One team showed its quick-strike capability while the other team relied on the pound and ground style Friday night in a typical NCMC showdown at Marshall.
Although the Pirates came in with a better record at 3-5 overall compared to 2-6 for the Owls, the game came down to one possession with 1:03 left in the fourth quarter. As it turned out, Boonville picked up its defense when it needed it the most while holding Marshall on four straight downs at the Pirates 30-yard line for a thrilling 28-27 victory.
Boonville will now go into the district playoffs as the No. 6 seed against third-seeded Macon, 7-2 on the season. Since Macon is the higher seed, they will host Boonville in the opening round Thursday night in Macon starting at 7 p.m.
The Tigers fell Friday night against the Centralia Panthers 49-14.
Commenting on the game Friday night against Marshall, Boonville Pirates football coach Devin Brown said a win is a win is a win. “We know every week what the game is going to be like,” Brown said. “I have said from Day 1 that it’s going to be seven points or less. We had some big plays and then they came back and drove it down us and then it was back and forth. We got up by two touchdowns and the kids thought they were safe, you could see it in their eyes, but we hadn’t stopped them all night and then they went to the power game. We knew that once they did that it was going to be difficult for us. They were bigger up front and they just ran us over.”
The run game was definitely an advantage for the Owls, who finished with 345 of their 399 yards on the ground.
Nonetheless, it was Marshall’s ground game that would let them down late in the fourth quarter. After rallying back from a 28-14 deficit to pull to within one at 28-27 with 1:38 left, head coach John Stockman elected to go for the win at home instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game and hopefully send it into overtime.
However with the ball resting on the 3, the Pirates came up with their biggest defensive stop of the season by holding junior running back Devin Cott just short of the goal line.
Brown said he understands why Stockman elected to go for the two-point conversion. “We hadn’t stopped them all night and they were 3 yards away,” Brown said. “To me you can second guess it because he didn’t get in but what if he gets in and now its 29-28.”
Luckily for the Owls, they still had time to hold Boonville with 1:37 showing on the clock. Meanwhile, after muffing the ball on the kick off, the Pirates went from having good field position to starting at their own 9 yard line.
Unfortunately for Boonville, they were headed in the wrong direction after a holding call pushed them back to the 4. Then, after losing 3 yards on their next-three plays putting the ball at the 1, the Pirates were forced to punt the ball deep in the end zone.
Brown said he put the hands team on the field on the last kick off. “They just didn’t catch the dang things and obviously that hurt us with more field position,” Brown said. “We were trying to get off the goal line but then we had the holding call. We had a good play, where we had enough yards to run the clock and everything. You can’t have those plays.”
The punt reached the Boonville 29, with Marshall taking over with just a little over one minute left in the game. However, after throwing the Owls for a 6-yard loss on the first down and a 1-yard loss on the second, Marshall had no choice but to spike the ball with no timeouts remaining. Then, on fourth and 17 from the 36, the Pirates held once again on a desperation pass to end the game.
Brown said the defense made some plays, which they needed to. “We had to have some plays,” Brown said. “Our tackling wasn’t the best but we made them at the end there.”
Despite finishing the game with only 299 yards in total offense, which was 100 yards fewer than Marshall, the Pirates never trailed the entire first half while hitting paydirt at the 6:25 mark in the first quarter on a 38-yard pass from senior quarterback Jacob Francis to Tyler Peterson to make it 7-0.
Marshall, meanwhile, moved the ball well at times on its first-three possessions but had nothing to show for its effort. However, on their fourth possession of the ballgame, the Owls finally got in the end zone after moving the ball 67 yards on 10 plays. Devin Cott scored from the 2 to pull Marshall within one at 7-6 with 10:03 left in the half.  Boonville then caught a break on the extra point when the ball sailed wide left.
Boonville and Marshall traded touchdowns for the rest of the half, with the Pirates hitting paydirt for the second time on a 74-yard run by Jacob Francis with 9:44 left to extend the lead to 14-6. The Owls would answer after a 11-play drive, which started at their own 17, with a 13-yard run again by Cott to cut the lead to two at 14-12 with 1:23 remaining.
Senior running back Tyler Cott  then crossed the goal line on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-all at the half.
Francis credited the offensive line and great blocking on the edge for his touchdown run. “It was just great blocking and I was just lucky to get to the end zone,” Francis said. “It was definitely a rough game for both sides and a up front battle between the both of us. They ran the ball hard but we had some third downs that we should have stopped them on. I am just glad to get the win.”
The second half was just as close as the first, with Boonville scoring on its first-two possessions to go up 28-14. The first touchdown was the result of a 13-play drive, which started at the Pirates 29, and ended with a 2-yard run by sophomore Jordan Weaver with 6:13 left in the third.
Francis then got involved both defensively and offensively after recovering a Marshall fumble at the Boonville 24 with 33 seconds remaining. Then, after moving the ball 76 yards on 7 plays, Francis took it in from the 1 to extend the lead to 26-14 with 9:44 left in the game.
The Pirates caught another break on the two-point conversion when Francis found junior receiver Austin Hulbert all alone in the end zone in the left corner to make it 28-14.
The Owls began to gash Boonville with the run game after that while answering with two touchdowns on their next-two possessions, the first coming on a 2-yard run by Devin Cott with 7:41 left to cut the lead to 28-21. Then, after forcing a three and out by Boonville, Marshall hit paydirt again on a 11-play drive from its own 47. Cott got the call on a 4-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the ballgame to make it a one-point game at 28-27. However, on the two-point conversion for the win, Cott couldn’t deliver this time as Boonville held him just short of the goal line.
The Owls would come up with a great stand on Boonville’s next possession but couldn’t come up with a miracle finish to suffer the one-point loss.
Francis said Marshall really picked up their defense on the goal line. “I am just glad we didn’t get a safety and got out of there,” Francis said. “It was good note to end on. I wish our record would be a little bit better. We know we could have won a couple of games that we lost. Playoffs is where it matters so we will pick it up.”
Senior linebacker Tyler Peterson, who had another big night defensively with 18 solo stops and eight assisted tackles, said it’s always good to go into districts with a win. “It just gives us a lot more energy in practice,” Peterson said. “Now we just have to go out and try to get a win.”
Peterson said it was also tense at the end of the game.
“They were getting off on us and then the offensive line did a good job at the end,” Peterson said. “We kept fighting on defense and stopped them from scoring on the two-point conversion. I thought we could have played a little better. We missed a few tackles here and there but they had a pretty good line and running backs.”
Francis finished the game with 121 yards rushing on 12 carries and two touchdowns while completing 10 of 20 passes for 170 yards and one score.
Senior running back Dakota Meyer also had five carries for 9 yards.
Junior Austin Hulbert also had a big game catching the ball with five receptions for 98 yards for an average of 19.60 yards per catch. Peterson had three catches for 50 yards and one score while Josh Judd hauled in two catches for 22 yards.
On the defensive side the ball, Peterson added to his record total for solo stops in a season. While smashing the record by Wes Davis by one the previous week against Moberly with 104, Peterson now has 122 solo stops on the season in nine games. Peterson also broke the record for most tackles in a single game with 19 against the Hannibal Pirates.
Four players finished the game against Marshall with double digit tackles.
Dakota Meyer had eight solo stops and six assisted tackles while Austin Hulbert and Jordan Weaver each had six solo stops and seven assisted tackles. Grady Kay added six solo stops and three assisted tackles while Jacob Francis had five and four with one fumble recovery, Tyler Polk four and three, Andrew Broyhill four and two with two hurries, Brett Kenney two and four, Nolan Murray one and four, Josh Judd one and two, Nick Zeitlow one and one and Ezra Perry, Remington Hammers and Andrew Garrison each with one solo stop.
For Marshall, Devin Cott led all rushers with 40 carries for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Canaan Heinzler, meanwhile, completed 3 of 12 passes for 54 yards, all to Logan Harris.