Heading into their Oct. 24 matchup with Tylertown, the West Marion Trojans were expecting to be without several of their key playmakers, but they all were able to tough it out and led West Marion to a 42-13 road win.
Head coach Brad Duncan said the day before the game he wasn’t expecting Jartavious Martin or Ott Mitchell to play and that Octavious Harvey would be a toss-up, but all three suited for the Trojans (9-1, 3-1) and accounted for a combined 114 yards, three touchdowns and six tackles.
With the win West Marion is nearly a lock to be the No. 2 seed out of Region 8-3A, but there is one unlikely scenario where the Trojans could drop to No. 3. The Trojans play host to Seminary Friday night, and if they win the No. 2 spot is all theirs. If they lose and either Jeff Davis County or Magee loses, they still get the second spot. However, if West Marion loses, Jeff Davis beats Tylertown and Magee beats Columbia, the three schools would be in a three-way tie at 3-2, and it would come down to point differential. Magee currently holds the edge with plus-48, followed by West Marion at plus-25 and Jeff Davis with minus-16.
“It’s there for the taking. That’s for sure,” Duncan said.
Seminary (5-5, 1-3) is coming off of a 31-0 loss at Columbia, and the Bulldogs are fighting for their playoff lives. They would need to beat West Marion and get some help to make the postseason, and Duncan said that makes it a hard matchup.
“They’re going to be scrappy; they’re going to be tough,” he said. “They have the No. 8 kid (Austin Keys), who is a Division I commitment to Ole Miss. When he wants to play, he’s a really good football player. We have to show up, and we need to win this one and get a roll going into the playoffs.”
Seminary is a Wing-T team, but the Trojans defense has dominated all four Wing-T offenses it has faced this year and is only allowing 8.6 points per game.
West Marion got on the board with its defense on the first play from scrimmage against Tylertown (3-7, 0-4) as the Chiefs threw a backwards lateral on an attempted swing pass that Jordyn Mahaffey scooped up and ran into the end zone to make it 7-0 just 16 seconds into the game.
Following two first downs on their next drive the Chiefs were forced to punt, and the punt was so low that it hit a lineman and ricocheted backwards to give the Trojans excellent field position. West Marion wasted no time capitalizing on the good fortune, and Larry Magee found pay dirt on a short run that made it 14-0.
Then after a Tylertown three-and-out, Harvey blocked the Chiefs’ punt, setting up another first-quarter touchdown.
Martin took a carry from 16 yards and made two defenders miss with a nifty cut to reach the end zone and put the Trojans up 21-0 with 2:21 still to go in the first quarter.
Tylertown countered with a passing touchdown early in the second quarter, but West Marion continued its dominance and added three more touchdowns to its lead before halftime.
The Trojans blew up a wide receiver screen by the Chiefs on 3rd-and-10, and Qavonte Swanigan intercepted the tipped pass and returned it 36 yards for a pick-six.
West Marion forced another three-and-out, leading to a 33-yard touchdown by Harvey. Then yet another three-and-out paved the way for a 1-yard plunge into the end zone by Martin to make it 42-7 at the end of just two quarters.
Duncan said the two blocked punts and the two defensive touchdowns were big in allowing West Marion to rest its banged up playmakers with the game being out of reach early.
“We ran to the ball really well, and our defensive front played really well again. We just did our normal thing,” he said. “(Tylertown) tried to do some different things as far as throwing the ball around, but Tylertown is very, very young, inexperienced and struggling. Our defense just got after their butts again.”
Duncan added he was a little concerned about how the Trojans would bounce back after the tough loss to Columbia the previous week but that the high level of effort was back and it was a really good win.
The Trojans switched up their offense quite a bit against Tylertown, operating under center for the vast majority of the game either with a fullback and a tight end or in a bunch trips.
“It was something we’ve worked on all year and hadn’t shown it a lot,” Duncan said. “We call it the nasty trips and try to run some power out of that. We tried to throw the waggle a little bit more out of that power look. We’re just trying to do a few different things we haven’t done, get better at it and get ready for our last home game and in the playoffs.”
Being able to bounce between the power spread and power formations from under center in the playoffs could provide the Trojans the additional firewpower they will need to go deep in the playoffs.
Pictured Above: West Marion's Blaten Norris and Ka'Marius Husband team up to bring down Columbia's Javen Moses. | Photo by Joshua Campbell