TULLAHOMA — For over 40 minutes of game time, the Tullahoma Wildcats (3-0, 1-0) were able to stymie Marshall County and held the Tigers out of the end zone.
But a resilient Tiger offense led by quarterback Devonte’ Davis saw Marshall County (3-1, 1-1) score three touchdowns in a span of six minutes late in the fourth quarter.
Even with the late surge, the Wildcats were able to answer with a late score to hold off the Tigers’ rally for the 28-20 win over Marshall County.
“I think that was the biggest takeaway tonight. We got down, but I’m so proud of the way we kept fighting even after getting down 21-0. We kept fighting and finally some good things started happening. I hate we couldn’t have played the game cleaner in the first half and found a way to get a score or two,” Tiger coach Thomas Osteen said.
After forcing a Wildcat punt on the first possession of the game, Marshall County took over possession from its own 14-yard line and moved the ball well at times, but was hampered by three penalties for 20 yards on the drive, which ultimately predicated a turnover on downs at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter.
Tullahoma milked the clock on the following drive and finally punched the ball into the end zone when quarterback Ryan Scott burst through the defensive line for the first strike of the night.
After forcing a three and out, a short punt set Marshall County up with a first down inside the Tigers’ 40-yard line.
Three plays later, Scott found a crease and scampered 22 yards for the second score in barely four minutes of game time.
But after the scores on back-to-back Wildcat drives, Marshall County took possession on its own 11-yard line and methodically moved the ball well, but again saw the drive stall due to untimely penalties that prompted a punt with 2:21 left in the half.
The Tigers’ offense continued to struggled to move the chains into the second half and on the first drive of the third quarter, Marshall County was off the field following a quick three and out that took just 2:12 off the clock.
Tullahoma in turn, took possession on the Tigers’ 39-yard line following a punt that went just 16 yards.
It was on that Wildcat possession, however, that things began to turn for the Tigers.
Although Tullahoma was able to press inside the Marshall County 20, a false start on the 13-yard line forced the Wildcats to settle for a field goal, instead of a fourth down conversion attempt.
On the field goal try, the Wildcats botched the snap and the Tigers came up with the ball on the 25-yard line. Once again, Marshall County was able to move the ball well into Wildcat territory, but a fourth-down run by Demari Braden was spotted short of the first down marker, giving the ball back to the Wildcats.
Tullahoma in turn took advantage of the short field and Scott notched his third score of the night on a three-yard run with 10:38 left in the fourth.
And then the drama came.
Needing a quick-strike, the Tigers saw Davis go to the air and complete 4-of-5 passes on the following drive for 76 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Lamarion Pierce with 7:49 left in regulation.
Wyatt Joyce’s successful kick after cut the Wildcat lead to 21-7.
Needing a spark, Marshall County opted for the onside kick, which was recovered by Kortez Ingram on the 48-yard line.
Seven plays later, Davis scrambled on third down and connected with Jayden Randolph in the end zone for the second touchdown in just over two minutes.
Tullahoma answered the late spark by the Tigers after a short kickoff set the Wildcats up with a first down at their own 40-yard line.
Keishawn Cummings took the first play on the drive 59 yards to the Marshall County one-yard line.
He finished the drive two plays later with the fourth Wildcat touchdown of the night.
Once again trailing by two touchdowns, Davis moved the Tigers downfield with precision, completing a pair of passes for 57 yards on the drive, including a 38-yard strike to Pierce to once again bring Marshall County within one score.
The kick after, however, failed on a bad snap, leaving the Wildcats’ advantage at eight points.
The one-two punch of Cummings and Scott gave the Tigers’ defense fits all night, despite only giving up a handful of big gains.
“We knew it would be tough. The combination of him (Scott) and 18 (Cummings) running the ball, it’s just so tough to defend. They have three or four offensive linemen up there. We didn’t stop them, but to control them the way we did. We were happy for the most part that we bottled them up and didn’t give them chunk plays,” Osteen said.
Cummings’ 59-yard run in the fourth quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for either team.
Davis was the spark plug for the Tigers’ offense, completing 15-of-21 pass attempts for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
He added 32 yards on 16 carries on the ground as well.
Demari Braden was the work horse for the Tigers’ ground attack, totaling 75 yards on 15 carries.
Pierce was Davis’ top target on the night, hauling eight catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’re going to use it as a learning experience. Tullahoma is a good football team. Not going to take anything away from them. but it just shows how good you have to play to beat someone of their caliber,” Osteen said.
The loss was the first blemish on the schedule for the Tigers, but could end up being an important game for how the Region 5-AAAA shakes out.
Currently, Tullahoma joined Pearl Cohn and Montgomery Central as the only three teams in the nine-team region without a loss in the league.
“You can look down your ledger as a coach and see what reality is. Pearl Cohn is really really good. In reality, there were probably some home playoff games at stake tonight, but that’s OK. Our goal is to win enough games to hopefully play Tullahoma again,” Osteen said.
Marshall Co. 0 0 0 20 — 20
Tullahoma 0 14 0 14 — 28
T — Ryan Scott 2 run, (Justus Chadwick kick), 11:47.
T— Scott 22 run, (Chadwick kick), 7:56.
T — Scott 3 run, (Chadwick kick), 10:38.
M — Lamarion Pierce 35 pass from Devonte’ Davis, (Wyatt Joyce kick), 7:49.
M — Jayden Randolph 12 pass from Davis, (Joyce kick), 5:21.
T — Keishawn Cummings 1 run, (Chadwick kick), 4:08.
M — Pierce 38 pass from Davis, (kick failed), 2:03.