Owls thumped by Warrensburg
A team can have a slick, imaginative offense, fancy uniforms and talented players, but football still requires blocking and tackling.
Marshall did little of either Friday during a 48-8 drubbing at the hands of non-conference rival Warrensburg, ending a six-game home win streak. From midway through the second quarter -- when the breaks went dreadfully wrong -- until the final gun the, 10th-ranked Owls were dominated for the third year in a row by the Tigers.
"We didn't fight adversity the way we should have," remarked MHS assistant coach Jason Price, handling the post-mortems as head coach Paul Thomas went to Fitzgibbon Hospital -- where his son, senior quarterback Paul Wayne Thomas, was being X-rayed for an elbow he hurt late in the first half. "We're a good football team. We just have to show it."
Marshall did so briefly, moving smartly to the visitors' 11-yard line on its first drive before a missed block allowed senior Wayne Huell to trap Thomas 6 yards behind the line on third down and force a 33-yard field-goal attempt -- which Thomas sent wide to the left.
Warrensburg powered its way down field with a 12-play, 80-yard drive, runs by seniors Kaleb Filis, Zain Gower and Huell gaining 48 yards on three successive snaps. After converting on fourth and 1, Filis bootlegged for 13 yards and Gower took it the remaining 6 yards for a touchdown.
"Just what they said they'd do," noted Price, referring to the pre-game boast by Tigers' coaches that they would run it straight at Marshall. "I thought we did a good job in the first quarter of flowing to the football and making good defensive plays."
That became rarer as the game progressed, but the Owls made their biggest play of the game after pinning Warrensburg on its own 1-yard line -- Thomas stripping senior Curtis Gary of the ball at the end of a 36-yard pass and junior Josh Glassmaker recovering.
Thomas hit senior Luke Vance for 36 yards and then snuck over from a yard out to tie the contest at 8-8 early in the second period. After that, it was all downhill for Marshall.
After Gower's 42-yard kick return, Filis threw over the top of the Owls' defense to senior Taylor Dyer for a 56-yard TD bomb. A bad punt snap by Marshall wound up in the end zone, with Gary recovering for the Tigers. Then junior Jared Porter had the ball knocked loose following a catch and Huell came up with it on the MHS 30, a 21-yard pass to Dyer setting up Gower's 13-yard scoring dash.
If giving up three touchdowns within a seven-minute span weren't bad enough, an inadvertent whistle blew the ball dead on the final play of the half -- before junior Anthony Thompson had a chance to run back an interception from the end zone, which he had done last year against Helias.
"Our kids were hanging their heads a little bit," Price said. The Owls' gang-tackling of early in the game became solo stops -- seven in a row during Warrensburg's last scoring drive of the half -- and Thomas routinely found tacklers in his face, eventually banging his elbow on one of them while being pressured on a pass attempt. Fortunately, the exam proved negative and Thomas is expected back in the line-up quickly.
Down 28-8 at halftime, the Owls were set to get the ball to begin the second half, but fumbled away the kickoff at their own 12. Gower immediately tore through the defense for a TD 14 seconds into the period.
"I thought we came out with a little confidence in the second half, but then we fumbled the ball right off the bat," Price said. "That took away whatever momentum we had."
The rest was mop-up time for Warrensburg (1-1), getting short touchdown runs from Filis and junior P.J. Hill. Marshall, directed by Glassmaker in place of Thomas, netted only 33 yards of offense the rest of the game.
"Any time you have high hopes for the season, when you get beat like this it knocks the wind out of your sails," Price admitted.
Gower proved again that he was too much for the Owls (1-1) to handle, accounting for 182 yards of the Tigers' 307 rushing yards and three TDs on 24 carries. Warrensburg made good on seven of 11 third-down attempts and two of three tries on fourth down.
Marshall's staff has tried to put in offensive and defensive packages which fit the personnel and the players have worked hard to learn them, but when a team simply won't go out and hit people it is not going to be successful. Physical football, which will be played this week by visiting Platte County, has not been the Owls' forte in recent years.
"We have to come back," Price declared. "It's one game, Week 2. It doesn't mean anything."