Nearly a month after suffering a 41-12 NCMC loss at Moberly, the Owls returned to the scene to notch a 20-17 overtime victory in the first round of the Class 4, District 6 Tournament -- guaranteeing them an 11th game of the season for the first time since 2006.
"This was a big win for us, a great win," exclaimed MHS senior Marc Plummer, who rushed for 176 yards on a career-high 30 carries to help make it happen. "We are so stoked."
"Just getting in the playoffs is a big accomplishment itself," said first-year head coach Jon Stockman, who turned around a program which went 0-10 a year ago.
The Owls were unable to hold on to a 14-0 fourth-quarter lead, but rebounded from the disappointment of falling behind 17-14 in the extra period to score the winning touchdown.
At first it appeared it would be the Spartans' night. Senior Joe Galaske ran for 12 yards and junior Justin Connaway threw passes of 14 yards to senior Brandon Elkins and 24 yards to junior Blake Joiner to reach the Marshall 4-yard line in just four plays.
However, the Owls stopped Moberly on an interception by senior Brandon Johnson -- who sat out the last meeting, but had 11 solo tackles during the rematch.
"Keeping them out, that was huge," Stockman said.
Marshall picked up a pair of first downs to get out from under its own goalposts. A trade of punts reversed field position and the Owls stood firm after fumbling at their own 26. A 28-yard Plummer run got Marshall into Spartan territory, but the drive stalled and the game was scoreless at halftime.
The Owls came out of the locker room with renewed intensity and dominated the third quarter, controlling the ball for nearly 10 minutes. The half began with a 10-play, 70-yard drive in which Plummer had gains of 13 and 14 yards and junior Tyler Cott ran for 22 and caught a 10-yard toss from senior Alex Maupin.
On fourth down and a yard to go, Maupin got outside for a 5-yard bootleg into the end zone.
"There were cutbacks everywhere, blockers making holes," Plummer described.
The next Marshall series was even longer, 15 plays -- 10 of them Plummer runs for a total of 53 yards. It was capped by Maupin's 14-yard toss to senior Austin Stickels, who hadn't played since being knocked out of the previous contest with the Spartans, with 10:36 left in the game.
"The O-line started clicking, playing better and getting on people," Stockman said. "We told the kids to believe in the run and they were moving the chains."
Moberly didn't finish second in the league by accident, though. After sophomore Gregg Bain's 27-yard punt return, Connaway hit Elkins for 32 and 11 yards to cut the deficit in half with 4:35 left.
The Owls took over two minutes off the clock, but two runs out of bounds lengthened the game at least a minute. Still, Moberly had 96 yards to go with 2:11 remaining after Cott's 61-yard punt.
Connaway completed nine of 10 passes for 71 yards, and Marshall helped the Spartans with a 15-yard personal foul. Senior Jalen Troy was wide open at the Owls' 7 and tied the game on a 12-yard reception with 21 seconds to go in regulation.
Marshall won the coin flip and elected to go on defense first in overtime. Moberly (7-3) didn't gain a yard in three plays, but senior Rick Webb booted a 42-yard field goal for its first lead.
That option wasn't viable for the Owls, but a 9-yard catch by Plummer and Cott's 4-yard run converted third downs and set up a first and goal at the 4-yard line. Maupin plunged into the line twice, the second time going in from a yard out with the game-winner.
"We had our minds set: we're scoring, we're moving on," Plummer declared.
That will mean another second chance, Wednesday at seventh-ranked Hannibal. The Pirates snapped an 8-8 tie with three second-half touchdowns to win at Marshall (6-4) three weeks earlier en route to the NCMC title.
"They're a good football team," Stockman said. "We need to prepare on a short week and see what we can do with them a second time."