Late score lifts Indians over Walnut Ridge
Marked Tree (5-2, 3-1 2A-3) got a Brody McCrary to Daniel Rucker 16-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 left in the game and the Indians defense made it stand for a thrilling 12-8 Marked Tree win. The touchdown was the second time the pair hooked up on the night.
Walnut Ridge got the ball first and put together a small drive. Facing fourth and four, the Bobcats decided to go for it. Marked Tree's Mike Nesby busted through the line and dropped the carrier for a four-yard loss as the Indians took over on downs. Marked Tree's offense didn't do much and the Indians were forced to punt with 5:35 left. Walnut Ridge got on the board first as Cole Hicks scored on a six yard run with 38 seconds left. Hicks added the two-point conversion run to make it 8-0.
The Bobcats forced Marked Tree to punt early in the second quarter. Walnut Ridge drove down to the Indians 16-yard line. The Bobcats again decided to go for it on fourth down and the Indians forced an incomplete pass to take over on downs with 6:03 left before half. Walnut Ridge forced another Marked Tree punt with 4:30 left. The Indians ran nine plays on their first three possessions of the game. Tyre Wofford set Marked Tree up for their next possession as he intercepted a pass off a deflection and returned it to the Walnut Ridge 29-yard line. Marked Tree was facing fourth and one from the 20-yard line with just under two minutes and decided to go for the first down. The Bobcats defense jumped offside giving the Indians a first down on the 15-yard line. McCrary scrambled in the pocket before finding Rucker with a nine-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left in the half. The two-point pass to Hunter Pitts was incomplete and the Bobcats took an 8-6 lead to halftime.
The Indians started their first drive of the second half from their own 41-yard line. Octavius Dean's fumble gave Walnut Ridge the ball on their 47-yard line early in the third quarter. The Bobcats were forced to punt and Marked Tree started first and ten at their own 24-yard line. McCrary looked to have set the offense up Bobcat territory as he scrambled out of the pocket for a nice gain. The play was called back for a penalty. Tevin McGee coughed the ball up for Marked Tree and the Bobcats again recovered the loose ball with 5:47 left in the quarter. The Bobcats moved down field and came to fourth and goal from the Indians six-yard line. The Bobcats fourth down pass fell incomplete and Marked Tree took over possession on their own six-yard line with 2:30 left. Marked Tree offense moved the ball out to around midfield when the third quarter came to an end.
Marked Tree faced fourth and seven on their own 44-yard line to start the final quarter of play. The Indians decided to go for a first. McCrary's pass fell incomplete and Walnut Ridge took over on downs. The Bobcats offense couldn't get anything going and they punted the ball to Marked Tree with 10:00 left in the game. Kedrick Tyler had a nice run and was hit out of bounds for a penalty on Walnut Ridge moving the ball out to the 32-yard line. McCrary scrambled out of the pocket and was tackled at the Bobcats 33-yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Walnut Ridge moved the ball down to the Bobcat's 15-yard line with 4:34 left. Marked Tree got the ball down to the 16-yard line where they faced a fourth and eight situation. McCrary scrambled to buy time before finding Rucker with the 16 yard scoring strike with 2:15 left. The two-point run by McGee was no good leaving the score 12-8 Marked Tree. Walnut Ridge started their final drive at their own 37-yard line. Nesby came up with another big play dropping the Bobcat runner for a four yard loss on second down. Rucker sacked the Walnut Ridge quarterback on the next play to set up fourth and long. Nesby once again got a great rush and hit the quarterback as he was throwing causing the ball to fall incomplete with just under a minute left and giving the ball back to Marked Tree and securing the win.
"The kids played hard," Marked Tree coach Waylon Dunn said after the game. "I'm out of running backs and that makes it hard on the offense when you can't run the ball. We just kept playing hard, we're not real big or fast, we just play hard. Key to the game was defense, we didn't tackle very good last week and it cost us," Dunn added. Asked the play of his senior quarterback, Dunn said, "Brody is cool under pressure. He's gotten the offense down better each week and the offensive line is giving time. He doesn't panic when his blocking breaks down, he uses his legs to get out of trouble. I couldn't be more proud of him."
Tyler led the Indians offense with 68 yards rushing. McGee chipped in 44 yards on the ground. Rucker had two receptions and both went for touchdowns.