Marshall County scored on each of its first four possessions to set the tone during the annual Hall of Fame game Friday at Carroll Traylor Stadium, as the Marshals went on to claim their first win of the season against the Ballard Memorial Bombers, 55-24, in non-district play.
The Marshals (1-2) held the Bombers (0-2) to a nearly scoreless first half, as junior Austin Riley put the Marshals on the board with an 18-yard touchdown run with 8:54 left in the first quarter; Chet Cretsinger followed up with the extra-point kick. That momentum began to build, as the Marshals followed up with another 27 unanswered points, jumping out to a 34-0 lead.
Sophomore wide receiver Ty Buchmeier scored on a 9-yard pass, and senior Lucas Nichols went 91 yards to the end zone on a pass. Cretsinger topped off scoring with the extra-point kick on each, taking the blue and orange to 21-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Riley took an 11-yard run into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night, and Cretsinger again earned the extra point. Nichols dealt the Bombers another blow, intercepting the play and running it down another 38 yards for a touchdown.
The Marshals attempted a two-point conversion in an effort to keep the clock running throughout the rest of play but failed.
The Bombers weren’t going to go quietly, either. Ballard came back to earn 18 points in the final five minutes of the half. Senior Bryce Haynes put the Bombers on the scoreboard with a 2-yard run across the line, then followed up with a 39-yard return on an interception, bringing the Bombers to 12 after the extra-point play had been blocked on the previous score. The Bombers attempted and failed a two-point conversion.
Bomber quarterback Erick Marinelli snatched a fumble in the air to launch a 5-yard pass to junior Hunter Bray in the end zone in the final 40 seconds of the half, bringing Ballard to more solid footing at 34-18.
“I think part of that was we got comfortable,” said Marshall County’s fourth-year Head Coach Evan Merrick. “We were in a situation we hadn’t been in before and kind of relaxed a little bit. Of course, Ballard’s a tough football team, but we knew we’d respond there. And really, kind of, going back into the half we had to re-establish momentum.”
And the Marshals did came back out swinging, as Mason Green scored on a 15-yard pass just under two minutes into the third quarter. Buckmeier continued that building momentum with a 50-yard run on the pass, to bring the Marshals up, 46-18. Grant Utley would make the two-point conversion.
Green earned his second and the Marshals’ last touchdown of the night on another big run, going 44 yards into the endzone in the third. Cretsinger earned the extra point, bringing the total 55-18.
Haynes earned his third touchdown for the Bombers on a 5-yard run in the fourth; the extra-point was again no good for Ballard, for the 55-24 finish.
“The biggest thing that didn’t work for us was all the penalties,” said Ballard Memorial first-year Head Coach Mark Brooks. “Right now, we’re playing sloppy, especially in the first quarter. I mean, you can’t spot a team three or four touchdowns and think that you’re going to have a chance in the game. I think in the second and third quarter we played some good defense, then we got some kids banged up and we had to make some substitutions, and it just went south from there.”
The Marshals earned 431 offensive yards for the night, with 208 on the ground on 22 carries. Quarterback Skyler Smith completed seven of 11 passes for 223 yards in the air. The Marshals earned nine first downs, but were penalized seven times for 64 yards.
Merrick said the team made its share of mistakes for the evening, but overall it was a positive performance on which players can build moving forward. Merrick said coaching staff and players were still working to shift players around some to find “where our best looks are.” Regardless, Merrick said he’d seen steady improvement.
“I feel like offensively we was able to do some nice things up front,” Merrick said. “Run the football is something I think we’re still going to have to get better at doing. You know, getting the ball out at space. … Ty Buchmeier and Lucas Nichols were guys that we needed to find a way to get them the ball and get them upfield, and they were able to do that. Defensively, our secondary I think is coming along and getting to where they need to be, as well. So each week you’re improving and that’s what you want to be able to do, and if we can continue that into the Calloway game and beyond that, I think it’s a good thing for us.”
Ballard Memorial managed 277 offensive yards, with 125 on the ground on 32 carries. Marinelli went completed 18 of 27 passes for 152 yards in the air. The Bombers earned 17 first downs but incurred nine penalties, losing 65 yards.
While it was a tough night for the Bombers, Brooks said there points from which players could learn, too.
“The kids are still learning our defense,” Brooks said. “They’re used to playing like a 40 front, where they’re taking on blockers and the full body. … We run the three-four, and they need to get off that body, squeeze down on the hip and make plays in the backfield. We’ll continue to work on that. We got a little better at it this week. … The last game, two weeks ago, we were horrendous at tackling. We did a little bit better this week, and I think that we’ll improve next week.”
The Marshals will next face the Calloway County Lakers (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at Calloway County High School in Murray.