Owls put up fight at Hannibal
HANNIBAL -- It started like so many Marshall football games this season, with Hannibal opening a big early lead.
As the contest progressed, though, the Owls began to play more evenly with their favored hosts for a sustained stretch. Marshall ultimately lost the NCMC clash, 48-10, but at least let the Pirates know they were there.
"Our kids fought and were able to put some stuff offensively for the first time all year passing-wise," remarked MHS head coach Adam Huse. "I was proud that our kids fought, kept fighting for four quarters."
One wondered if that would be possible after Hannibal scored 19 seconds into the game, junior Gabe Worthington going 46 yards on a quarterback keeper to set up junior JaQuez Magruder's 6-yard touchdown run.
Magruder had five carries for 36 yards on the Pirates' next possession, including the final 12 yards. The Owls put themselves in a bad spot by losing yardage on the ensuing kick return, with senior John Haug trapped for a 7-yard sack in the end zone for a safety by senior Evan Allen.
Four carries for 28 yards by senior Billy Smashey preceded Magruder's 5-yard TD run on the ensuing series. Worthington hit junior Ricky Lawson on a 28-yard scoring strike after taking over at midfield to increase Hannibal's margin to 28-0 a minute into the second period.
That's when Marshall's offense came alive. Haug found junior Jaylen Varner with tosses of 14 and 9 yards and gained 19 yards on two completions to sophomore Jace Lance. Senior Kyle Weber caught a 10-yard pass and Jaylen got the Owls' to the 10-yard line with an 11-yard reception before stalling, senior Romario Monroy making his first field goal of the season from 26 yards out.
"They haven't had a ton of success, and they finally got some success," Huse said. "That was a huge deal."
Marshall came up with defensive stops on the final two possessions of the half, senior Jonathan Sprigg forcing a fumble with sack and freshman Ben Haug recovering the ball at its own 7-yard line with 45 seconds remaining.
After the Owls were stopped on downs on the first drive of the second half, Hannibal went 60 yards on three plays -- scoring on Worthington's 38-yard bootleg. Marshall got the ball back on its 8-yard line and strung together what may be considered its most impressive drive yet, covering the distance in eight plays with Ben Haug at the helm.
The rookie opened with a 12-yard pass to Weber -- who would finish with a school-record 10 catches for 107 yards -- but the big play was a slant pass which Varner took 70 yards. The Pirates dug in and forced a fourth down at their 9-yard line, but Haug hit Varner in the end zone to close the margin to 34-10.
"He's the future for us as quarterback, obviously," Huse noted. "John needed a little rest and Ben was ready to step in and play. It's great."
Haug also did the job on defense with an interception, but another Allen sack stopped the Owls. Worthington capped a 10-play, 60-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter and Hannibal tacked on a 30-yard dash by senior Kevin Campbell a minute later.
The Pirates (5-3, 4-2 NCMC), who saw their string of three straight league championships end this year, had two 100-yard rushers: Worthington (107) and Magruder (101).
Marshall (0-8, 0-5) had a net of minus-28 yards rushing, but Varner had a career-high 113 yards on five catches. The Owls close regular season play at home Friday against Boonville -- the opponent during their last win two years ago, 35-14.
"We've got to find a running game," Huse said. "We have to find out what we do that works and what Boonville does well."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org