DRAFFENVILLE – The Graves County football team, which has experienced heartbreak as often this fall as the St. Louis Cardinals were able to avoid it, finally got a reprieve.
It came against Marshall County, in the regular season finale for both teams Friday night at Carroll Traylor Stadium.
A 32-yard field goal by Marshall County’s Brian Dueker fell just short of the goalpost crossbar as time ran out with the score knotted at 23-23.
That sent the contest to overtime. Graves scored and then stopped the Marshals on their overtime attempt, escaping with a 30-23 victory.
Marshals coach Ron Barnard was disappointed, but could take consolation from his team’s effort.
“The kids had every opportunity to hang their heads, but they didn’t,” he said.
The Marshals held Graves’ potent rushing attack to 219 yards while powering their way to 301 against the Eagle defense. Neither team relied much on the pass, with Marshall getting 33 yads and Graves 18.
Senior running back Nathan Anderson carried 25 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Marshals’ attack. Junior quarterback Chase Clark added 109 and a touchdown.
Graves jumped out to a 16-0 lead on touchdown runs of 11 and five yards by Steven Thomas, PAT kicks by Sam Sims and a safety recorded when Clark was tackled in the end zone.
But the second touchdown run by Thomas seemed to inspire the Marshals offense, as they prompted drove 66 yards in only six plays to get on the scoreboard.
Clark, flushed out of the pocket by the Eagles pass rush, threaded his way 26 yards downfield before he was knocked out of bounds by Graves’ Cody Jackson.
That triggered a change in tactics for the Marshals.
“The first time he [Clark] did it on his own,” Barnard said of Cl;ark’s scramble. “After that, we were calling the quarterback draw. They were dropping eight people in coverage.”
Clark added runs of 11, 11 and 12 yards to set up a first and goal at the Graves five. An illegal motion penalty moved the ball back to the 10, but Anderson powered into the end zone for Marshall County’s first touchdowm with 4:11 left before halftime.
Clark passed to Anderson for the two-point conversion and Marshall had cut the lead in half, to 16-8.
On the ensuing possession, Graves running back Zack Katzman fumbled and the Marshals recovered at the Graves 28. After a nine-yard run by Clark and an incomplete pass, Barnard put the ball in Anderson’s hands. The senior workhorse stacked runs of 10, four and five yards for his second TD of the game at the 2:19 mark.
Clark ran for the conversion and the game was tied at halftime, 16-16.
Graves went back on top 23-16 with a businesslike drive to open the second half. After a fourth-down run by Clark came up short on the officials’ spot, Graves regained possession but had to punt.
Anderson galloped for 27 yards on the first play to move the ball from the Marshall 35 to the Graves 37. After to more short runs, Clark called his own number and went the last 23 yards to the end zone. Dueker’s PAT kick tied the score again at 23-all with 8:40 left in the game.
The Marshall defense held and forced a Graves punt after six plays and MC took over at their own 17 with 5:02 to go. Barnard called on Anderson, Clark and Hardin Cosner to grind out 63 yards, running the clock down to 3 seconds to go before calling a time-out and sending Dueker out for a field goal.
The senior running back-defensive back booted the ball arrow-straight, but if fell just short of a game-winner.
In the overtime, Graves took only two plays to push the go-ahead score across the goal line, with quarterback Peyton Puckett carrying the final yard.
The Mashals drove to the one in three plays, but the Eagle defense penetrated and caught Clark in the backfield for a game-deciding tackle.
Graves goes into Class 5A playoff action with a 4-6 record and a sixth consecutive win over Marshall County.
The Marshals end regular-season play 6-4.