Marshall County Head Coach Evan Merrick said his team needs to find their identity in post-game comments following the Marshals season opening loss to Fort Campbell. Meeting for the first time since the 1974 season, the two teams kicked off the 2016 season Friday in Clarksville. Under first-year head coach Josh Robins, the Falcons handed the Marshals an 18-12 loss.
“We spotted them 18 points in the first half so we were behind the eight-ball from the very beginning”, Head Coach Evan Merrick said. “We’ve got to find our identity…they’ve got to decide to be the best person they can be for this football team.”
Mason Green carried the ball 21 times for 80 of the Marshals yards that totaled 76 in rushing at the end of the game with rushing losses while passing for 108, all from Skylar Smith completing 14 of 23 attempts, for a total of 184 offensive yards in the game. Ft. Campbell gain 249 of their 291 yards on the ground, led by Denoris Buchanan with 221 on 38 carries.
A game filled with penalties – 10 for the Marshals for 72 yards and 10 for the Falcons for 74 yards – came at key moments for both teams. The Marshals had 10 first downs in the game compared to six for the Falcons, who scored their three touch downs in the first half.
Receiving the opening kick with an added delay of game penalty on their very first play from scrimmage, the Marshals went 15 yards before turning the ball over on downs to Fort Campbell. On the Marshals next possession, they moved the ball to the eight yard line, in part on a 35 yard reception from quarterback Skylar Smith to Tyler Stevenson but were held by the Falcon defense. Chet Cretsinger attempted a field goal from the eight yard line that was no good.
Fort Campbell’s Micheal Rice ended the first quarter with an interception of Smith but the Marshals got the ball back on downs at their own 32 yard line, not able to get the first down, turned it back over to Fort Campbell, who scored their first touchdown of the game on a two yard keeper by quarterback Abdel Howard. The point after attempt was no good and the Falcons took a 6-0 lead.
Taking the Marshals by surprise with the on side kick, the Falcons recovered the ball at the Marshals 47 yard line, scoring again following three straight runs by Howard who took it in from the one for the score to lead 12-0 after attempting a two-point conversion.
An incomplete pass by Smith from the 44 on 4th and 17 gave Fort Campbell one more opportunity before halftime, which they took advantage of on an 85 yard touchdown by Denoris Buchanan who was chased from the 15 back into the end zone, finding an opening down the left side to go the distance with four seconds remaining.
The Marshals caught a break to open the second half, receiving the kick after the Falcons in the opening coin toss said they wanted to kick and did not use the “deferring” option for the second half, but facing another fourth down from their own 26 yard line, an incomplete pass gave the Falcons the ball on the 27.
A nice return by Lucas Nichols on Fort Campbell’s punt to the Falcon’s 17 followed by a seven yard run by Smith, set the Marshals up on the three yard line following an offside penalty on the Falcons, but holding and unsportsmanlike penalties on Marshall County pushed them back to the 30. A sack on Smith, ended their hopes of getting in the end zone.
Stevenson intercepted a Howard pass and took it 35 yards into the end zone to put the Marshals on the board with 2:15 left in the third quarter, trailing 18-6 after the two-point conversion attempt failed. They would end the quarter with possession of the ball at their own 37 and start the fourth on a couple of pass receptions by Grant Utley to the 50 with an unsportsmanlike call on Fort Campbell that moved the ball on down to the 35. A 14 yard run by Green and 19 yard pass to Ty Buchmeier, set them up at the one and Green went the one yard to score, cutting the Falcon lead to 18-12.
The Marshals goal line defense kept Fort Campbell out of the end zone on their next series, forcing them to turn the ball back over at their own one yard line with 5:09 to go in the game. Just a two yard gain forced the Marshals to punt out of the end zone, giving the Falcons good field position, running the clock down to 54 seconds before punting, setting the Marshals up at their own 39 with no time outs remaining.
A loss of a yard and a penalty set the Marshals back near the 24 yard line, gaining 16 yards back on a pass to Nichols but facing 3rd and 9 with just seconds left, two incomplete passes closed out the Marshals season opener with a loss.
The Marshals will play the next two games at home Friday against Madisonville and September 1st against Ballard Memorial.
Rushing: Marshall 76, Ft. Campbell 249
Marshall: Green 23/80, 1 TD
Ft. Campbell: Buchanan 38/221
Passing: Marshall 108, Ft. Campbell 42
Marshall: Smith 14/108
Ft. Campbell: Howard 9/42
Marshall: Stevenson 2/41, Utley 4/28, Nichols 2/23, Buchmeier 3/19
Marshall: Smothers 14, Beal 8, Stevenson 8, Young 8