By Michael Cignoli (ForOzarksSportsZone.com)
MARIONVILLE — Dakota Wilson scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:57 to go and Marionville’s defense held the line as the Comets rallied back from a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Lockwood, 28-21, in the Class 1 District 4 championship game on Friday night.
Marionville trailed 21-14 entering the fourth, but scored 14 unanswered points to stay unbeaten and secure its first district title since advancing to the state quarterfinals in 2014. The Comets will travel to District 3 champion Windsor at 1 p.m. next Saturday in a battle of 12-0 teams.
“It feels amazing,” Wilson said. “I’ve cried tears of joy. We’ve always been taught even if we’re losing not to keep our heads down — keep your head up and go in there and win the game.”
Wilson may have figuratively kept his head held high, but he had to literally lower it for a moment to break through a crowd of bodies on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. There was no obvious hole for him to run through, so he dropped his shoulder and ran full speed ahead.
When the dust settled, officials signaled the junior had given Marionville the lead.
Marionville pulled within a point on the first play of the fourth when quarterback Wil Carlton hit a wide-open Kyle Brattin for a 36-yard touchdown pass. But the Comets went for two and Lockwood’s Blaine Garver intercepted the pass to preserve a 21-20 lead for the Tigers.
On Lockwood’s ensuing possession, the Tigers whittled four minutes off the clock before the Comets forced a turnover on downs at their 30-yard line. On the next play, Carlton scrambled for 33 yards down the sideline, setting the tone for the 11-play, 70-yard game-winning drive.
“These guys, they just never quit,” Marionville coach Paden Grubbs said. “That’s a testament to their parents. … They never say die and they never think they’re out of the game.”
Lockwood took over with plenty of time to regain the lead and senior quarterback Max Schnelle led a furious march down to Marionville’s 38-yard line before the drive stalled. On fourth-and-5, Schnelle threw a quick pass to Jamie Kramer, but Marionville’s Kaden Klineline wrapped him up before he could get the first down. Marionville ran out the final 77 seconds by taking knees.
“What a play by Kaden Klineline, man,” said Grubbs, still soaking wet after getting the team’s water cooler dumped on him in the victory celebration. “What a great tackle on one of their best athletes. … (Kramer) is a special player and for him to make a tackle in the open field on him to end the game like that was special.”
Marionville looked to be well on its way to a district title after jumping out to a 14-0 first-half lead on a 51-yard Wilson run and a 59-yard strike from Carlton to Brattin down the near sideline.
But Schnelle gave Lockwood much-needed momentum with two touchdowns in the half’s final five minutes, scoring on a 1-yard run and then returning an interception 90 yards to the house.
Lockwood missed the extra point and trailed 14-13 at the break.
Marionville got the ball to start the second half and advanced to Lockwood’s 10-yard line before turning the ball over on downs, and then Lockwood drove 90 yards in about five minutes to score. Schnelle capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kane Cooper, and the duo connected again on a two-point conversion that gave the Tigers a 21-14 advantage.
That ultimately set the stage for Marionville’s late heroics.
“I think momentum was a lot on their side,” Grubbs said. “And then to go down and get stopped at the goal line again, like we did at the start of the second half, then they come down and score to go up a score, you know a lot of teams could have just quit. But our kids just continued to fight and got the job done.”
Lockwood finished the season 9-2, with both losses coming to Marionville.
“When you don’t convert and you don’t turn drives into points and you’re putting the ball back in their hands, it’s awful tough to keep defending them,” Tigers coach Clay Lasater said. “You have to score points and that’s all on me. As an offensive play caller, you have to do a better job and I feel for our kids because I feel like I kind of let them down.”
Lasater said he feared he’d be “kicking myself about some play calls” while watching film from the game.
“A lot of good kids played their guts out this year and overcame a lot of things between quarantine and sme injuries early,” Lasater said. “I’m just proud of the kids. I thought they left it on the field tonight and that’s all you can ask.”
Grubbs was a member of the 2003 Marionville team that won the school’s only state championship. With an undefeated record, is this the team that can do it again?
“We’re talented,” Grubbs said. “So if they want to take me to state, then I’ll hop on that train.”