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McKenzie defeats Marengo for area championship, 33-26

First-year Head Coach Shane Smothers told parents and players at the beginning of the year if they would work with him, they could reserve their playoff tickets.

After a long hard season, the Tigers are playoff bound, claiming the regional championship last week with their meeting at Marengo.

"We are 3-0 with Panthers," Smothers said. "Georgiana, J.F. Shields, and now Marengo."

The Tigers began the game Friday night by receiving the kickoff, carrying the ball back to the 30-yard line.

"Senior quarterback Rickie Sallie then scored on a nine-yard run set up by James Ball, who had a good 15-yard run," Smothers said. "Sallie also kicked the point-after-touchdown (PAT), and the score was 7-0 McKenzie, with 6:00 remaining in the first quarter.

"We then kicked off, and forced Marengo to punt the ball," he said. "We made it down to the one-yard line, but it was called back on an illegal procedure n Rickie tried to get the ball back in, but they stopped us."

Smothers said Marengo then held the Tigers on four downs, and going for it, they were unable to get the ball in for the score.

"Nearing the end of the first quarter, on Marengo's third play of the drive, with third and ten their quarterback threw a deep rep n the ball was caught on a 70-yard pass, and we held them back from the two-pointer attempt, but now the score was 7-6 McKenzie," he said.

In the second quarter, the Tigers again tried to go for it on the fourth down, but were unable to get the first down.

"On the very next play, Patrick Hamilton stepped up for a key interception," Smothers said. "So now that we had the ball, we drove it to the 34-yard line n Rickie threw the ball to Russell Davison in the end zone n Davison dove to catch the ball, and made the TD.

The PAT was blocked, and now the score was 13-6, McKenzie.

The Panthers then returned to the 50-yard line, then, 10 plays later, they scored the TD. Marengo also went for the two-pointer and succeeded, making the score 14-13, Marengo.

"We then got the ball and began the drive, but Rickie threw an interception," Smothers said. "Marengo ended up punting the ball, but we missed it n with no time left on the clock, they threw the ball n we slipped and they caught it. Next, their two-pointer attempt was no good, and the score was 20-13, Marengo."

The Tigers came back strong in the third quarter, according to Smothers.

"We kicked to them for the second half, and we forced them to punt," Smothers said. "Rickie had taken the ball 12 yards when we threw a slant-route from Sallie to Davison, making a 50-yard touchdown n Rickie then stepped up with the PAT, and the game was tied at 20-all."

There was no more scoring in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Marengo got the ball and returned it to midfield again. Taking another drive for first and goal, the Tigers held the Panthers at the five-yard line for two more plays, although the Panthers scored on their third attempt. Another two-point attempt for the Panthers failed, and the score was Marengo 26, McKenzie 20.

"Next we got the ball and began our drive n with third down and long to go, Sallie threw a 15-yard pass to Hamilton, keeping the drive alive," Smothers said. "Next, with the combination of Sallie and Hamilton, we got down to third and goal from the four-yard line n I called for a timeout, and called for a loaded-option' play."

Sallie faked a pass to Hamilton, then pitched the ball to Jamie Peterson, who took the ball in for the score, and the game was again tied, 26-all. Sallie scored the PAT, to give the lead back to the Tigers, 27-26.

The Tigers kicked off, and during a sack forced a fumble, recovering the ball on the 10-yard line.

"Three plays later, Patrick The Bull' Hamilton took the ball in from three yards out for the score," Smothers said. "The PAT was no good, and the score was now 33-26, McKenzie Tigers."

As the clock made it down to 1:00 left in the game, the Panthers got the ball and drove it to the 30-yard line.

"Then they threw a Hail Mary', which was easily picked off by Russell," Smothers said. "And then we were the winners of the regional championship!"

Smothers said Sallie led the offense for the Tigers with an impressive 25 carries for 184 yards and one touchdown.

"He also passed four-for-eight, for 101 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception," Smothers said. "Russell Davison made two receptions for 84 yards, and two touchdowns."

Smothers said as a whole the game belonged to his defensive squad in the second half.

"The defense really stepped up in the second half, when we needed them, and we held Marengo down to six points in the half," he said.

Excitedly, Smothers then said he told the team it was the way he had called it in the summer.

"I told them if they would just play with their hearts and determination, their families could go and buy playoff tickets, and now they can," Smothers said.

This week, McKenzie will travel to Zion Chapel for the regular season finale.

"Zion's numbers are down, and they don't have a lot of confidence," Smothers said. "But they will be going into the game fired-up, trying to knock us down from our rush with a championship win."

Smothers said Zion's offense is based out of the pro-eye, and their defense is to put seven men into the box, and run the fifty.

"We want to get off to a good start in the game, and take care of business," Smothers said. "We have one injury from the last game n Rickie Sallie twisted his ankle pretty good; I hope he will be better by Friday night."