had six carries for 43 yards and a receiving touchdown on Friday night.
Marceline coach Greg Hough said that ever since Trey Hamilton's year came to an abrupt close several weeks ago in practice, he has been trying to implement Stallo in new and innovative ways to fill that void moving forward.
"Clay's a kid that's kind of evolved for us," Hough said. "We had to make some adjustments, and he's a really good athlete who we can get out in space. He's an elusive player, and I've tried to be creative with him. Hopefully he continues to be an x-factor when he gets in spots to make people guess what he's trying to do.
"I thought in the first half, our kids played pretty well offensively. With our success early, I wish sometimes that they would turn the scoreboard off because there were flashes of our kids playing at a super-high level. We'll take it, nothing's perfect. The change of environment, with it being cold, I thought that was a positive once the kids got settled in in pre-game."
Aside from Chrisman's uncharacteristic fumble, it was business as usual for the senior running back on Friday, finishing with 117 yards on 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Billups completed 10 of his 13 throws for 135 yards. Sophomore Colby Sims was a dominant force for the Tigers defensively, leading the Black Rage with 10 tackles.
Marceline's victory on Friday night earns the Tigers a rematch against Westran. The Hornets were far and away the Tigers' most competitive opponent this season, playing Marceline within three points in Huntsville after a late, methodical scoring drive before botching the ensuing onside kick. This time, the Tigers will have the pleasure of hosting.
"We've looked forward to Westran the whole time," Terrell said. "We know we can do better than the first time we faced them. We want them."