Marceline stays on title track in L&C in home finale
Tigers tame Salisbury 49-24, now 4-0 in conference heading to Westran
nullMARCELINE — The final home game of the regular season – there figure to be at least a couple more in the approaching postseason – saw the Marceline High School football Tigers handily turn back the Salisbury Panthers 49-24 at Chester Ray Stadium last Friday.
Welcoming back to uniform a couple of top players from the group of seven starters who’d sat out the prior week’s non-conference win, but also doing without arguably their top 2-ways player, the Tigers (6-1, 4-0 conf.) easily took control of the Lewis and Clark Conference championship chase.
Combined with previously-unbeaten Harrisburg’s 42-26 loss at Fayette, Marceline now is in sole possession of the league lead.
As a result, if it wins over Westran at Huntsville this Friday, it will be assured of no worse than a share of another L&C crown with a chance to claim it outright next week at Harrisburg.
The absence of top ballcarrier and starting linebacker Hunter Nelson this past Friday was counter-balanced by having 2-ways performers Sam Gillman and Wyatt Molloy back in pads and playing.
Neither made a major statistical impact, but at least their return hinted at a hopeful trend of getting some of the guys who missed the previous game back in time for the postseason.
Currently, MHS leads its Class 1 district ratings, but Ewing: Highland is within striking distance, if the Tigers stumble either of the last two weeks and the Cougars win out. The club that claims the top spot in the 7-teams district will get the first weekend of the district playoffs off, perhaps an important consideration for some of the ailing Marceline players.
At “the Ray” last Friday, Marceline was efficient more than overwhelming, statistically. In fact, it had more yardage on kick returns than it did either running or throwing the ball offensively.
It threw for about 135 yards with a couple of scoring throws from Jacob Stallo to Will Heller and Jace Bixenman and ran the ball for a similar total, getting a pair of touchdown runs each from Bixenman and Caleb Stallo.
Bixenman handled the ball only six times from scrimmage, but made 130 yards and three touchdowns out of that limited usage. He also ran two punts back for 96 yards, one of them going the distance.
Senior placekicker Drake Stufflebean was a perfect seven for seven in toeing point-after kicks on the night.
Defensively, the “Black Rage” made a whopping 14 tackles on the Salisbury side of the line of scrimmage, according to statistics provided by MHS head coach Mark Ross.
Sophomore Conner Quinn had only four tackles – all solo, but all were for losses. Senior Hunter Quinn’s seven stops included four unassisted and two on the SHS side of the line.
Senior Brayden King had a team-most eight tackles, five of which effectively were by himself. He had 2-1/2 tackles for losses and 1-1/2 sacks of the Panthers’ quarterback.
Brendon Catron had four unassisted tackles and two assists, including one sack, and junior Max Cupp 1-1/2 stops behind the line among his three total tackles.
The MHS defense also produced two takeaways – a Barrett Stearns fumble recovery and a C. Stallo interception he ran back 52 yards.
This week’s Marceline opponent has been spotty to date, which could make it dangerous on its home gridiron.
Westran (3-4) has lost three of its last four, including a surprising 14-12 loss to Sweet Springs last Friday. However, the week before, the Hornets handed Scotland County – an opponent Marceline shaded by only one in the season opener – a 22-12 defeat.