Marengo stays unbeaten with 28-0 win over Pickens

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre) Cason Cook makes a tackle for Marengo Academy.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Cason Cook makes a tackle for Marengo Academy.

LINDEN – Marengo Academy sits alone atop AISA’s Class 1, Region 2 standings after a 28-0 blanking of previously unbeaten Pickens Academy at Linden Athletic Field Friday night.

The win keeps the Longhorns perfect on the season at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Region play.

“I’m very proud of our players,” said Marengo head coach Robby James. “They played hard tonight. Pickens deserves a lot of credit because they came down here and played their hearts out. But we came out in the second half and took charge.”

Indeed, the second half proved to be the difference, as Marengo clung to a slim 7-0 lead at the break. An intense, error-plagued – even bizarre at times – first half saw two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and a player ejection against the Longhorns. Those setbacks, coupled with various miscues and over 100 yards of penalties in the first two quarters, seemingly took MA out of its rhythm for much of the first half.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre) Hayden Huckabee takes a snap Friday against PIckens. The sophomore eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the Longhorns.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Hayden Huckabee takes a snap Friday against PIckens. The sophomore eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the Longhorns.

The strange twists and turns began with the opening kickoff. Pickens elected to try an onside kick, but the strategy backfired and MA recovered at is own 45. On the first play from scrimmage the Longhorns attempted some trickery of their own, but Hayden Huckabee’s halfback pass fell just beyond the reach of intended receiver Cason Cook.

After a 37-yard third down run by Brant Lewis, MA was hit with a block in the back penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct call that resulted in the ejection. Despite reaching the Pirate 32, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs.

A defensive struggle ensued, with both teams moving the ball but unable to cash in.

“We were ready to play, but we had a lot of penalties and mistakes the first half,” said James. “That’s very uncharacteristic of us.”

Finally, with 4:21 to play before halftime, Marengo broke the ice on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Huckabee to Landon Houlditch. Lewis kicked the extra point.

Early in the third quarter, Pickens threatened to tie the score when Lance Acker recovered a MA miscue at the Longhorn 34. On first down Pickens went for it all, but the play turned out to be Marengo’s biggest of the night. Safety Shade Pritchett picked off the sideline pass at the one-yard line, turned upfield, lost the handle at the 10, picked up his own fumble, wove his way into the clear and raced 98 yards – from the Marengo 1 to the Pickens 1 – before being tackled.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre) Shade Pritchett goes up for a catch Friday night.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Shade Pritchett goes up for a catch Friday night.

Pritchett’s pick and return set up a one-yard Lewis dive on the next play, giving MA a little breathing room at 14-0 after Lewis’ PAT.

The Horns stretched the lead to 21-0 with 1:36 to play in the third on Josh Holifield’s 14-yard run, and Holifield added a five-yard touchdown with 3:31 remaining in the game to provide the final margin of victory.

James was particularly pleased with the play of his defense, which held a quick Pickens offense to 86 total yards. “To shut out a team like that is always good,” the coach said. “Coach (Webb) Tutt does a good job with our defense. Pickens had a great game plan, but we had more size and I think that made a difference. It was a great effort by both teams.”

Huckabee cracked the century mark with 102 yards rushing on 17 attempts, while Holifield added 99 yards on 15 carries. Lewis rolled up 81 yards on nine rushes.

Through the air, Huckabee was 3-for-5 for 62 yards.

On defense, Hayden Hall led the way with seven tackles and four assists with two sacks. Thomas Etheridge chipped in six tackles and three assists, while Carson Huckabee added six tackles, two assists and a sack.

Marengo travels to Sparta Friday night.

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(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)  Tyler Barkley hands off to Hayden Huckabee.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Tyler Barkley hands off to Hayden Huckabee.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)  Ralph Langley leapfrogs the pile to avoid a late hit.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Ralph Langley leapfrogs the pile to avoid a late hit.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)  Cason Cook overpowers a Pickens blocker.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Cason Cook overpowers a Pickens blocker.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)  Thomas Etheridge lays a hit on a Pickens Pirate.

(Photo courtesy Raycelia McIntyre)
Thomas Etheridge lays a hit on a Pickens Pirate.

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Landon Houlditch hauls in Marengo Academy's first touchdown of the night.

Landon Houlditch hauls in Marengo Academy’s first touchdown of the night.

Shade Pritchett picks off a pass before returning it for a score.

Shade Pritchett picks off a pass before returning it for a score.