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Pats trounce Titans on homecoming

Photo Credit: Londa Hamrick

PATS TROUNCE TITANS ON HOMECOMING

Lance Clark worried all week about a potential letdown against Jacksonville following his team's 27-23 victory two weeks ago over El Dorado. Flash forward to the final play of the first half on Friday against the Titans with Marion clinging to a 14-12 lead, but with the ball deep in Jacksonville territory. Junior Ashton Gray took a shotgun snap and connected with junior receiver Matthew Kearney in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass that gave Marion a 21-12 lead at halftime. That score sparked the Pats to a 49-18 victory over Jacksonville at Premier Bank Stadium in front of a healthy homecoming crowd. Marion is now 9-2 all-time against Jacksonville. Marion travels this week to Paragould to take on Greene County Tech at Eagle Field. The Greene County Tech game will be broadcast live on MarionPatriots.com and the Marion Patriots Activities Network mobile app. The Marion (2-1 overall, 2-0 6A East) offense saw a number of heroes emerge against Jacksonville (0-3, 0-2). Sophomore tailback Jalen Smith ran 16 times for 117 yards and two TDs against the Titans, often eluding the first tackler in the backfield. Smith has rushed for 323 yards and four scores this season. Gray spread the wealth on Friday night, completing six of 11 passes for 110 yards and TD passes to Kearney, and sophomores Mitrell Lewis and Christian Young. Young's scoring snag was the first in his varsity career, while Lewis scored for the second straight week. “I thought that was really big because we continue to get production from other guys,” explained Clark. “Jalen is really getting it right now. He's seeing it and running it well.” The Marion defense sometimes sputtered, surrendering several big plays against Jacksonville, including TD runs of 60 and 58 yards to keep the Titans in the game. Marion scored first when senior linebacker Brian Weatherspoon forced a fumble that junior 'backer Dewayne Williams recovered on the Titan 1-yard line. It took Smith one play to convert the turnover into points, scoring from a yard out for a 7-0 Marion advantage. The lead reached double digits when Gray hit Young for a 40-yard scoring strike and the Pats led 14-0 after the first quarter. Jacksonville answered with a methodical 13-play, 65-yard drive that culminated when LJ Brown, Jr. scored from 4 yards to trim the Marion lead to 14-6. The Titans drew closer with 1:03 left in the first half when Jaylen Cole sprinted 60 yards to the box for a TD, but when Marion stuffed the Jacksonville two-point conversion attempt, the Pats still led 14-12. Marion fielded a short kickoff and beat the second-quarter horn when Gray found Kearney for a score and a 21-12 Marion lead at the halftime break. The Pats pushed ahead 28-12 when Cheers took a direct snap and scored from a yard out, but Jacksonville worked within 28-18 when Brown sprinted 58 yards two plays later. Gray's TD pass to Lewis covered 16 yards and helped Marion lead 35-18 after the third period. Facing first-and-goal on the third play of the fourth quarter, Smith looked to put the game out of reach, making a free Jacksonville defender miss in the hole before stepping to his left and outrunning a Jacksonville cornerback to the end zone for a show-stopping 24-yard TD run and a 42-8 Marion lead. The Pats forced a Jacksonville turnover on downs before turning to junior tailback Jamar Foster to close out the Titans. Foster carried nine times for 57 yards on Marion's final drive, hitting paydirt from 3 yards out to cap the scoring. DEFENSIVE DEBUTS The Marion defense had new faces emerge on Friday against Jacksonville, as junior linebacker Javon Griffin and sophomore safety Brian Glaspie earned their first career starts. Griffin started at Mike linebacker, recording four tackles, including two behind the line. Glaspie started and played most of the game at safety, totaling two tackles. HOMECOMING SUCCESS Friday's victory was Marion's second straight homecoming conquest after the Pats toppled Pine Bluff 38-24 a season ago. El Dorado dealt Marion a 45-34 homecoming defeat in 2020. HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE Marion improved to 7-1 on the field at Premier Bank Stadium under Clark following the Jacksonville win. The Pats finished 2021 5-1 at home, with their lone blemish a 21-19 defeat to eventual Class 4A champ Joe T. Robinson last September. Marion later forfeited its 24-21 victory over Wynne due to the use of an ineligible player. The Pats have home games remaining this fall against Benton (September 30), West Memphis (October 14), and Sylvan Hills (October 28). HOT START Marion is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2004, which is also the last time the Pats missed the state playoffs. The 2004 Patriots toppled Greene County Tech 35-14 on the road in the league opener before turning away Beebe at home 34-20 in week 5. A 22-19 homecoming defeat in week 7 gave Paragould the head-to-head tiebreaker that sent the Rams to the 2004 playoffs and kept the Pats at home. WEEK 3 6A EAST RESULTS Marion 49, Jacksonville 18 El Dorado 44, Greene County Tech 6 LR Catholic 38, Benton 14 Searcy 34, Sylvan Hills 28 West Memphis 28, Sheridan 21 (overtime) 6A EAST STANDINGS SCHOOL CONF. RECORD TIEBREAKER POINTS Marion 2-0 17 LR Catholic 2-0 26 W. Memphis 2-0 20 Benton 1-1 13 El Dorado 1-1 13 Searcy 1-1 6 Sheridan 1-1 4 Jacksonville 0-2 Sylvan Hills 0-2 Greene County Tech 0-2 WEEK 4 6A EAST SCHEDULE (All games kick off at 7 p.m.) Marion at Greene County Tech Sylvan Hills at West Memphis El Dorado at Benton Sheridan at Jacksonville LR Catholic at Searcy

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