SAM COWAN – Sports Writer
The Marion County Warriors beat the Chattanooga Central Pounders 37-15 at home Friday for their third win of the season.
The Warriors took a double-digit lead in the opening period and maintained a steady advantage the rest of the way to remain unbeaten on the season.
Marion County head football coach Tim Starkey said his team put together a solid performance despite some sloppy play at various points.
“Offensively, we got a little bit sloppy going into halftime. We’ve just got to be better and got to execute better throughout the whole game,” he said. “Overall, I thought we played well. We played hard for four quarters. We’ve just got to clean up some mistakes.”
The Pounders returned the opening kickoff for the game all the way down to Marion County’s 3-yard line for some instant momentum.
The Warriors were able to push the Pounders back from there, however, with Chattanooga Central settling for a short field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:38 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors answered back immediately as Tilton Pickett threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Braydon Coffelt to give Marion County a 7-3 advantage with 6:18 remaining in the opening period.
An interception by Brody Leonard on Chattanooga Central’s next drive gave the Warriors excellent field position, and EJ Wilson scored on a 24-yard touchdown run a few plays later to make it a 14-3 game with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
Following a punt by the Pounders, the Warriors put together their third straight scoring drive with Leonard finding the end zone on a 15-yard run to grow the early lead to 21-3 in the final minute of the opening period.
A botched punt put the Warriors in enemy territory to start a drive once again with Leonard scoring his second rushing touchdown of the day one play later to put Marion County up 28-3 with 11:34 to go in the first half.
The Warriors made one more trip into Chattanooga Central’s territory in the final minute of the half, but the possession ended in a turnover on downs.
They led 28-3 at halftime.
The Warriors were forced to punt on their first drive in the second half, and the Pounders scored on the first play of their ensuing drive with a 50-yard passing touchdown making it a 28-9 game following a missed point-after kick.
The next score for the Warriors came on a safety as another mishandled punt by the Pounders led to them falling on the ball in their own end zone to make it a 30-9 with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors continued to win the special-teams battle for their next score as a blocked Chattanooga Central punt in the fourth quarter was recovered by Taylor Scharber at the 33-yard line and ran back for a touchdown to put the deficit at 37-9 with 7:48 remaining.
The Pounders scored a rushing touchdown with 2:17 to go to make it a three-score game, but the Warriors recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the rest of the clock to seal the 22-point victory.
Leonard carried the ball 18 times for 174 yards, completed two passes for four yards and caught one pass for four yards in the victory.
Wilson had 45 rushing yards on four carries and caught a pass for six yards.
Taylor Scharber recorded 19 rushing yards on six carries and 11 receiving yards on two catches.
Tilton Pickett completed two passes for 13 yards, and Javon Brown had one completion for 11 yards and two carries for eight yards.
Zaiden Humphrey racked up 18 rushing yards on two carries.
With the win, the Warriors improved to 3-0 on the season.
They will next play Friday at home against Fayetteville City High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Starkey said he made it clear to his players that they will need to be ready for a tough challenge when the Fayetteville Tigers come to town.
“We’ve got one of the biggest games of the season coming up next week, our first regional game with Fayetteville. In order to beat them, we have to be better than we were Friday night,” he said.