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By: Corey Stott
MEMPHIS, Mo.- 8/27/21- “It was fun while it lasted!” That observation by Tiger football head coach Troy Carper fairly-well summed up Friday night’s heartbreaking 19-18 loss to the Marceline Tigers in the season and conference opener at Tiger Field. “This loss sucks, but we just went toe to toe with a potential state team,” Carper added.
The loss was gut wrenching, not just because it was close, but because it was a classic David vs Goliath contest, and David was winning, right up until the very final drive. Goliath, or Marceline in this case, fields a roster of 60 players, 40 of which saw the field Friday night, according to Coach Mark Ross. By contrast, Scotland County’s entire roster consists of 26 players.
Given that scenario, the fact that Scotland County played well enough to win and actually led most of the game is tremendously impressive. It was very obvious to anyone in attendance that the blue Tigers were by far the more physical team on the field. Additionally, most people believed Marceline’s ability to rotate more guys in would see Scotland County fatigue and fade away in the second half. To the contrary, the Tigers from Memphis were definitely the better conditioned team in the sweltering heat of the evening.
“Coach Ross told us we were more physical tonight,” Carper said after the game. “We brought it, you know?” He added that his message all week long was that regardless of the outcome, he wanted Marceline to know they’d played a physical team.
“I told the kids regardless of what the scoreboard says… and I told them this all week… when they get on the bus they’re gonna know they played Scotland County. And when they got on the bus to go home tonight they damn well knew they played Scotland County tonight because they’re gonna be sore,” Carper said with pride in his voice. “We were physical. We hit, hit, hit and hit some more. He rotated 40, we have 26. And these kids battled and battled. It was fun. It was definitely fun.”
Scotland County won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. Senior Trayton Buckallew kicked off the season for the Tigers. Literally. His kick was returned by Hunter Nelson to the Marceline 38-yard line. Marceline went no huddle and ran seven plays while picking up a first down before the Scotland defense forced them to punt from the SC 47-yard line.
The Tigers began their first possession with their backs against the wall at their own 2-yard line. They advanced the ball to their 34- yard line before a sack stalled the drive and they were forced to punt a few plays later.
Scotland had the ball as the first quarter expired and were on the march at mid-field. Hayden Long had an explosive play to light off the second period with a 35- yard quarterback keeper to the Marceline 12-yard line. Two plays later the drive was capped off with a 12-yard pass to Alex Long in the left corner of the end zone. The two-point attempt was no good, and Scotland led 6-0 with just under 11:00 to play in the first half.
Both teams went scoreless on their next possessions before Marceline got on the board with a 4-yard touchdown run by Jace Bixenman over the left side. Hunter Nelson’s extra point kick was good, and Marceline led 7-6 with 3:10 to play in the half.
On Scotland’s next possession, a Marceline facemask penalty at mid-field moved the Tigers into striking range. A toss play for Alex Long to the right side on 1st and 10 from the 24-yard line resulted in an SC touchdown with 1:31 remaining until the half. The two-point attempt was no good and Scotland had a 12-7 lead, which they would later take to the halftime locker room.
Both teams had two empty possessions to start the second half before Scotland County found paydirt again with a 24-yard pass to Riley Small for the score. Scotland was flagged for delay of game while lining up for the two-point attempt. Corbyn Spurgeon then attempted an extra point kick for the Tigers, but it was not struck well and wobbled off short and wide right. Scotland led 18-7 with 4:34 to play in the 3rd quarter.
On the next series, Marceline appeared to be in trouble after a couple of penalties left them staring at 3rd and 12 from their own 43. But Jacob Stallo dialed up a pretty pass down the right sideline for the touchdown with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter. The two-point attempt was no good and Scotland’s lead was cut to 18-13.
Scotland County answered with a terrific drive that saw them march from their own 25 to the Marceline 13-yard line. On 3rd and 7, SC appeared to hit a big pass play for the first down to Alex Long. But a penalty for ineligible downfield negated the play. A false start penalty a few plays later put the Tigers in a hold and they ended up turning the ball over on downs.
After Marceline turned the ball over on downs at midfield on the next possession, Scotland County was running the ball and draining the clock with 2:37 to play. On a 2nd and 9 from the SC 47, Buckallew got the carry and was tackled from behind. The ball came out but the back judge immediately signaled that he was down. However, after a further conference, the call was reversed and Marceline was awarded the fumble recovery.
That sequence proved to be a back breaker, as Marceline put together a scoring drive that was capped off by a Hunter Nelson dive into the end zone with 37.3 seconds to play. The two-point attempt was no good and Marceline led 19-18. Scotland County had a couple shots but was unable to convert and the Tigers from Marceline stole a victory from Carper’s Tigers.
Hayden Long had 96 yards passing for SC, while brother Alex Long had 92 rushing yards. Alex also added 41 receiving yards to his total. As a team, Scotland had 302 yards of total offense, with 96 passing and 206 rushing. Marceline had 288 yards of total offense, with 155 passing and 133 rushing. Scotland picked up 19 first downs to Marceline’s 16.