West Marion hands Magee first lossBy JOSHUA SEABROOK,
The high powered Magee offense that has routinely outscored their opposition with ease was grounded to a halt by the stingy West Marion defense last Friday night.
The game featured the classic matchup of the immovable object meeting the unstoppable force. Magee's offense has had its way with opposing defenses thus far in the season with little resistance; likewise the West Marion defense has kept opposing offenses off-balance and done enough offensively to post an unbeaten record to this point. West Marion came in with a challenge to contain one of 3A's best offenses, and they executed their game plan to near perfection, holding the vaunted Magee offense to one lone touchdown on the night.
The Magee Trojans entered the game with a collective heavy heart, as star receiver Xavier Franks had suffered the loss of his father the night before. Prior to the game, the team gathered in prayer as a sign of solidarity in the endzone with the grieving Franks before breaking it down and taking their place on the sidelines.
West Marion started the game with the ball on their own 27. Throughout the night, West Marion featured a steady rotation of ball carriers that fit like interchangeable parts in a well oiled machine. Octavious Harvey, one of the bevy of running backs featured on the night, got the opening drive started with a 5-yard run before being cut down by Josh Sanders. Then Larry Magee took over the ball carrying duties and broke off an 8-yard run to move the chains. The next back out of the stable was Jartavious Martin, who toted the ball for a 9-yard gain, followed by a run for 5 by the fourth back featured on the drive, Oavonte Swanigan. Harvey became the first back to carry the ball twice on the drive as he churned out a 4-yard run on first down. Larry Magee followed up with a 5-yard run before being dragged down by Cameron Sullivan just shy of the yard to gain. Jeremiah Holmes faked the handoff and kept for a 1-yard gain before running into a brick wall named Zyrus Craft who fought off his blocker and stonewalled the quarterback for a short gain. Martin picked up a short 2-yard run before being taken down by Cassius Walker. Holmes then connected on the first pass attempt of the evening for West Marion with Swanigan on a quick hit screen that netted a big gain down to the Magee 11, thanks to wonderful blocking downfield by his fellow receivers. Harvey then picked up 5 to get West Marion inside the Magee 5. Holmes capped off the drive with a keeper on a read option to draw first blood and put West Marion up 6-0 after a blocked PAT with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Magee took the ensuing kickoff inside their own 10, looking to get breathing room from the shadow of their own goal line. Jawon Shaw started the drive with a 2-yard run, followed by a quick hit pass from Chandler Pittman to Franks for 3 to set up 3rd and short. Magee jumped, drawing a false start penalty to back the team up 5 to set up 3rd and 7. Being just outside of their own 10, Magee played it safe, keeping the ball on the ground with Shaw, who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain, forcing a punt down to the Magee 34.
The Magee defense faired much better on the second drive of the game, as Jody and Steven Durr met in the backfield to stop Holmes for a loss on 1st. Holmes then picked up 5 on 2nd to set up 3rd and 6, aided by an offside penalty on Magee to give West Marion an easy 3rd and 1 that was picked up by Harvey with a 3-yard run. Holmes hit Swanigan on a swing pass for 9 to set up 2nd and 1. Magee stiffened on the next two downs, forcing West Marion to move backwards. Lacking a reliable kicker, West Marion decided to go for it on 4th and 5. Holmes took a short to the endzone, but undershot his man, but found a sliding Sanders, who picked the ball at the Magee 5. With 95-yards ahead of them and a 6-0 deficit, Magee looked to find more success on their second possession of the game. Shaw picked up 5 to get out to the 10 and provide a little more room for the offense to operate. Pittman then gashed the defense for a 12-yard gain on a keeper to provide a spark for the offense to get things started moving in the right direction. After a 2-yard run by Shaw, Pittman dialed up a long pass to Sanders that was nearly picked, but went through the hands of the West Marion DB and into the hands of Sanders for a 35-yard gain. Pittman then hit Franks on a quick screen behind the line of scrimmage, but Franks lost his footing for a 3-yard loss. After an incomplete pass intended for Matthew Thurman, Magee picked up 5 free yards after forcing West Marion to jump. Pittman then tucked the ball and picked up 8 to set up 4th and 1. On 4th, Pittman again turned to Sanders for a completion on a 6-yard out route to pick up the 1st. Pittman continued to go to the air as he hit Franks for 9, followed by a 3-yard pass to Franks to move inside the West Marion redzone. After jumping on 1st, Magee was aided by a pass interference call on a pass intended for Cayden Bridges to give Magee the ball at the 10. After a Shaw run that was stuffed for no gain, Thurman picked up 3 to set up 1st and goal. Shaw was again stopped for no gain on 1st, but Pittman punched the ball in on 2nd to answer West Marion's opening drive and give Magee a 7-6 lead with 5:42 remaining until the half.
West Marion then looked to answer Magee's response with a score of their own to retake the lead prior to intermission. Larry Magee got the drive started with an 11-yard gain, followed by a 4-yard run by Harvey that was negated by a holding penalty at the 30 to move West Marion to their own 20. Holmes then went to the air with a screen to Swainigan, who tore off on a 64-yard gain down to the Magee 26. Steven Durr then stopped Larry Magee for a short gain, followed by another L. Magee run for no gain. Third time was the charm for Larry Magee as he punched the ball into the endzone to give West Marion a 12-7 lead with 3:07 left in the 2nd quarter. Magee was forced into a three and out, giving West Marion a chance to score again before the half. Luckily, the Magee defense stiffened, keeping West Marion off the board on the drive to keep the score 12-7 with West Marion in front at the end of one half of play.
Bridges received the second half kickoff for Magee and took it to the Magee 42. Shaw was finally able to find some room on the ground as he picked up 8 on 1st to set up 2nd and 2. After no gain by Shaw on 2nd, he then broke loose for an 18-yard run to move down to the West Marion 35. Pittman then carried for a gain of 1 followed by a loss of yards by Shaw whose facemask was grabbed, giving Magee 5-yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Preston Grimm moved Magee back to 2nd and 20. After an incomplete pass intended for Sanders and a sack of Pittman, Magee punted the ball away on 4th and 26 down to the West Marion 22. Despite not scoring in the second half, West Marion's offense did the next best thing, they played keep away from the Magee offense, keeping the Magee defense on the field over half of the game. Magee's defense woke up at halftime and kept West Marion out of the endzone but was unable to get a key turnover to give Magee's offense a big break. Each time Magee had a big gain on offense, such as a long run by Shaw that ended with a fumble or the stop in the 4th that ended with a muffed punt by Sanders, major misfortune prevented Magee from taking the lead. The second half was a defensive stalemate in which neither offense was capable of sustaining a substantial drive against the opposing defense. In the end, Magee fell for the first time this season with a final of 12-7, putting the team's record at 7-1 on the season and 1-1 in district play.
After the game, Coach Dyess spoke about the lesson his team could take away from the loss: "We fought for four quarters. We didn't execute as well as I wished we would have, but the fight was there and that's part of building a program, that's part of turning a program around, we've just got to execute better." Coach Dyess then commented on the changes necessary for next week's Homecoming matchup against Tylertown, "We've just got to work on Magee, we've got a few little things in pass protection and stuff that we screwed up tonight, a few things we missed on defense tonight, but I think we're going to be fine. We just have to go work on Magee and get better for next week." Coach Dyess told the team that in 1997, Magee and West Marion met as 7-0 teams with West Marion emerging the victors of the game. Magee then went on to win the State Championship that year, and this year's team is capable of reaching the same fate.
Next up for Magee is the Homecoming matchup with Tylertown who comes in off a loss to Seminary. Tylertown looks to be on the receiving end of a frustrated Magee team looking to bounce back.
Join the festivities Friday for Magee's 2019 Homecoming as the Trojans look to bounce back from their first defeat of the season.