Ash Grove and Marionville looked like mirror images of each other for most of the night. But in the end, a Comet turnover within 15 yards of the potential tying touchdown allowed Ash Grove to remain unbeaten.
“That is the most exciting game I’ve been a part of in a long time,” Ash Grove head coach Doug Martin said to his team in his post-game huddle.
In keeping with their mirror image play, both teams scored on long passes and short runs in the first half. The Pirates long pass covered 53 yards from Sean Mulkey to Jackson Bagley to make it 7-0. Mulkey completed 7-16 passes for 196 yards while Bagley caught two passes for 101 yards.
Less than a minute after Ash Grove struck with a long pass, Marionville answered with a 56 yard strike from Jacob LaSalle, the son of first year head coach Jamie LaSalle, to Ryan White. A two-point conversion put the Comets ahead 8-7.
Next came the short runs. Ash Grove’s Logan Allred, who became the school’s all-time leading rusher with over 3,000 yards, scored from nine yards out to put the Pirates ahead 14-8. Marionville answered with a five-yard quarterback keeper by LaSalle and another two-point conversion to go ahead 16-14.
Both teams also traded long passes that set up scoring opportunities. Marionville’s 45 yarder from LaSalle to White put the Comets in position to score, but the drive stalled on 4th down at the Ash Grove 10 yard-line.
The Pirates long pass was a 48-yarder to Bagley from Mulkey that led to a 27-yard field goal that put Ash Grove ahead 17-16 at the half.
The second half also started with some mirror image plays as the Comets scored on a short run to go up 23-17 only to have Ash Grove counter with an 8 play, 87 yard drive capped by a two-yard run by Allred to take the lead for good at 24-23 with 10:14 remaining in the 4th quarter.
From there, the pattern of anything-you-do-we-can-do-too was finally broken when Ash Grove scored again just a minute later when Mulkey broke free on a 49 yard run to give the Pirates a 31-23 advantage.
Still, Marionville was just a touchdown and two-point conversion away from a tie. And the Comets got all the way to the Ash Grove 15 yard-line before their fate was sealed by a literal finger-tip as LaSalle rolled out and threw a pass that was just a bit too high for his intended receiver at the five yard-line.
The ball deflected off the receiver’s outstretched hands and into the hands of Ash Grove’s Jackson Bagley, and that proved to be the key play in the Pirates 31-23 victory.
“It was really fun,” Allred said of playing in such a tight game. “But I was really playing my hardest. That was a tough game.”
“I kept telling our kids that we were gonna hit adversity,” Martin added. “Going forward when we get into other situations like this it gives us confidence that we can pull it out in the end.”
Good news considering Ash Grove will face a lot more adversity down the road. Their Class 2 district includes Lamar, the two-time defending state champion who appears to be even better than they were last season.
Dorial Green-Beckham is now an Oklahoma Sooner.
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