Longhorns fall short in season opener

Published 11:26 pm Thursday, August 20, 2009

LINDEN – It was not a win, but Robby James was pleased with the results of his team’s first game of the season, a 30-21 loss to sixth-ranked Patrician Academy (1-0).

“We won in a lot of ways right there,” James said of his Marengo Academy Longhorns (0-1) following the game. “This team’s got a lot of heart, a lot of character. If we can just stay healthy, they’ll get better every day and every week.”

After falling to the Saints in embarrassing fashion a season ago, the Longhorns outperformed their slight numbers for much of the night.

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Junior Rabe Hale took the opening kick to the 35 yard line before the Longhorns assembled an 11 play, 65-yard drive to strike first. Junior Matt Etheridge scored on a 26-yard run to cap the possession. The extra-point put MA up 7-0.

The lead proved short-lived as Patrician needed only five plays to cover 55 yards and take the lead. Quarterback Michael Gibson kept it himself for a 17-yard end zone scamper to punctuate the drive. John McKenzie followed with the two-point conversion run to put PA up 8-7.

Marengo’s next possession was halted on third down when a vicious Patrician hit jarred the ball loose, allowing Dylan Flowers to scoop it up and return it to the Longhorn 22.

After losing two yards on the first play of the possession, Brandon Meeks darted for a 24-yard scoring run, putting the Saints up 14-7.

Later in the second quarter, Marengo quarterback Matt Wallace dropped back on third and 13 and found Wood Collins for a 41-yard touchdown strike. Wallace then hooked up with Trevor Johnson on the ensuing conversion try, handing MA the 15-14 lead.

“We just had our basic offense,” James said. “We only ran about six plays. We just ran them out of different formations. For the most part, we made some yards.”

PA retook the lead in the second quarter, using a 49-yard run from Flowers to set up a 10-yard touchdown bolt by McKenzie. Gibson then found Meeks in the end zone for the conversion attempt, putting the Saints up 22-15.

The Saints threatened once more in the first half before Wallace picked off a Gibson throw to end the second quarter.

Early in the third quarter, the Saints pushed the ball to the Longhorn doorstep again before the wet fumbling at the MA 23. Marengo could make nothing of the possession and the teams traded punts.

Two series later, Etheridge found daylight again, breaking a 36-yard run well into Patrician territory. The drive appeared promising until the Longhorns were turned away on fourth down at the Saint 25.

Patrician parlayed the stop into offensive momentum, marching up the field and deep into Marengo real estate before Etheridge intercepted a Gibson pass at the MA 18 yard line with 9:55 to play in the game.

As the fourth quarter wore on, Longhorn players began struggling with cramps. On a key defensive series, two MA starters were forced off the field with leg cramps.

“We got great effort tonight, even with guys cramping,” James said of the fortitude his players displayed.

Patrician dealt what appeared to be the knockout punch with 5:32 to go in the contest when B.J. Boykin punched in a score from seven yards out. Flowers followed with the two-point conversion run to put the Saints up 30-15.

The Longhorns showed little life on the ensuing possession, turning the ball back over to PA on a three and out. With Wallace, the team’s regular punter, struggling with cramps, MA turned to Chris Sammons. He unleashed a kick that put the Saints all the way back at their own 20.

The Longhorn defense forced a three-and-out, forcing the Saints to punt. The kick traveled only five yards beyond the line of scrimmage before a PA offensive lineman booted the ball forward again, drawing a 10-yard spot foul for illegal batting of the ball. The sequence set the Longhorns up at the Patrician 16.

It took only one play for Wallace to find Collins in the end zone for the second time, putting the Longhorns within striking distance with only 2:04 to play. The Longhorns were unable to punch in the conversion attempt.

“It worked out perfect right there if we’d have gotten the 2-point (conversion),” James said of the chain of events.

Etheridge accounted for 132 yards and one score on 11 carries. Wallace went 4-for-9 through the air for 66 yards and two touchdowns. The Longhorns turned the ball over only once, compared to three donations by the Saints.

PA out gained the Longhorns with 340 total yards compared to 206. The Saints managed only five yards through the air, amassing 335 rushing yards on 41 attempts.

Defensively, Alan Flowers led the way for Marengo, recording 12 solo tackles. Cody Baker finished the night with eight while Wood Collins had seven.

“I just felt like they believe in what we’re doing,” James said after getting his first look at the his new team in competition. “That game helped us.”

The Longhorns take to the field again next Friday night when they host Glenwood Academy.