Tuesday, September 13, 2016 - Updated: 3:23 PM
By David Green
DRAFFENVILLE – For the second week in a row, a team brought a 2-0 record into Traylor Stadium. For the second week in a row, that team left with a loss.
Marshall County got touchdowns from running back Dalton Nelson and receiver Lucas Forsythe, two field goals from Daniel Gardner and a defense that largely bottled up the opponent to hand Calloway County its first defeat of the year, 20-13, on Friday night.
The Marshals survived a rash of fumbles, losing three on three consecutive possessions in a shaky first period.
Those giveaways were offset by a trio of interceptions by Austin Riley, who picked Laker starter Jacob Bellah once and freshman John Foster twice.
“I’ll take it,” Coach Evan Merrick said. “A win’s a win. I’m not real pleased with some things, but we’ll worry about that later in the week and enjoy this win tonight.”
The Marshals sputtered on the game’s opening possession, but Riley quickly gave them the ball back with his first interception on the Laker’s third snap.
Marshall County went 42 yards on five plays, with Nelson taking it in from three yards out for his second rushing TD of the year. The score came with 8:14 on the first-quarter clock.
It was the first score surrendered by the Laker defense this year. A safety surrendered against Murray represented the only points Calloway had given up in its first two games.
The Marshal defense continued to shackle Calloway County, which gained only eight yards on its next two possessions.
Then, the Lakers struck, with Bellah breaking loose for a 55-yard ramble with 3:50 left in the period. Christian Bobo’s conversion kick tied it at 7-7.
The one-play drive came after the first of those three consecutive fumbles. Fortunately for Marshall County, Calloway could not capitalize on the next two miscues, and in fact gave the ball back to the Marshals with a fumble of their own on their first play of the second period.
“I think it was a lack of focus,” Merrick said of the Marshal streak of fumbles. “Our kids play emotional. I think that’s a good thing, but we’ve got to learn how to corral those emotions.”
After the Calloway giveaway, the Marshals marched 27 yards in seven plays, with Forsythe pulling in a seven-yard pass from Skyler Smith for the TD with 8:26 left in the half. Gardner’s second PAT kick made it 14-7.
On their next possession, the Marshals mounted a long drive that was capped by a 31-yard field goal by Gardner, making it 17-7 with only 58 seconds left before intermission.
Bellah drove the Lakers to the 10 as the clock ticked inside 10 minutes and Calloway set up for a 27-yard field goal attempt. The snap was muffed, but Bellah, the holder, rolled out to his right. He had Jordan Norsworthy open, but was under pressure from the Marshals and overthrew as he was hit and taken down.
He was shaken up by the play and did not return in the second half.
With Jeremiah Malone at quarterback, the Calloway offense took on a different personality and the Lakers, who had only three first downs in the first half, began to move the ball.
On their second possession, they got a 15-yard run by Cody Orr that made it 17-13. The conversion kick failed.
“We didn’t really prepare for him,” Merrick said of Malone taking over at quarterback. “He’s their athlete and he the guy that can do some different things for them.”
Malone also was shaken up on a running play during the drive that resulted in Orr’s touchdown. He returned to the game, but Foster had the reins for most of the rest of the game.
The two teams battled back and forth until late in the game, when Marshall County drove to the Calloway 17. Gardner’s kick from 34 yards out was perfect, and the margin was seven points.
“We got their best effort,” Merrick said. “They’re a team on the rise, too, and we’re fortunate to get the win and continue our streak.”
Mason Green rushed 22 times for 103 yards to lead the Marshals. Nelson had 17 carries for 72 yards.
Smith completed 15 of 10 passes for 79 yards and the touchdown. Forsythe had four catches for 36 yards.
Grant Utley led the defense with nine solo tackles. Grant Johnson had five solo hits and four assists. Zach Garland also had five solo tackles. Riley, in addition to his three interceptions, had five solo tackles.
The win lifted the Marshals to 2-1. It marked the first time a Marshall County football team had back-to-back victories since 2012, when the Marshals won on consecutive weeks against Webster County and Calloway County and again over Crittenden County and Muhlenberg County.
It was the third straight win for Marshall County over the rival Lakers. Marshall County leads the all-time series 24-5.
THIS WEEK: Murray will be the fourth opponent of the season for Marshall County. The Tigers, who won eight of 14 games played between 1974 and 2006, have won three straight since the series was revived in 2013.
The Tigers are 1-3-2 after a 43-7 loss at Hopkinsville last week. Murray comes in with a three-game losing streak that began with their 13-2 loss to Calloway County on Aug. 27. Murray has scored only 16 points in that three-game stretch, while giving up 83.
NEXT WEEK: Marshall County will close out its four-week home stand with its District 1 opener against Christian County. The Colonels took a 46-7 win last year at Hopkinsville and lead the series 18-11.
Christian County is 3-1 after a 44-3 victory over Fort Campbell. They play cross-town rival Hopkinsville Friday.