Special teams play proved to be the difference on Friday night in Marceline as Scotland County saw an early lead slip away before the home Tigers ran away with the game in the second half to post a 43-13 defeat for SCR-I in the season debut.
Scotland County won the coin toss and received the opening kickoff. After Will Fromm ran for a first down, SCR-I was forced to punt. The kick was blocked, and Marceline recovered on the 19-yard line.
One play later Culler Bruner ran the ball into the end zone untouched for a 19-yard TD to put Marceline on top 6-0 with 9:17 left in the first period.
SCR-I responded with a scoring drive that started with a solid kick return by Matthew Woods. Marceline aided the drive with a pass interference penalty that moved the ball across midfield.
Fromm connected with Parker Triplett on a 24-yard pass play. SCR-I drew a key offsides penalty on fourth down to move the chains and Fromm capped off the drive with a one-yard TD run with 3:38 left in the first period. Jayden Payne made the Point After Try to put SCR-I on top 7-6.
Branton Burrus put the pressure on Chase Billups, hammering the Marceline quarterback as he released a pass attempt on third down, forcing a Marceline punt.
But SCR-I went three and out and then Marceline’s Clayton Stallo returned the kick 53 yards for a touchdown. Bruner made the PAT kick to push Marceline’s lead to 13-7 on the first play of the second period.
After another three and out by the Tigers, Marceline quickly marched down the field as Billups hit Bruner for a 24-yard completion after another good punt return by Stallo. Billups then hit Bruner on an eight-yard TD pass and the senior made the extra point kick to extend the lead to 20-7.
SCR-I answered quickly as three plays later Fromm found Kayden Anders for an 81 yard TD pass as the sophomore receiver pulled in a pass while colliding with two Marceline defenders, staying on his feet and easily outrunning the rest of the defense to the end zone. The PAT kick failed, leaving the deficit at 20-13 with 6:28 left in the first half.
Anders and Grant McRobert combined to haul down Bruner for a big loss on third down to force a three and out for the Marceline offense.
But the SCR-I offense could not move the chains and gave the home team the ball back.
The two teams continued to trade punts as Marceline went three and out.
SCR-I tried to get something going in the final minute of the first half. Fromm hit Anders for a first down, but the drive ended and SCR-I was forced to punt with less than 20 seconds on the clock.
That proved just enough time for Stallo to break another punt return, picking up 47 yards and taking the ball all the way back to the 20-yard line. That was close enough for Bruner to add to the Marceline lead with a 37-yard field goal as time expired to boost the Marceline lead to 23-13.
The home team road the momentum out of the locker room to start the second half, taking the kickoff and marching down the field on a 71-yard, nine-play drive fueled by a 25-yard run by Nick Cain and completed by a 10-yard TD pass from Billups to Alex McCauslin. Bruner added the PAT kick to push the lead to 30-13 with 8:14 left in the 3rd period.
SCR-I moved the ball to midfield with a pass play from Fromm to Anders. But Payne coughed up the ball on a run try to give Marceline possession.
It took the home team just eight plays, all rushes by Cain, Stallo and Bruner, to find pay dirt yet again as Bruner ran the ball in from five yards out to push the lead to 37-13.
The second turnover of the game ended the next SCR-I drive as Stallo picked off a Fromm pass near midfield.
After a 24-yard completion from Billups to McCauslin put Marceline in scoring position, the Tigers’ defense was able to make a stand to end the third period. Burrus and Hayden Long backed up Marceline, running down Bruner for a loss. The Marceline senior was still able to extend his team’s lead when he connected on a 36-yard field goal to make the score 40-13.
SCR-I moved the ball down field on the next possession on first down runs by Anders and Triplett. But Marceline got the ball back, stopping SCR-I on fourth and one in the red zone.
The two teams traded punts most of the fourth period before Bruner booted a 39-yard field goal late in the final period to put the finishing touches on the 43-13 victory for Marceline.
SCR-I actually outgained Marceline on offense, 260 yards to 245 yards, running 61 offensive plays to just 45 for the home team. Marceline took advantage of two SCR-I turnovers, 203 yards on six punt returns, and the leg of Bruner to post the Lewis & Clark Conference victory.
Fromm completed 11 of 25 passes for 163 yards, one TD and one interception. He ran the ball 10 times for 29 yards and a score.
Anders rushed the ball 13 times for 51 yards and hauled in five passes for 113 yards and a TD. Payne was held to 22 yards on nine carries. Triplett caught three passes for 37 yards.
Woods led the defense with eight tackles. Triplett, Burrus and Anders each made six stops.
Billups completed seven of 13 passes for 75 yards and two TDs. Bruner ran the ball 18 times for 93 yards and two TDs.