SHANE SHOEMAKER – Sports Writer
On a hot and steamy evening in Northwest Georgia last Friday, where the muscle cramps were abound and the points were scarce, the Marion County Warriors beat the Dade County Wolverines, 10-6 to go to 2-0.
Locally broadcast on the CW Chattanooga network for the Dr. Pepper Friday Night Rivals game of the week, the Warriors and Wolverines went back and forth in a defensive battle against one another.
The then No. 8 ranked, now No. 6 ranked Warriors, for most of the night, had no problem driving down the field until they got into the redzone, where the Wolverine defensive front shut them down, including once midway through the second quarter when Marion went for it on a fourth-and-12, but turned it over on downs after Dade made the stop at their own 13-yard line.
Last year, the Wolverines averaged giving up only 19.9 points per game, that included two shutout games that started with a 27-0 victory over the Warriors last season.
It wasn’t until there was 3:17 left in the second quarter that there were any points scored, when the Warriors this time instead of going for it, settled for a Leo Polovin 26-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
However, the Wolverines used the remaining time to drive down the field, which resulted in Dade taking the lead going into the half after their quarterback Bryson Shrader hit Caleb Massey on a beautiful seam pass over two Marion defenders, making it 6-3 after the missed PAT.
Taking their momentum from the first half with them, the Wolverines started the second half with a kickoff run from Demetrius Walker that put Dade inside the Warriors 10-yard line. A few plays later, Landon Williams – a name that the Warriors became very familiar with all night on both sides of the ball – ran the ball in for a touchdown but was called back due to a false start.
Dade would eventually turn the ball over on downs, however, but a Marion dead ball foul penalty on a Wolverine runner out of bounds put the Warriors deep inside their own territory.
The Warriors, led by quarterback Tilton Pickett, drove down the field, but would lose two of their playmakers doing so in EJ Wilson and Sam Pickett after both caught two crucial passes resulting for big gains on the Warriors drive. Wilson would later return; Pickett would not.
The ending result of the 98-yard drive was probably not one that Marion playcallers have in their playbook, though.
On a fourth-and-goal inside the Dade five-yard line, the Warriors decided to go for a field goal. The result instead was a five-yard touchdown run by junior Luke Tipton, who after a bad snap, grabbed the ball and initially went to his right to look for a receiver down field, but then spun and turned left up the sideline. As Dade defenders started to close in as he made his way to the endzone, Tipton leaped, was hit in mid-air, and then flipped over with one foot landing in the endzone for a Marion touchdown making it 10-6 with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
As defensively stout as both teams were most of the evening, there were no turnovers until late in the third quarter, when Dade’s Williams sacked Marion’s Pickett, causing him to fumble the ball.
Four plays later, to start the fourth, a slippery, sweaty-armed Williams actually cost the Wolverines this time when Marion junior Braydon Coffelt stripped him of the ball giving the Warriors back the ball inside their own 30-yard line. The Warriors couldn’t capitalize off of it, though.
That wouldn’t be the last of the Warriors defense that accounted for four turnovers and only 12 points given up the week prior, however. With 8:22 to go with the Wolverines at their own 10-yard line, Marion RB/DB Brody Leonard picked off a pass by Dade’s Shrader at mid-field.
The Wolverines only had two more drives to make something happen after that, but self-induced penalties and the clock played to their misfortune.
“It’s the win we’ve been talking about, turning the corner at Marion County… getting back to where it’s supposed to be,” Starkey told a television reporter after the game when asked how important beating Dade was this season. “It starts with wins like this.”
The Warriors will be back at home on Friday when they host the Chattanooga Central Pounders.