When two promising North Central Missouri Conference rivals and schools assigned to Class 4 District 6 met Friday posting identical records and mirror-like team stats this football season, pregame talk certainly would include a very competitive and close battle was about to take place on the field.
A full moon coupled with an exhilarating spirit of Homecoming being celebrated during the week leading up to the big game certainly would favor the home team.
While those ideas may carry weight to reasoning, the fact of the matter is the Spartans were simply the better football team. Moberly demonstrated that identity before a packed Dr. Larry K. Noel Spartans Stadium.
The mighty Spartans came up with five turnovers - including a couple of picks by Brandon Elkins - and Moberly capitalized on an estimated 115 yards worth of penalties racked up by Marshall, and the Spartans celebrated its 2012 Homecoming with a convincing 41-12 victory against the Owls.
"We were pretty sluggish in our play in the first half, but really stepped things up in the second half with our kids doing a good job both offensively and defensively," said Moberly football coach Jason Ambroson. "What kept us ahead in the first half, in my opinion, was the penalties Marshall was creating. They had a lack of discipline allowed us to keep the game close. Otherwise, I think Marshall would have been up by two touchdowns at halftime. Realistically, penalties stopped some scoring drives in the first half and that trend carried over to the second half. Their mistakes kept us in the ball game, and ultimately we capitalized on them to win this football game."
The win gave Moberly (5-1, 3-0 NCMC) stronger security of having a fourth-position spot and a first round home game when district seeding are released in three weeks for the playoffs.
After a scoreless first quarter last Friday, the Owls' first turnover of the game - a fumble recovered by senior Kalob Hesson - led to a Moberly score in the second period.
Starting from the Marshall 41, the Spartans marched down field and would score when junior quarterback Justin Connaway followed the lead blocks established by Matt McCune and Mickey Sires to run the football up the gut for a 4-yard touchdown with 8:40 remaining.
Marshall (4-2, 3-1 NCMC) did not let Moberly fans enjoy that moment long.
On the first play from scrimmage on the Owls' ensuing possession, senior quarterback Alex Maupin ran the football to his left around the corner and made a swift cut right crossing toward the opposite side of the field running untouched 64 yards for a touchdown.
Shortly after this score and Moberly leading 7-6, the Spartans would be without the services of one of its leading tacklers and main kicker when senior linebacker/kicker Ricky Webb exited the game with a left shoulder injury. Sophomore Gregg Bain took over kicking duties and he made good on 4-of-5 PATs during the game.
Moberly put together an impressive 90-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly 6 minutes of the clock to take a 13-6 lead with them into halftime.
Connaway connected with Elkins on a couple of passing plays that netted 38 yards during the 10-play drive that was capped on a strong 28-yard rushing touchdown by Bain with 2:25 left.
Once again, Marshall bounced right back and threatened to score with a long scoring drive of its own before the half ended, but Elkins clipped the Owls' wings with his first of two interceptions of the game.
The 6'2 linebacker Elkins snatched Maupin's pass near midfield and returned it about 30 yards giving Moberly the football with 0:46 remaining before the break in action.
"We talked about a lot of things in the locker room at halftime, and we came out making those adjustments on the field in the second half," said coach Ambroson. "Anytime a team can come up with five or six turnovers in a game like we did, it really helps. What that did to Marshall and the fact they ended up having so many penalties in the game, that it forced Marshall to do things offensively that they probably are not too comfortable with in doing. And that is throwing the football. We got up on them by two scores, and they knew they needed to do something quick to get back into the game and were forced to pass. We were fortunate to have about three key interceptions to help stop them from being a scoring threat because their strength lies in being a power running team."
Read the full game story in the Monday, Oct. 1 issue of the newspaper.
NOTE: Coming up in Week 7 the Spartans travel this Friday to battle undefeated and sixth-ranked Hannibal (6-0, 4-0 NCMC). The Pirates football team has been a nemesis of Spartans for many years as Moberly has only beaten Hannibal once in at least the past 18 seasons.
During the Spartans' magical 2007 football season when the team went 11-1 while reaching the Class 3 state quarterfinals, Moberly defeated Hannibal 39-22.
"I think most of us know that Hannibal seems to always have a good football team, and they are doing very well this year too," said Moberly senior Brandon Elkins after the game. "We will need to put together our best practices of the season next week and play our best football when we play them next Friday. If we all continue to work hard, doing the things that each of us are suppose to do in a game I like our chances of defeating Hannibal. If we can do that, it would be huge win for our team."