MHS football: At midway point, Owls still seeking first win

Friday, September 25, 2009
The Owls will try to get back to opening holes for all-state senior Matt Jacobs. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

Here they go again.

For the second year in a row, the Marshall football team has opened the season with four straight losses.

It was at that point a year ago that the Owls began to put things together and closed out by splitting six games. Had they been able to hold to a late lead against Class 4, District 8 rival Hannibal -- which scored with 15 seconds left to take a 20-18 decision at Marshall -- that would have been good enough to make the playoffs.

Despite last week's 17-6 loss to Boonville in their NCMC debut, the Owls showed signs of progress on defense -- the unit yielding only one touchdown.

"We played pretty good on defense," remarked MHS head coach Paul Thomas, whose squad allowed only 52 yards on the ground. "We lined up right and technique was pretty fundamental."

An offense which had been productive the previous two weeks during down-to-the-wire losses to state-ranked Grain Valley (38-35) and Smith-Cotton (28-21) disappeared, though.

At league foe Mexico today, the Owls are looking to improve on both sides of the ball.

The Bulldogs (1-3, 1-2 NCMC), who lost at Marshall last year, 22-0, are a very young team -- with only six seniors and 10 juniors on their 50-man roster. With so many new faces come question marks, both for themselves and their opponents.

"The ones we really know about are skilled," Thomas noted.

Senior Kurt Loyd has been Mexico's starting tailback the last two years. He missed last season's clash with the Owls due to injury, but ran for 211 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore during the 'Dogs' 26-13 loss in 2007. Loyd is now playing quarterback and has scored six of his team's eight touchdowns.

"We'll have to keep the quarterback contained," Thomas said. Loyd's passing, though, Thomas described as "adequate."

The Bulldogs also have a promising running back in sophomore Shia Miller and an offensive line which Thomas said "comes off the football, just like their defensive line does."

While Mexico has had trouble scoring, it has played defense well enough to prevent blowouts -- giving up no more than 27 points in any game, much less during a 19-6 win at Kirksville.

"They're very quick on both sides of the ball," Thomas noted. "Their team speed is very good."

That is demonstrated by senior linebacker Jermaine Thompson, an all-conference defensive back last year, and smallish defensive linemen in seniors Weston Hitchcock (185 pounds) and Dennis Hobbs (190).

The Owls (0-4, 0-1) obviously need a win, but Thomas is focused on the basics, saying "it comes down to blocking and tackling."

"We just need to play hard and give great effort," he asserted. "We need to play four quarters."

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