Owls, Hornets looking to rebound
In two of the first three weeks, both the Marshall and Fulton football teams have been in over their heads.
Each has lost only to state-ranked opponents, including their NCMC debuts against No. 7 Hannibal, the Hornets by a 57-19 margin and the Owls by a 34-6 spread.
"Two teams that look similar," noted MHS head coach Paul Thomas, "the records and everything."
That's much like last year, when both squads also came in to Week 4 with 1-2 records. Marshall won that meeting, 22-7, by rushing for 335 yards -- Chad Gibson and Paul Wayne Thomas both topping the century mark. The Owls only won one more game the rest of the season, Fulton none.
While each has struggled with their running games at times this year, Hannibal stopping both for negative net rushing yardage, the Hornets have demonstrated the capacity to throw the ball -- junior Kurt Gould completing 42 of 92 passes for 594 yards and five touchdowns, although he's been picked off five times.
Gould has a dangerous target in junior Thomas Brown, a state-champion sprinter who has caught seven passes for 222 yards.
"They'll put him in the backfield and on the outside," Thomas said. "They throw almost 75 percent of the time."
Marshall has already seen a pair of pass-happy teams in Rock Bridge and Helias, so it "ought to be used to that," Thomas said.
Although the Owls have also shown the capacity to throw the ball, if the offensive line can give the quarterback time to throw -- already allowing nine sacks for 63 yards in losses -- it's not an option they have gone to until facing big deficits.
For Marshall, being able to run the ball is critical.
"It's going to come down to whose front line is better, on both sides," Thomas admitted.
That's been a sore point for the Owls, who didn't fare well against the huge lines offered by the Bruins and Pirates. The Hornets' unit isn't as imposing, but Marshall will be making changes to find a combination which works -- especially with junior Josh Chastine still out of action with a sore knee.
It's easy to think have having faced such rugged competition early may have helped toughen the Owls, but that remains to be seen. Besides, no one is looking for any "moral victories."
"In a way, it helps you prepare for later on," Thomas acknowledged.. "But I still want to get the win."