Marshall plays College Station Saturday in Waller
For the first half, the Hutto Hippos defensive strategy shut down Marshall’s high-powered offense last Friday at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium in Cypress. The Buffalos, however, adjusted at halftime and they advance to the Region 3 Division 2 finals against College Station on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Waller High School.
In the first half, the Hippos covered Marshall’s four wide receivers with single coverage and had seven players at the line of scrimmage to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. That scheme shut down the Buffalos’ running game and forced quarterback Jabari James into some rushed throws, giving the Hippos a 21-7 half-time lead.
After a few half-time adjustments, however, and some motivation from the coaches, the Buffalos scored on the second play of the third quarter as James found Henry Thomas for a 64-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Hippos lead to 21-14.
“We wanted to come out and score right away. I was able to get open and the pass was there,” Thomas said.
With 1:07 to go in the third quarter, Hutto punted and downed the ball on the Marshall 7-yard line. The Buffalos, with the help of a 70-yard pass from James to Dominick Houston-Shepard, quickly moved to Hutto’s 23-yard line.
“I had single coverage and I just ran by them. No one was going to catch me,” Houston-Shepard said.
With time running out in the quarter, Jerry Davis scored on a 23-yard run to tie the score at 21.
The Hippos refused to give up as they regained the lead with a 30-yard field goal with 9:49 to go in the game. Marshall quickly moved down the field and with 8:48 to go, Devon Achane scored from 9 yards out to give the Buffalos a 28-24 lead. Three minutes later, James scored on a 34-yard run to increase the lead to 35-24.
The game was still in doubt as the Hippos scored with 1:43 to go and made a 2-point conversion to close within 3, 35-32.
Hutto attempted an onside kick-off and Marshall recovered, but the Hippos got a second chance when Marshall was flagged for being offside. On the second onside kick, Houston-Shepard recovered the ball giving Marshall its second consecutive trip to the region finals.
“Covering the onside kick was better than catching the long pass. That was the game winner,” Houston-Shepard said.
In the second half, the offensive line was able to give James time to find his receivers, and the passing game opened up the running game.
“At halftime our coaches let us know we weren’t playing well. Something about that got us going. In the second half, the offensive line really began to communicate,” offensive lineman Barton Clement said. “We got all the tools we need to get to state. I don’t want this to end.”
After throwing for only 67 yards in the first half, James found his receivers for 200 yards in the second half.
“I just got myself together at halftime. I talked to my teammates, and my coaches, and I was able to come out and play some football,” James said.
For the game, James completed 14 of 27 attempts for 267 yards and a touchdown. Jerry Davis rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Devon Achane carried 9 times for 48 yards and a touchdown, and James had 16 carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns. Henry Thomas caught seven passes for 155 yards and one touchdown, and Houston-Shepard had three receptions for 88 yards. Kicker William Hernandez was 5 for 5 on extra points.
The defense was led by senior linebacker Franklin Stevenson with 12 tackles. Braxton Brantley had eight tackles, and Antonio Brooks and Kubiat Umoette each had six tackles.
Brooks had an interception, and caused and recovered a fumble. Geovante Howard had a key interception with 5:41 to go in the game.
“I was with the receiver and I looked back at the quarterback and saw him throw the ball, and I just made a play,” Howard said.
“To get to our goal, we have to play games like this. We have to have the poise and discipline to make adjustments and come back and win the game. We had to get our energy back and we made some adjustments to the things they were doing. We put some movement on the inside and our guys did a great job of executing it,” Marshall Head Coach James Williams said. “Our offense can score from anywhere on the field and our defense had to hang on until the offense got it going. They were struggling for a while, but our defense kept us in the game. We played as a team.”
For the region final, the teams are evenly matched. The Buffalos have an overall record of 10-2 and College Station is 11-2. Marshall scores 46 points per game while giving up 19, while the Cougars have been scoring 44 points per game and giving up 22.