THAYER 6, MARIONVILLE 20
Question: When is it OK to feel good about an opposing running back rolling up 153 yards rushing against your football team?
Answer: When your defense holds that running back to almost half his normal output.
Such was the case on a windy, sloppy, muddy evening at Louis Bozman Stadium Oct. 27 as the Thayer Bobcats welcomed the number one Class 1 team in the state, the Marionville Comets, to town for the second District 3 game of the year.
And while the Bobcats did manage to hold Marionville's All-State running back Lee Flood to 123 yards shy of his usual 276 yards rushing per game, marking his lowest output on the season, the Comets still had enough to knock off Thayer 20-6 in a hard-fought battle.
Heading into their annual battle with Marionville (9-0, 2-0 district), Thayer (4-5, 1-1) knew it had to at least slow Flood down a bit, if not shut him down completely. The dynamic senior running back holds the Missouri single-season rushing record with 3,272 yards and 55 touchdowns which he racked up as a junior. Through the first eight games of this year, Flood had logged 2,207 yards on the ground along with 27 TDs. Pretty heady stuff. Flood did score all three of Marionville's touchdowns against Thayer.
The Bobcats, too, possess a terrific ground attack, led by junior running back Michael Lowther's 976 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, including 287 yards and six TDs against Greenfield last week, during the season's first eight outings.
Lowther continued his strong play with 128 yards on 26 carries against Marionville.
Bullying their way through the first eight games on their schedule, the Comets finally found someone who would push back, and push back is just what the Bobcats did, as both teams waded in mud past their ankles. Thayer's defensive front proved to be the equal of Marionville's offensive line, and the Cats managed to hold the Comets in check most of the evening by putting them in several second- and third-and-long situations.
The difference turned out to be turnovers.
Thayer had four, including two in the Comets' Red Zone, while Marionville had just one fumble on the night.
The Comets found the going tough on their first series of the game, as Zack Ary sacked Marionville quarterback Brandon Verfurth on third-and-11, forcing the Comets to punt.
Starting their first series of the game at their own 45, the Bobcats moved into Marionville territory on the legs of Lowther.
On second-and-10 from the Marionville 17, Thayer's nice drive came to halt when a Comet defender jumped in front of a Jacob Eckman pass, giving the ball to Marionville at its own 20.
After a scoreless first quarter, Marionville got on the board with a couple of touchdowns in the second frame, the first coming on a 3-yard run by Flood at the 6:47 mark that capped an 11-play, 49-yard drive. The 2-point try was stopped, giving Marionville a 6-0 lead.
The sloppy conditions had their first say of the night on the ensuing kickoff.
The Comets hit a low-lining squib kick that bounced a couple of times and then slipped through the hands of a Bobcat, giving the ball back to Marionville at the Thayer 36-yard line.
The Bobcat defense was up to the task at hand, and Big John Barnett and Kris Frillman hit Flood so hard he lost control of the football, with Eckman recovering it for Thayer.
The Bobcats couldn't get much going and were forced to punt, setting up what might have been the back-breaker for Thayer.
Marionville started its last possession of the first half with two minutes left on the clock and the ball at its own 25-yard line.
Flood picked up 23 hard-earned yards on four carries, taking the ball to the Comet 48 with 19 ticks left on the clock.
Then came the one thing Thayer had been able to avoid for almost all the first half -- a big play by Flood.
Bursting through the Bobcat defense, Flood raced 52 yards for the Comets' second touchdown of the second quarter. He also carried in the 2-point conversion to stake Marionville to a 14-0 lead.
Then momentum switched sides just a bit, thanks to a pair of major penalties on the Comets' part.
The ball was still on Thayer's side of the field with nine seconds on the clock when, on what should have been the last play of the half, the Comets were called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a quarterback keeper by Eckman.
With the ball now at the Comet 47, Thayer had one more play and Lowther ran for seven yards.
But Marionville committed a personal foul on the play, costing the Comets 15 more yards, moving the ball to the 22-yard line and giving Thayer one more un-timed play.
The half finally ended with Marionville on top 14-0 when Eckman tossed a pass near the goal line that was picked off, sending the sides to intermission for a chance to scrape some mud off their soaking uniforms.
The Cats came out of the locker room at the half and marched all the way to the Comets' 20-yard line in six plays to start the third. However, a fumble snuffed the flame out of this drive, costly Thayer a shot at some valuable points.
As it was, neither side could score in the third, sending the contest into the final frame with the game still either side's to claim.
Lowther got the Bobcats on the board with 5:02 left to play, cashing in a first-and-goal with a 1-yard TD plunge. The 2-point attempt was denied, but Thayer had edged within eight, 14-6.
Thayer tried an onside kick next, but Marionville recovered the ball at the Comet 45.
Then came a couple of big fourth downs for Marionville with under three minutes left to play.
On fourth-and-6 from the Thayer 30, Verfurth hit Jake Grubs with a big pass that gave Marionville a new set of downs at the Bobcat 23.
Zach Ary stopped Flood on a third-and-1 from the Thayer 13, hitting him so hard he lost five yards on the carry.
Then with 1:34 left in the game, and Marionville facing fourth-and-6 from the 18, the Thayer defense stood tall.
Eckman got around the corner of the Marionville offensive line to sack Verfurth, giving the ball back to the Cats with a chance to tie the game and send it to an extra frame.
This chance proved to be short lived, as two plays later, an interception blocked out the Cats' last ray of hope.
Marionville, however, was not done scoring. With five seconds left in the clash, Flood scored his third TD of the night from three yards out on third-and-goal. The 2-point try was bottled up by the Bobcats, ending the game with Marionville winning 20-6.
This last TD by Marionville could prove big if the district race should come down to a tie-breaker scenario.
First, the Bobcats have to take care of the homestanding Miller Cardinals in the last regular-season game of the year Nov. 3, and hope that the Greenfield Wildcats can knock off Marionville the same night to give Thayer a shot at the district title.