Tigers hold off Marbury for victory
LUVERNE – Luverne beat Marbury 33-20 in a key Class 2A, Region 3 battle for both teams, but head coach Brad Waggoner was far from happy with his Tigers' performance.
"I'm very disappointed in the way we played," said Waggoner. "I've got to do a better job. One thing went wrong for us and we lost our composure. I'm proud that our kids battled through it and we won, but we're a better team then we showed tonight."
Waggoner pointed to a series of penalties in particular that let the Bulldogs back in the game.
With the Tigers up 20-0 early in the second half, Marbury was struggling to find a first down. Facing a third and long, defensive back Fred Hawkins was called for pass interference, giving the Bulldogs new life. Two additional penalties, both for unsportsmanlike conduct with one leading to Hawkins' ejection, and Marbury had new life inside the Tigers' 20. Quarterback Justin Tomberlin scored on a sweep a few plays later.
It was 20-6 at that point and after a Jessie Dixon fumble on the Tigers' next possession, Marbury's John Allen Flournoy cut deeper into the Tigers' lead with a 22-yard touchdown run at 5:32 left in the third quarter.
Waggoner wasn't happy, especially with 45 yards worth of penalties accumulated on one play.
"We just lost it," he said.
Luckily, quarterback Ryan Brown and his fellow seniors still had it.
Facing a third and 13 near midfield and with all the momentum going Marbury's way, Brown hit Dixon on a crossing pattern for a gain to the Bulldogs' 32. A personal foul, this time by Marbury, moved the ball to the 23-yard line. Receiver Rod Rutledge caught a screen pass from Brown and took it 20 yards for the touchdown.
"There's no question Ryan made some big plays," said Waggoner. "And Rod made some big catches for us tonight. Jessie Dixon took over in the second half and that's what you want out of your seniors."
Still, Marbury wasn't finished.
The Bulldogs answered the Tigers with a 13-yard run by Tomberlin in the fourth quarter. Then, Luverne misplayed the kickoff and Marbury had the ball on the Tigers' 32-yard line. But Tomberlin made a bad pitch on an option play and Marco Jones recovered for Luverne, ending the threat.
Facing a third and 14, Brown converted again, this time to Rutledge for a 17-yard gain. With 2:34 remaining, Brown scored on a two-yard touchdown run and Dontaveous Brown intercepted Tomberlin's final pass of the night.
Brown was 7-of-9 for 127 yards with one touchdown on the ground and through the air. Hawkins had 95 yards rushing, including a 62-yard touchdown run on the Tigers' first play of the game. Dixon's four-yard scoring run provided Luverne's 12-0 lead at the half.
Cory Oliver had six solo tackles, finishing with nine total. McCreary added seven tackles.
With the Tigers traveling to play unbeaten Highland Home next week, Waggoner said his team must do a better job of keeping their composure.
The penalties, he said, has to stop.
"There's no way we're going to beat teams like Highland Home playing like we did tonight," he said.
Even McCreary's 80-yard kickoff return to open the second half was tarnished. He chose to punctuate his touchdown run with a flagrant dive into the endzone, drawing penalty flags from the referees.
Amazingly, Brown completed the ensuing 33-yard two-point conversion play, throwing a pass to Hawkins near the goaline where the junior took it in, extending Luverne's lead to 20-0.
Luverne's region game against Highland Home is scheduled for 7 p.m.