Charleston converted three first-quarter turnovers into touchdowns to fuel a 46-6 rout of eighth-ranked Caruthersville at Marshall Field on Friday.
"We came out and didn't execute, made some mistakes, had some turnovers and they took advantage of it," said Caruthersville coach Brad Gerling.
Charleston, on the other hand, made few mistakes and thoroughly dominated both sides of the ball from start to finish.
Josh Marshall, Bluejays quarterback and defensive back, exemplified the Bluejays' scoring versatility. He threw for three touchdowns, ran for one from scrimmage and scored another on an interception return.
The Bluejays struck early and often -- Caruthersville's first three possessions. Marshall picked off quarterback Keith Creekmore's tipped first pass attempt and ran it in from 21 yards out at 9:22 of the opening period for a 6-0 lead.
On the Tigers' ensuing possession, Joseph Watts intercepted Creekmore at the Tiger 41.
Marshall wasted no time in sending the Tigers to a 13-0 deficit. On the first play, Marshall rolled left, found no open receiver, stutter-stepped past the first wave of defenders, then danced down the sideline with little over two minutes gone in the game.
Charleston upped the score to 20-0 when Watts recovered a Caruthersville fumble at the Charleston 25, then, again on the first play from scrimmage, swept right end for the score at 6:01.
The score could have been even more lopsided in favor of the Bluejays had they capitalized on two other first-quarter Tiger turnovers, a fumble recovery and an interception. Following the interception, the Bluejays marched 83 yards before stalling at the Caruthersville 2.
Midway of the second quarter, Watts gave the Bluejays excellent field position at the Caruthersville 24 with a 30-yard punt return. Two plays later, Marshall hit wideout Justin Clark for 17 yards and a 27-0 lead with 5:14 left.
A fourth interception in the half, this one by Justin Clark, set the Bluejays up again in great field position at their own 42.
"It's hard to throw from a prone position," said Charleston coach Alfred Marshall, of Creekmore's nightmare evening. "We were putting the heat on him and we worked hard all week on different kinds of coverages and disguising our coverages."
Again on Charleston's first play, Marshall went up top to wide open 6-foot-5 tight end Jamarcus Williams to push the lead to 34-0, the halftime score.
What may have accounted for the Caruthersville meltdown?
Said Alfred Marshall, alluding to the Tigers' two early-season routs, "They haven't faced any kind of adversity. Against Kennett, we had tremendous adversity and we came back. Against Sikeston, we had two goal-line stands and I can't remember the last time Charleston did that.
"In the past, sometimes when Charleston had any kind of adversity, we'd self-
destruct, too. I commend the character of the boys we have on this team."
The Tigers (2-1) finally lit the scoreboard with a 77-yard drive, capped by Creekmore's 1-yard sneak, at 7:49 of the third quarter to cut the margin to 34-6.
But Charleston came roaring back with a 90-yard drive on its very next possession. Marshall completed the 11-play series with a 58-yard touchdown toss to Williams with 2:46 to go in the third quarter to go ahead 40-6.
The pass, defensed by a Caruthersville defensive back, was tipped, but fell directly into the hands of Williams.
Charleston closed out the scoring off yet another Tiger turnover late in the third period. Tavis Hamilton, set up by a 48-yard run from Bobby Clark, culminated the two-play drive with a 10-yard sweep for a 46-6 lead which turned on a running clock for the fourth quarter.
Charleston reserves played much of the final period.
Charleston's defense held the usually prolific Caruthersville attack to 179 yards of total offense, including limiting Tiger tailback Kendrickus Reed, who had been averaging more than 200 yards per game, to just 64 in 15 carries.
Creekmore was 5-of-17 passing for 79 yards. The Tigers had averaged 42.5 points entering this contest.
"My coaching staff put together a great scouting report," said Alfred Marshall. "We were well prepared for everything they did. We got a defense designed to defend this type of offense and it worked."
Watts paced the Bluejay running game with 105 yards on 17 carries while Bobby Clark chipped in with 54 yards in four trips.
Josh Marshall was an efficient 6-of-9 through the air for 151 yards. Williams finished with three catches, two for scores, for 115 yards.
Said coach Marshall, in his debut season, of his team's 3-0 start and huge win over district nemesis Caruthersville, "It feels great. Maybe I can sleep tonight. I haven't slept in three days."
Friday's win marks the first time the Bluejays have defeated the Tigers since the 2002 season, snapping a three-game losing streak.
It's Caruthersville's first regular season loss since losing to Hayti in 2003.
Charleston goes on the road against New Madrid County Central on Friday.