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McKenzie fends off Geneva at home

McKenzie fullback William Brown paves the way for running back Chris Shufford as the Tigers clinched its first victory of the season over the Class 3A Geneva Panthers.

McKenzie fullback William Brown paves the way for running back Chris Shufford as the Tigers clinched its first victory of the season over the Class 3A Geneva Panthers.

The McKenzie offense won the first battle, but it was their defense that won the war as the Tigers fended off the invading Geneva Panthers with a 29-20 win.

Though only two points separated the Tigers and the Panthers at the half, a newly-reinvigorated Tigers’ defense made several smart adjustments that kept the hungry Panthers scoreless in the second half, despite a number of promising drives into McKenzie territory.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris credited Friday night’s win entirely to his defensive staff.

“Coach Coghlan and Coach Ennis did a great job of making adjustments at halftime,” Norris said.  And we just challenged the kids a little bit.  We said ‘hey, guys, we’ve got to figure out a way to stop them,’ and those two guys did a great job of putting our kids in winnable situations and placing them in the right place at the right time.

“And they played hard.  I couldn’t be more proud of a group of kids than I am right now.”

An interception from Chris Shufford served as the first huge shift in momentum during the second half, and Shufford capitalized on in during the following drive with a 70-yard sprint down the sideline for a McKenzie touchdown.

A point-after attempt from William Brown gave the Tigers a two-score lead.

Geneva quarterback Brennan Aycock picked up a long third down and more on the ensuing drive, bringing the Panthers to the Tigers’ 25-yard line with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game.

But a huge defensive stop at the 19-yard line on fourth and five led to a Panthers turnover on downs.

With Shufford eating up yardage and, more importantly, time, the clock became the Panthers’ biggest enemy.

Though a defensive stop earned Geneva one more shot at the end zone, four consecutive misfires sealed the deal for the Panthers.

With their first regular season victory in the books, the Tigers turn their attention to nursing a few injuries and preparing for next week’s first region showdown with the Pleasant Home Eagles.

“Coach Mason does a great job with those kids down in Pleasant Home,” Norris said.

“It’s going to be a tough game, and it’s going to be a physical game.  The biggest thing is that we’ve got to take care of ourselves and continue to get better as we go along.

So we’ve got work to do this week in getting a little better at what we do offensively and defensively.  The games really count now—its’ playoff time.”

The Tigers will travel to Pleasant Home Friday.  Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.