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McKenzie passes ‘physical’ test against Blacksher

Four games into the season, McKenzie head coach Miles Brown was still waiting for a team to test his Tigers. After all, McKenzie had hardly been challenged, outscoring its first four opponents 187-7.

But in the early going of the Tigers contest against visiting J.U. Blacksher on Friday night, Brown knew his team was in for fight. Bulldogs’ tailback Michael Williams ripped off a 70-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, the first time McKenzie has trailed all season. The Tigers answered with a 53-yard score by Emmanuel Johnson, but the Bulldogs capitalized on a Johnson fumble to take a 12-7 lead on Seth Baggett’s three-yard touchdown with 9:16 left in the second quarter.

A shootout in the making?

Not quite.

McKenzie responded. Immediately.

Armond Ball found a crease on the ensuing kickoff and went 75-yards to put McKenzie back on top 13-12. The Tigers tacked on two more touchdowns before halftime and won 34-12.

“J.U Blacksher had a real good game plan (on defense) to stop us early and we had to make adjustments,” said Brown. “They came out and played physical, smash-mouth football, and we needed a team to come out and hit us like they did. But we responded.”

In other words, McKenzie matched the Bulldogs’ in the trenches. The Tigers rode the inside running of Freddie Banks to the four-yard line where Johnson scored from there. Melvin Owens added the two-point conversion, which gave McKenzie a 21-12 lead.

The Tigers weren’t content to sit on that lead going into halftime, though. Taking over near midfield with under two minutes to go in the second, quarterback Calvin Henderson found a streaking Cliff Pugh for a 37-yard gain to the Blacksher nine-yard line. Henderson called his own number for the touchdown with 23 seconds left.

The third quarter was largely an exchange of punts before Johnson went 81 yards for a score with 2:12 remaining.

McKenzie improved to 5-0 and the season has mainly gone how he expected it to, said Brown.

“To be honest, it has,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of young men here in McKenzie. The school and the town rallies around them and they know they’re supported.”

The Tigers return to region play next week at Geneva County.

“We’ve just got to keep working and correcting our mistakes,” said Brown.