For the second time in just three weeks the DeSoto Thunderbirds and the Marshall Academy Patriots met on the high school gridiron with championship aspirations on the line. The scores were different but the results were the same.
On Oct. 25, the two conference rivals squared off with the 1A North Conference title at stake. Marshall Academy prevailed 62-38. Friday night was round two of the Mississippi Private Schools Association playoffs with the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds squaring off. Again, the Patriots posted an impressive 24-point victory at 48-24.
However, Marshall Academy had to overcome a 14-point first quarter deficit to claim the victory.
DeSoto got the first break of the contest when Marshall mishandled the opening kickoff and the T-Birds were able to set up shop at the Patriot 49. From there the Thunderbirds steadily pushed the ball right at the Patriots. Aided by a 23-yard run by quarterback Zac Manning, DeSoto finished off the 49-yard drive with a 2-yard run by Bradley Harper. The drive took just under four minutes.
It took the Patriots slightly less than three minutes to respond to DeSoto's TD. A 56-yard scoring drive was capped off by a 9-yard run at the 5:17 mark of the opening quarter.
Just 20 seconds later, DeSoto was back on top again. A personal foul against Marshall Academy on the first play after the ensuing kickoff gave the T-Birds excellent field position at their own 46. Sniffing out a flaw in the Patriot defense, Manning called a quarterback draw and raced practically untouched 54 yards for the score.
DeSoto dominated the action in first quarter. On Marshall's next possession, Reed St. Columbia picked off an errant Patriot pass and returned it to the DeSoto 40. Two plays later, St. Columbia raced 62-yards for what was to be the T-Birds' last touchdown of the night.
It was all Marshall Academy the rest of the way. The Patriots put together a 62-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Dakota Dailey. The TD and extra point closed the gap to 21-14.
The Patriots scored only once in the second quarter but the defense blanked the DeSoto offense for the next 25 minutes of play. Marshall Academy would proceed to roll off 27 unanswered points.
Another Patriot turnover gave the T-Birds another golden opportunity with 3:32 to play in the half. Story Phillips recovered a Marshall Academy fumble at the DeSoto 12. DeSoto's drive stalled at the Marshall 24 where Rowland Brothers attempted a 41-yard field goal. An offside penalty gave the T-Birds one more opportunity before the half but they came away with no points following an incomplete pass.
Marshall did not begin to dominate the contest until midway through the third quarter. The Patriots scored a pair of touchdowns within 1:10. The first came on a 68-yard run off a reverse. The second was of the shorter variety, only 11 yards.
Page 2 of 2 - An interception and a fumble set up those two Marshall scores.
Though down 34-14, the T-Birds simply refused to roll over and die. DeSoto put together a 55-yard drive that ended in a 30-yard field goal by Brothers just 43 seconds into the final quarter.
Marshall Academy put the game out of reach with a 52-yard touchdown run with 10:59 to play. They added a meaningless score on a 15-yard run with less than two minutes to play.
The Thunderbirds completed a successful 2013 gridiron campaign with an impressive 9-3 record. Marshall Academy advances to the playoffs' semifinals.