Indians clinch at least tie for conference title
Tribune Sports Staff
For the fifth time this year, the Marked Tree Indians pounded a teams so badly that the mercy rule had to be invoked. With a score of 40-0 over McCrory at the half, the rule could have been put into effect earlier than it was, but the point was made…….the 2006 version of these Indians is very, very good.
Now all the tribe has to do is beat Walnut Ridge this Friday to win the championship outright and also to win a prime position in the state playoffs having the home field advantage all the way to the championship game in Little Rock.
Friday night's game started like most of the other contests this season with the brutish Marked Tree defense playing a take-no-prisoners style which invariably creates errors. It was no different with the Jaguars as they took the ball on their own 28 and four plays later had to punt from their 11.
Setting the stage for the rest of the game, 2005 all-state senior Brian Coleman hit inside twice for five and six yards respectively to move the ball to mid-field. Then senior Marcus McKay finished up the job when he broke free on the right side and rambled down the field for the Indians' first TD with 8:44 remaining in the opening period.
The one weak part of the Marked Tree game reared its head when the Tribe attempted the extra point and, like too many times this year, the ball fluttered off to the side of the goal posts, no good. Never-the-less, the score was 6-0 with more Indian points to come.
McCrory's next drive lasted only two plays as they fumbled the ball to the Tribe at the Jaguar 45. Marked Tree took a little longer to score this time, five plays, as Coleman finished the drive off by scooting in from the four. Making up for the first miss, senior quarterback William Ruthven passed to his classmate Traveon Powell for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead at the 5:10 mark of the opening period.
The Jaguars had better luck moving the ball on their next drive as they went from their 21 to the 50 before stalling on downs and punting to end the quarter.
The substantial Indian faithful who had trekked to McCrory cheered as the Indians rammed the ball down the field to open the second quarter. First Coleman went 29 to the Jag 41, then Ruthven hit Powell again to the 30, followed by Coleman to the 21 and Powell to the 10.
Ruthven took the ball the final yards himself on a quarterback sweep with 11:15 left in the half. Once again the PAT was no good, but a 20-0 lead looked more than enough at this point.
The next McCrory drive ended with them having to punt again. The Jaguars got a break on the roll of the ball, though, as they forced the Tribe back to their own 10. It wasn't to be the home team's night, however, as, on the first play from scrimmage, Coleman showed why many feel he could have a substantial gridiron career beyond high school.
Going into the middle of the line for a simple dive play, the speedster popped into the open and went untouched 90 yards for his second TD of the night. With a successful PAT this time, the Tribe had a comfortable 27-0 advantage.
At this point, coach Tim Branum and his staff began making some substitutes to get some playing time for his younger players. The Jaguars still couldn't make much, though, as they went from their 26 to their 40 where they set up to punt on a fourth and six. Distaster struck again for McCrory as the snapper sailed the ball some five feet over the punter's head. Then before he could get back to the ball, a swarm of Indians trapped him and the ball at the 8-yard line where it was Marked Tree first and goal.
Ruthven wasted no time putting the ball into the hands of Jay Blansett in the end zone for the Indians' fifth TD of the night. McKay put the ball through the uprights and the score went to 34-0 with 4:56 left before the half.
The Indians scored once more before the half when McKay capped a four-play, 45-yard drive with a three yard plunge for the score with a minute remaining in the half. McKay's PAT was blocked, but a 40-0 lead loomed over the Jaguars as they filed of the field at the break.
The second half was almost a moot point for both teams as, while the Jaguars moved the ball on an Indian squad of mostly younger players, they were still unable to punch it across the goal line.
The Tribe did score one more time, though, when junior Nathan Ivy skirted the left side of Jag defensive front to go in from the 12 with 6:42 left in the game.
With the clocking racing to 0:00 the game soon ended and the Indians had taken one more step toward sole possession of the 3AA conference crown.
"I thought we played well," Branum said as the game was winding down. "We cam out ready to play. We were sharp on both offense and defense and we came out with some enthusiasm. And I though Nathan Ivy and Michael Gray ran the ball real well."
Coleman led the team once again in rushing with 184 yards on 10 carries scoring two touchdowns. McKay also broke the 100-yard mark with six carries for 119 yards and a pair of TDs. Gray followed them with 34 yards on three attempts while Ivy was 2 for 28 with a score. Powell had 24 yards on three rushes and an 11 reception for a touchdown and Blansett had his only catch, an 8-yarder for a score as well.
Ruthven finished the night a perfect 3 for 3 through the air for 22 yards and a TD, plus his one run for 11 yards resulted in another score. Finishing up the yardage was reserve QB Loran Ghant who gained five yards on one run.
The Tribe's fate is now in their hands as they prepare for Walnut Ridge Friday and continue to march down that road to Little Rock. The journey continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.