Home sweet Homecoming for Owls
It was more like the good ol' times Friday on Cecil Naylor Field, where the Marshall football controlled Fulton from start to finish for a 41-6 NCMC victory.
The Owls ended a string of 12 straight home losses and celebrated their first Homecoming win since 2015 by building a 34-0 lead and ending the game under the "turboclock" for the first time since opening the 2006 season with a 48-6 win over Lincoln Prep.
"This is for the kids," MHS head coach Adam Huse declared while sitting on a darkened bench as fireworks shot off overhead behind him. "This is a great opportunity for them to enjoy what Homecoming really is."
Marshall came out determined to run the ball, and did on its opening drive. Two runs for 20 yards from senior Tariq Coleman and 37 yards on three carries, the last for 27 yards, by sophomore Ben Haug -- back after missing last week's game -- set up first down at the Hornets' 4-yard line.
"Our kids did a great job of blocking" for the run, including newly-minted freshman starters Owen Kiso and Gerald Nomau, Huse said after watching his team gain a season-high 127 rushing yards. "It's still not where we need to be, but it's better than it has been."
Fulton sophomore Seth Sayler intercepted a pass in the end zone, but did the Owls a favor by running the ball out to the 2. Fulton couldn't move and senior Jaylen Varner returned a punt 31 yards to the 7. It took four plays, but Marshall punched the ball in on Haug's 1-yard run.
The Hornets have a ground game, too, and turned to it -- primarily going to senior Taeon Logan, who had 192 yards on 26 carries -- to reach the red zone before freshman Caden Kraft separated a hurdling runner from the ball and senior Zavion Winn scooped it up and brought it back to the Marshall 34.
Coleman went 26 yards with a screen pass, with another 15 yards tacked on for facemask penalty, and the Owls worked their way to the Fulton 2 -- from where Haug flipped to senior Duffin Makings for a touchdown.
Kiso recovered an onside kick and Haug passed to Varner on three straight plays for 43 yards before running the ball in from the 6-yard line to make it 20-0 a minute into the second quarter.
Fulton again moved the ball, 25 yards on 11 plays after Logan's 39-yard kick return, but ran out of downs at the MHS 18.
"Our defense has played well all year, except for last week against Bolivar," Huse said. "It's nice to see them get rewarded with some success."
The first two Marshall snaps produced little, but on third down Haug went over the top to Varner, who streaked down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown and 27-0 halftime lead.
"Confidence breeds confidence and success breeds success," Huse noted. "We have a lot of talent. We can play with everybody in our conference if we play like we're supposed to. And we can lose to anybody if we don't."
Makings recovered a fumble on the Hornets' 31-yard line on the second play of the second half. Coleman turned the right corner for 26 yards, reaching out to tap the pylon with the ball, but was ruled down at the 1. He rumbled across the goal line on the next play.
The Hornets had their only successful series of the game when they got the ball, going 53 yards on eight plays -- including a 26-yard Logan run -- to score on a 6-yard blast by senior Latrellus Colbert.
Junior Jace Lance caught a 37-yard pass to get the Owls to the Fulton 10, but sophomore Cameron Jackson forced a fumble at the end of 5-yard Makings run and senior Justin Leake found the ball. The Hornets crossed midfield before Varner recorded Marshall's first interception of the season and returned it all the way, although a holding penalty negated the touchdown.
No problem for the Owls, who milked three minutes off the fourth-quarter clock before Varner caught a short hitch patch and weaved his way through congestion 32 yards for the game's final score.
This was a learning experience for Marshall (2-3, 1-1) in how to play with a lead, and it passed by maintaining its energy and intensity throughout the second half.
"We had a lead gong into the fourth quarter last year against (Fulton), and lost because we didn't know how to finish," Huse remarked. "So we have to make sure we take it mentally as a 0-0 game and stay focused."
Haug completed 14 of 20 passes for 275 yards, 171 yards to Varner on seven catches. Makings and junior Ethan Stickels were each involved in 12 tackles and the Owls allowed no sacks after yielding 24 in the first four games.
Marshall now begins a stretch run with three straight games against winning teams, starting Friday at Moberly.
"It's going to come down to how we practice," Huse said. "You win the game on Friday, but you lose it Monday through Thursday.
"I challenged them after last week that we needed a good week of practice, and they did a really good job," he added. "If we can continue that this week, I look forward to going to Moberly and seeing what happens."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org