Fulton, Owls looking for first NCMC win

Friday, September 16, 2016
After a one-week absence, all-NCMC sophomore wideout Jaylin Varner is expected to return to action during the Owls' home clash with Fulton. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

Approaching the season's midway point, it would be easy to write off the Marshall football team.

Some might have done so following the 63-7 opening-day loss at Chillicothe, but the games following that have shown the Owls have the capability of being competitive for brief periods -- including responding to a 39-0 halftime deficit with a 20-3 second-half during last week's 42-20 set-back at Kirksville.

"I was extremely proud of our kids for not putting their heads down and quitting at the half," remarked MHS head coach Jon Stockman. "It was obvious they could play with Kirksville, so we stressed the importance of starting the game strong like they started the second half. Then who knows the outcome?"

What Marshall's inconsistency reflects is less a shortage of talent than gridiron maturity. Last week, the Owls only had one player on the field who started on offense a year ago, and just three on defense. Of the mere six seniors on the roster, four were returning lettermen.

"If you count all the tenth-graders on the field Fridays, it's scary at times," Stockman admitted. "Those kids are learning and getting better. Unfortunately, it's not going well for us right now."

Already short of quality depth, the Owls have also yet to play a game at full strength -- and won't Friday when NCMC rival Fulton comes to town. The offensive line projected to start the campaign has yet to play together, one reason Marshall has only 99 net rushing yards and has allowed 17 sacks.

"The next man up is getting down to sophomores," Stockman said. "They should be learning and getting better on Mondays [junior varsity]. Instead, they're playing on Fridays.

"Our kids are practicing hard and want to get better," he added. "I'm pushing the coaches and the kids, and we're all going to get better together."

The Hornets (2-2, 0-1 NCMC) come into the contest looking not quite as formidable as the unbeaten state-ranked team Marshall faced last year. They were hit by graduation, although not as hard as the Owls, but return a dual-threat quarterback in senior Devin Masek -- who has produced 1,193 yards and 11 touchdowns through four games -- and always have a good stable of skill position players.

"We're going to have to tackle them and be sound in what we do," Stockman said. "Their offensive line may not be as good, but very, very capable."

Marshall (0-4, 0-2) got a lift last week with the return of all-NCMC senior running back Erik Mays to the field, although all-conference sophomore receiver Jaylin Varner was out. Between those two and seniors Chase Kateman and Martese Winters, the Owls have offensive weapons. Developing a rotation that maximizes their abilities is the key.

"We've been working on that this week, out of the backfield and slot position," Stockman said.

When Marshall and Fulton get together, a shoot-out is likely. The last four meetings have produced an average of 83.75 total points, the teams splitting the contests. A year ago, the Hornets jumped out to a 26-0 lead, but the Owls rallied to make a game of it before falling, 53-35.

"Every one of them has been a shoot-out, track meet, score-fest," Stockman observed. "We must start out well if we want to be successful."

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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