Fulton comes back, holds off Owls
FULTON -- "Baby steps," a refrain often heard from Marshall head football coach Adam Huse.
The Owls didn't win Friday, but they could have. For the first time this season, Marshall led a game -- and continued to do so until the fourth quarter. Even after falling behind, the Owls rallied until foiled -- by either Fulton's defense or the officials, depending on who one asks.
The Hornets tacked on a late score for a 28-15 NCMC home win. Marshall left after its most inspired performance in two years.
"We challenged our kids, 'We have to fix ourselves,'" Huse asserted. "They responded this week."
When the Owls and Hornets hook up it's usually wild and woolly -- lately more of the latter, although not quite as chippy as the previous encounter at the same venue two years ago.
The game couldn't have started any better for Marshall, which made a stop on defense and quickly thereafter struck the first blow when senior John Haug threw a fade pass on the line for sophomore Jace Lance, who didn't break stride on a 64-yard touchdown catch.
"We had our game plan for exactly what we thought would happen," Huse said. "Our kids executed and did what we wanted them to do."
Fulton gained 28 yards on senior Nazir McClain's run and then got a break when two Marshall defenders bounced off McClain, taking senior Cameron Vaughn's pass 26 yards for a score. The Hornets missed a two-point conversion attempt after the Owls had made theirs on a pass to junior Duffin Makings.
Marshall responded with a 61-yard drive, half of the eight plays resulting in first downs -- beginning with two Makings runs for 24 yards. Junior Jairon Jasper and Haug also had runs over 10 yards before Haug snuck the ball in from the 1-yard line. Senior Romario Monroy's extra point extended the Owls' lead to 15-6.
The teams exchanged punts before Fulton went on a 14-play, 74-yard series in which it converted four first downs, the last one on junior Latrellus Colbert's 1-yard TD blast. Marshall got into Hornet territory on a personal foul penalty when a late hit sent Lance to the sideline for the rest of the game. However, the Owls fumbled on the next play and went into halftime with a 15-13 edge.
After stopping Marshall on downs at their own 37 yard-line to open the second half, the Hornets picked up 27 yards on junior Taeon Logan's run, with a personal foul tacked on giving them first down and goal at the 9. They didn't get in, though, as the Owls put up a goal-line stand, senior Carlos Lopez making the initial hit on Colbert's attempted plunge at the 1.
"Our defense bowed their back, the old fashioned bend-but-don't-break," Huse said. "They did a great job of keeping Fulton out of the end zone."
Junior Jaylen Varner's Odell-like 34-yard reception over the top of an all-state cornerback gave Marshall breathing room and a pass interference call put them on the home side of the field. Freshman Ben Haug caught a 29-yard pass from his brother, but the Owls were stopped on fourth down and three yards to go at the Fulton 24.
The Hornets put together a 15-play series that consumed seven-and-a-half minutes, aided early on by an offside call on fourth down. On third and 12, Vaughn connected with senior Makygh Galbreath for 14 yards and then scored on a 12-yard bootleg.
Three kickoff penalties put Marshall on their 40-yard line with 5:44 left to play, but it could only move four yards on three plays. On fourth down, Haug looked for Makings deep, only to have a Fulton defender run smack into him without turning and making a play on the ball. Yet despite the textbook example of pass interference, no call was made and the Hornets took over on downs.
"You can't blame the officials for anything," Huse said. "As a coach, I've got to put our kids in a better position and not let anything like that happen."
The Hornets (2-3, 1-1 NCMC) went 44 yards on seven plays, the last a 19-yard McClain TD run. The Owls got the ball back with 1:13 remaining, but the game ended with Galbreath intercepting a desperation heave near the goal line.
Marshall (0-5, 0-3) played its most competitive game since losing to the Hornets 26-14 a year ago, but will have a tough task Friday when it hosts league-leading Moberly for Homecoming.
"They've taken ownership of this football team and played hard," Huse declared. "And hopefully will continue to play hard. I can't wait to see where they go from here."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org