MARION – Ron Barnard challenged his winless Marshals football team to draw a line in the sand – literally, to turn their season around on the turf of Crittenden County’s Rocket Stadium.
“I asked ‘em to take a stand tonight, that when we look back on our season, this is what we’re gonna look back to,” Barnard said. “And sure enough, the kids came through.”
The Marshals defeated Crittenden 43-0 Friday night, scoring their first win of the season – the first since a 20-16 win over Muhlenberg County on Oct. 5 of last year, nine games ago.
“Man, it feels great,” senior running back-linebacker Nolan Nichols said. “I’m just glad to finally get a win. We needed it. We were really hungry.”
The Marshals got the win by eliminating turnovers. Several close losses, and a 55-14 humiliation at the hands of Murray on Sept. 21, had come because the offense could not hang onto the football.
“We always have a bunch of turnovers. You eliminate those, we can hang with anybody,” Nichols said.
On this night, instead of giving away, the Marshals took. They recovered three Crittenden fumbles, including one that big junior defensive lineman Sam Dunn scooped up and returned 78 yards for the Marshals’ fifth touchdown.
Nichols carried the ball 11 times for 101 yards, pushing his season total to 590, an average of 98 per game. He scored his sixth touchdown, and he caught three passes for 67 yards and totaled 13 tackles on defense, with six solo hits, in another all-around stellar game.
Senior running back Chris Goard scored twice on short runs, junior quarterback Cole Barnard on another, senior Thomas Alkemeyer on yet another.
The defense did much more than merely cover fumbles, with several stops in goal-line situations as Crittenden threatened to score in the early going.
“Man, I couldn’t be more pleased with my kids and my coaching staff,” Barnard said. “They’ve never let up this whole time. I’ve been saying all along that we’re gonna see the fruits of our labor, and we did tonight.
Marty Holbrook took the opening kickoff and returned it 30 yards, setting the Marshals up at midfield for the first possession. Five plays later, Goard was in the Rocket end zone, with the key play a 34-yard run by Nichols that moved the ball to the Crittenden 5. The extra point kick was blocked, but the Marshals were ahead 6-0.
Crittenden, playing without starting quarterback Travis Gilbert, responded by driving from their 26 all the way to the 2, but the Marshall defense stiffened and stopped them on fourth-and-goal, with a two-yard loss giving Marshall County the ball at their own 4 yard line.
With a 23-yard run by Goard and three pass completions from Barnard to Austin Spicer, including one that covered 31 yards, the Marshals drove to a first and goal at the 7. Barnard took it in from there, and after Nichols ran for the two-point conversion, Marshall County led 14-0 with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
Crittenden advanced to the 28 before stalling and misfiring on a 45-yard field goal on the second play of the second period. The Marshals scored on their next two possessions, with Goard getting his second TD on a 7-yard run and Nichols galloping 24 yards for the fourth TD. Combined with a pass from Barnard to Collin Gunn for a two-point conversion and the first of three PAT kicks by Ethan Mensch, the Marshals led 29-0.
Crittenden again mounted a drive, moving to the 11. But Marshal defensive lineman Joseph Middleman hit Rocket quarterback Noah Dickerson, jarring the ball loose just outside the 20. Dunn picked up the ball and rambled untouched to the Rocket end zone.
The final score came in the third quarter, on a 1-yard run by Alkemeyer.
Crittenden dropped to 3-3 with the loss.
“This is a very good football team,” Barnard said of Crittenden coach Al Starnes’ team. “They come in with a winning record, and here we are without a single win, and our kids battled.”
THIS WEEK: The Marshals travel to Paducah for the first game against new district opponent McCracken County. The Mustangs overpowered Graves County 63-30 for their fourth straight win Friday, improving to 4-2.