The Marceline Tigers' football team overcame a shaky start to earn its first victory of the season on Friday night, defeating Scotland County 43-13 at Chester Ray Stadium. Head coach Mark Ross earned his first win as the Tiger ringleader.
"Scotland was coached up and ready to go, and they gave us some fits there," Ross said. "I was really proud of how the boys responded in the second half. We kept things moving, kept the clock running, and found ways to score some points."
Marceline took control early in the game, blocking a Will Fromm punt on Scotland County's first possession and scoring on a 19-yard Cullen Bruner rush on the next play. Bruner, a junior, missed the extra point -- although he hit three field goals in the game, all from greater than 30 yards -- and Scotland County methodically drove from its own 37 yard line before quarterback Fromm punched in a dive from two yards out.
With 3:38 remaining in the first quarter, Marceline trailed 7-6. Marceline never trailed in its first three games last season, and only allowed greater than 12 points twice during its 2017 campaign, both times against Westran.
Marceline's and Scotland County's Tigers traded punts on the ensuing possessions, but with radically different results. Dynamic Marceline senior returner Clayton Stallo fielded a punt near his own 45 and scrambled down the left sideline to regain the lead for Marceline in the early seconds of the second quarter.
Marceline scored again on its next possession on an eight-yard pass from senior Chase Billups to Bruner to cap a 64-yard drive and stretch the lead to 20-7.
However, on the following possession, Fromm exploited a breakdown in Marceline's defensive secondary, hurling the football 30 yards down the left sideline to Kaden Anders on what would eventually be an 81-yard catch-and-run.
That score with 6:28 remaining in the first half, however, proved to be Scotland County's final points of the game.
With time waning in the half, Scotland County made the mistake of punting to Stallo again. A 40-yard punt return with two seconds remaining in the half gave Marceline just enough time for Bruner to drill a 37-yard field goal.
"That gave us a boost going into the break," Ross said. "At halftime, we talked about staying out of our own way as far as missed assignments, penalties, and bad decisions. When you have weapons like those on special teams, between making kicks, breaking off returns, and pinning them back to give our defense a chance, it's an all-around boost."
The Scotland County offense was nowhere to be found in the second half while Marceline went for 20 more points.
The visiting coach, Troy Carper, said that his team's lack of depth compared to Marceline's caught up to the blue Tigers in the long run.
"We just ran out of gas in the second half," Carper said. "We had some kids on the offensive line who were outsized and tired, and (Marceline senior defensive end) Nathan Sayre is a stud. Their special teams were outstanding, and that was the biggest game-changer early. We were fighting against having a small roster and trying to keep kids as fresh as possible."
Though Carper's team allowed a similar amount of points to Marceline in week one last season, giving up 45, his team scored just three on a field goal as time expired.
Marceline travels to Knox County on Friday.