(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- The New Madrid County Central Eagles came into Wednesday evening's contest with the Potosi Trojans seeking revenge of an earlier loss, 28-18, to Potosi in week three of the 2008 season. The scoreboard at the end of the regional round of the playoffs Wednesday evening was almost an exact replica to week three, but this time the Eagles found themselves on the victorious end of things winning by a final score of 28-19.
The difference in the two games proved to be the NMCC defense. Despite allowing 346 yards of total offense in Wednesday's contest, the Eagles held firm against a tough Potosi squad which featured running back Brandon Bourbon.
Potosi appeared to be in control following the opening 73-yard TD run by Bourbon as they recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but from there the Eagles began to defend their home turf. They held the Trojans scoreless in their next few possessions then jumped on the board themselves with 30.3 seconds left to play in the first quarter. Quarterback Dontre Jenkins rushed in from four yards out for the first score, followed by a two-point conversion run by Rodney Anderson which put NMCC up 8-7.
The lead would increase for the Eagles minutes into the second quarter as Bryan Waters rushed in from nine yards out at 6:24. Following a penalty on the extra point, the two-point conversion run failed, leaving the score 14-7 in favor of the home team.
Both teams then went three-and-out, and Potosi found themselves with the ball with 3:01 left to play in the first half. Just 11 seconds later on the first play in the drive Bourbon scored his second and final TD of the game, this time from 70 yards out. The two-point conversion pass failed for the Trojans, leaving the score 14-13, where it would stand as the half came to a close.
Following the break NMCC once again found themselves defenseless against the onside kick as Potosi opened up the half with a picture-perfect recovery down their own sideline. The first play in the drive however put the ball back in the hands of the Eagles as Kony Ealy stripped the ball from Bourbon allowing G'Darius Stevenson to recover the fumble for NMCC.
The Eagles were then held scoreless and it was Potosi who jumped on the board once again at 6:13 as quarterback Matt Marler connected with Tanner Glore from 54 yards out on the touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed, but the Trojans gained their first lead of the night, 19-14.
The lead however, would quickly dissolve, as Stevenson returned yet another onside kick by the Potosi squad, this time for 34 yards to set-up a three-play scoring drive capped off by Waters' 9-yard TD run at 4:54 in the third. Jamareia Jones added the two-point conversion run as NMCC regained the lead 22-19.
There was no answer this time from the Trojans as they went three-and-out in their last drive of the third.
As the third quarter came to a close, the Eagles once again had control of the ball. A nine-play drive set-up the final score of the game at 11:52 in the fourth, as Waters added his third TD, this time from 20 yards out after cutting up through the middle of the Potosi defense. The two-point run by Stevenson failed, but the 28-19 lead was all that NMCC would need to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Potosi head coach Mark Casey attributed the win by the opposing Eagles to NMCC's intense defense and play on the line.
"It was one of those situations," Casey said. "The New Madrid defense is tough. We knew that coming in. You've got to take advantage of any little mistake that they make, and they didn't make that many tonight."
One part of the success for the Eagle defense was the play of Tyler Johnson. Johnson was in on several big tackles in the contest, including a big hit for a loss against Bourbon and a sack in the fourth quarter that helped end a Potosi drive.
"Tyler (Johnson) is a first-year football player," said NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley. "He's a senior and he's one of those guys in that senior bunch that's stepped up and made a commitment into our program. He's an all-purpose type guy. We can drop him into coverage, rush him off the edge or blitz him up the middle. He's a solid player."
Casey said that they never could get their passing game going due to the difficult Eagle defense that put pressure on Marler throughout the entire game.
"They applied a lot of pressure," said Casey. "We couldn't get comfortable and get set to get things going. They've got a lot of speed. When they load the box like that, things have to be picture-perfect and everything has got to be mistake free. It's tough."
As for the success of the Eagle offense, Waters had a major part in the success as he finished the night with 159 rushing yards on 24 carries and two receptions for 23 yards. Pixley commented on his senior tailback following the game, stating that Waters has become a solid player for the Eagles after growing up through the system.
"Bryan (Waters) made some plays happen (tonight), but Bryan also got support from 10 other guys too," said Pixley. "Bryan has learned coming up through our system that you can't just go out there and pout and be selfish and do those type of things that you see some of those guys do on TV. He's had to buy into our system of what we do and what we believe in here and he's done that. He was in tears after the ballgame, because we won -- tears of joy."
Pixley also commented on a few other NMCC players commending them on their performance in the victory.
"Rodney Anderson did a good job tonight on offense too," said Pixley. "He's playing with a dislocated thumb and he's out there blocking and doing things and G'Darius Stevenson was laying some guys down on some blocks. I've got nothing but good things to say about how those 11 guys in that offensive unit clicked."
Up next for NMCC is a road game in Ste. Genevieve where they will face the Dragons who defeated Perryville on Wednesday evening 50-20. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Monday.