Tribune-Courier News Editor
DRAFFENVILLE – Coach Ron Barnard got what he was looking for out of Marshall County’s season opener – a zero.
Marshall’s defense dominated McLean County Friday night in a 48-0 rout, picking off three passes and allowing eight the Cougars only first downs.
“That goose egg is the big thing,” Barnard said. “That’s what we’re looking for from this defense.”
As good as the Marshals were defensively, not much could outshine their offense. On its first six possessions, Marshall County capped each drive with a touchdown as it built a 41-0 lead heading into halftime.
Barnard praised quarterback Chase Clark for his performance in the pocket.
“This is the Chase Clark I’ve wanted to see since I came here,” Barnard said. “He looks more comfortable back there. The line is helping out, too.”
For their part, the offensive line allowed Clark plenty of time for throws and paved the way for 234 yards on the ground in 18 rushing attempts. The Marshals averaged 13 yards per attempt.
Clark went 4-for-7, netting 114 yards through the air. He was responsible for all of Marshall County’s passing offense, including 24- and 71-yard touchdown passes, despite sitting out the second half.
Dakota West carried the weight of the Cougars’ offense. West went 5-for-19 through the air for 73 yards and gained 43 yards on the ground in 13 attempts. But turnovers plagued the quarterback all night, giving up three interceptions.
Noah Steele was the first Marshal to pick-off the visiting quarterback, ending McLean’s first drive of the night at midfield. Jamie Gilland shortened the field even more with an 18-yard run before Clark connected with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Logan Taylor for the opening score. Marshall County converted the extra point attempt for an 8-0 lead.
Gilland would plague McLean’s defense all night with big yardage plays. The junior ran four times, but accounted for 86 yards and two touchdowns. His first of the night was Marshall’s second, breaking tackles and tearing up 46 yards of grass en route to the end zone.
Brian Dueker connected on the extra point attempt for a 15-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Dueker was also part of the next touchdown drive, reeling in a 71-yard pass from Clark as the final seconds of the opening stanza ticked away.
Gilland opened the second quarter with a 34-yard touchdown run as Marshall County led 28-0.
The Cougars responded with the first signs of life in three possessions, following a pass interference call and cutting the field through the air. But a recovered fumble stunted the drive and the Cougars were forced to punt the ball.
The Marshals answered by once again driving the field, capping off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by Hardin Cosner. Nathan Anderson would drive in the final score of the half in the final two minutes. Anderson’s 1-yard run came after McLean could manage only a 15-yard punt while backed up to their endzone.
The Marshals got a chance to see their depth through the second half. Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Marshall County got back on the board midway through the fourth.
Sophomore quarterback Clay Allen put in the final score on a keeper from the 17-yard line, dodging one defender and rolling over the top of another for the touchdown. Dueker tacked on the kick for the 48-0 final score.
The Cougars had the final drive of the night cut short when Aiden Cox intercepted West for the turnover at midfield. The Marshals took a knee to drain the final seconds off the clock.
For the night, Marshall County gave up 83 yards on nine penalties, mostly from pass interference calls.
“It’s something we’ve got to continue to work on,” Barnard said. “They’ve got to play the ball.”
McLean County had encroachment problems throughout the first half, continually drawn off side by Marshall County’s motion. The Cougars gave up 67 yards on eight penalties.
Next up, Marshall County will travel to Lone Oak. The Flash opened the season Aug. 19 on the down side of a 46-3 drubbing by Paducah Tilghman, but rebounded Saturday to pick up a 49-7 win over Hopkinsville at the Stadium of Champions. Friday’s game against Marshall will be Lone Oak’s home opener.