By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Reeds Spring, Mo. — Speed kills … and a host of big plays don’t hurt, either.
Marshfield utilized plenty of both in a pivotal, 31-21 victory over Big 8 Conference rival Reeds Spring Friday night.
Swiss Army knife Brennan Espy racked up 226 yards from scrimmage for the Blue Jays and scored a pair of touchdowns.
The junior speedster also returned a 98-yard kickoff for a third score in the contest, capping off a wild second quarter which saw both teams combine for 30 points in the frame.
Marshfield senior quarterback Brock Utech was equally effective on the evening, connecting on 7 of 13 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
The Blue Jays found themselves down almost immediately in the first quarter after Reeds Spring scored on its second play from scrimmage.
Wolves quarterback Blake Gronvold connected with J.T. Ratliff on a 62-yard shot down the sideline for a 6-0 lead. The dual-threat Gronvold finished with 300 yards from scrimmage and accounted for all three Reeds Spring touchdowns.
Down early in a hostile environment, Marshfield didn’t panic.
Blue Jays head coach Cody Bull praised his team’s focus and resilient nature.
“We always talk about responding,” Bull said. “Our kids; we need to respond to adversity and, when negatives happen, we’ve just got to take those and keep going.”
Marshfield responded with a 15-play, 55-yard drive which resulted in a 25-yard field goal from senior Jarrett Meyer.
Reeds Spring converted a Colton Cramblett 20-yard field goal in the second quarter to stretch its lead to 9-3; however, the celebration was short-lived, as the Blue Jays quickly answered yet again.
On the first snap of Marshfield’s ensuing series, Utech hit Espy for an 80-yard score to give the Blue Jays the first lead of the game.
Utech was quick to credit the versatile Espy for the play which gave Marshfield its first lead of the game at 10-9.
“Brennan’s awesome,” Utech said. “Mentally, too. He’s just a great leader on the team, and he always comes out and makes big plays to spark our energy.”
Later in the quarter, Utech rolled out and found senior tight end Truett Gardner standing wide open near the goal line, some 26 yards away.
“They were in cover-two,” Utech said. “I just knew [Gardner] was going to go by the corner and in between the safeties, so I just put it right there. He made a great play and got a touchdown for us.”
Up 17-9, Marshfield looked like it might run away with the game at that point, but the Wolves battled back into the thick of the matchup.
Reeds Spring engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a Gronvold 5-yard rush into the end zone to cut the deficit to a mere two points at 17-15.
While the Wolves seemed poised to seize momentum, Marshfield turned back the rally on the ensuing kickoff.
After fielding the ball at his own two-yard line, Espy scampered, dodged and weaved through traffic. Reversing his field twice near the 20-yard line, a hole opened up down the right sideline.
Espy wasted little time finding daylight, bursting through for a backbreaking, 98-yard score.
As ridiculous as the return looked, Espy had some difficulty remembering exactly what occurred.
“I was just thinking get a couple yards,” Espy said. “Don’t get too close to the end zone, just waste time before the half and we’ll get the ball back. I just broke loose; I really don’t know what happened.”
Bull had no shortage of praise for his all-purpose, game-breaking weapon.
“Brennan is an amazing athlete,” Bull said “There’s just no getting around it. He’s got shake, he’s got speed, he’s developing some power, and he’s really taken it to heart not to let one guy tackle him. Once he got it set back up and got back to the edge, our guys did a great job of setting up a wall. Everybody got back into the play, he made a couple guys miss, broke a tackle and it’s nice to have athletes that can go do things like that.”
While the second quarter featured plenty of wild scoring and big plays, both teams settled into a field-position battle in the third.
Reeds Spring attempted to claw its way back into the game yet again, engineering a 12-play, 51-yard scoring drive early in the quarter that Gronvold finished off with a two-yard touchdown run.
Down 24-21, the Wolves found themselves within striking distance, only to see Marshfield answer.
The Blue Jays needed only five plays to drive 66 yards and find the end zone on Espy’s third score of the evening, this time from seven yards out.
From there, it was up to Marshfield’s defense to hold down the fort, and the Blue Jays proved up to the task in the fourth quarter.
While Reeds Spring put up 514 yards of total offense — including a gaudy 371 on the ground — the Wolves were held scoreless in the final frame.
“I thought our kids did a great job of having great energy, but still staying on an even keel and being focused on our tasks,” Bull said. “Our kids are physical and in great condition. We don’t get tired, we don’t wear down and we throw a lot of bodies at people.”
Next week, Marshfield (5-2) hosts Aurora, while Reeds Spring (5-2) welcomes Cassville.
Marshfield – 31, Reeds Spring – 21
Marshfield 3 21 7 0 — 31
Reeds Spring 6 9 6 0 — 21
First quarter scoring
Reeds Spring – J.T. Bayliff 62-yard TD pass from Blake Gronvold (conversion failed)
Marshfield – Jarret Meyer 25-yard field goal
Second quarter scoring
Reeds Spring – Colton Cramblett 20-yard field goal
Marshfield – Brennan Espy 80-yard TD pass from Brock Utecht (Meyer kick)
Marshfield – Truett Gardner 26-yard TD pass from Utecht (Meyer kick)
Reeds Spring – Gronvold 5-yard TD rush (conversion failed)
Marshfield – Espy 98-yard kickoff return TD (Meyer kick)
Third quarter scoring
Reeds Spring – Gronvold 2-yard TD rush (PAT missed)
Marshfield – Espy 7-yard TD rush (Meyer kick)