After a difficult week that turned a team and a school into a family, the Marshall Buffalos beat the Calallen Wildcats, 19-17 last Friday in San Antonio to earn a spot in the Class 5A Division 2 state championship game.
The Buffalos were shocked to learn of the death of their senior safety Drew Conley. Conley was shot and killed in a domestic dispute last Monday. The team and school mourned for Conley, who wore number 3 on his jersey, but they were determined to win the game for him. The Marshall captains carried Conley’s jersey to the coin toss prior to the game, and the Marshall fans had many signs referencing number 3. The Calallen team wore a #3 decal on their helmets in honor of Conley.
“It was a tough week, but the team persevered. They loved Drew. We all loved Drew. We did this for Drew. He was a great kid. I know he is up there watching. We love him. This win was for him.” Marshall Head Coach James Williams said.
The Buffalos scored on their first possession as they drove 75 yards in nine plays for their first touchdown. The big play was a 46-yard pass from Malik Hornsby to Kacey Barnett, which put the ball on the 9 yard line. Devon Achane then scored on a 4-yard run to give the Buffs a 6-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Calallen kicked a field goal to make the score 6-3. On Marshall’s third series of the half, they moved to the Wildcats’ 32 yard line before giving the ball up on downs with 6:09 to go in the half. Calallen then ran 15 consecutive running plays before scoring as time ran out in the half, giving them a 10-6 halftime lead.
“We had to make adjustments at halftime, both offense and defense. Calallen is a great team and they have a great coaching staff. We had to make adjustments to stop their running game. I am proud of the coaches for what they did, and I am proud of the players. I am just so proud,” Williams said.
With 4:26 to go in the third quarter, the Buffalos took over on their own 22 yard line. Behind the running of Achane and Hornsby, they moved the ball to the Wildcats’ 9 yard line, where Achane ran it in with 27 seconds to go in the quarter to make the score 12-10 in favor of Marshall.
After a punt by Calallen, the Buffalos took possession on their 20-yard line. On the first play, Achane ran up the middle for 80 yards to give the Buffs a 19-10 lead with 7:22 to go in the game.
“The play was the same one we had been running all game, but I finally was able to bust it. I want thank my offensive line for opening the hole,” Achane said.
Calallen came back to score a touchdown with 3:02 to go in the game but their onside kick went out of bounds and Marshall ran out the clock to win 19-17.
For the game, Achane rushed 21 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Hornsby completed 6 of 14 passes for 100 yards and he rushed 12 times for 61 yards. Korey King caught four passes for 37 yards.
“I love this team. These guys are so wonderful. They earned it (the win) and they deserve it,” Williams said.
Marshall (15-0) will play Aledo (15-0) for the Class 5A Division 2 state championship on Friday night at 7 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.