Underdog Marengo wins it all

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 18, 2001

Sports Editor

A Marengo Academy fan called head coach Jesse Little a "miracle worker" following the Longhorns’ 27-16 win over Wilcox Academy in the Class AA title game on Friday.

But for Little, whose team had turned the ball over four times against the Wildcats by halftime and were down 16-7, the key to victory was simple.

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"Stop turning the ball over," said Little, when asked what he told his team at the break. "We had four turnovers and a snapped punt over our head in the first half. You take those away and it’s a new ball game."

The second half, indeed, was a brand new ball game for the Longhorns.

Marengo scored three touchdowns in the final two quarters of play and didn’t turn the ball over once. Tailback Patrick Cannon’s 39-yard touchdown run with 8:50 remaining in the contest gave Marengo its first lead of the game, 20-16. Following a fourth and two stop by the Longhorns’ defense on Wilcox quarterback David Brenning, fullback Andy Gates iced the game with a 27-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field with 2:55 left.

Marengo, (9-4), which beat defending AA champ Macon-East and Sumter Academy to advance to Troy, also avenged an earlier 20-7 loss to the Wildcats (10-3) during the regular season with the victory.

In that game, five Longhorns’ turnovers helped contribute to the Wilcox win. Including the finale to Wilcox, Marengo dropped three straight to close out the season, losing also to Mobile Christian (20-7), and Sumter (27-14). The Longhorns also lost to 2001 AAA champ Monroe earlier in the year 17-12.

"Strange things happen some times," said Little. "We really had some tough competition there, especially at the end. Mobile, Wilcox and Sumter all beat us, but we were in the game with them at the same time. This time we just came back and won the ball game."

Wilcox took control of the game early, taking advantage of a Marengo high snap on a punt attempt to get good field position at the Longhorns’ 42-yard line. Brenning hit Phillip Merryman for a 40-yard touchdown pass, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

A fumble by Mascarella on the Marengo ensuing possession gave the Wildcats the ball at the 20-yard line. But the Longhorns’ defense was able to hold Wilcox out of the endzone, forcing the Wildcats to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Derek Hereford.

Another Marengo fumble gave Wilcox possession at the ‘Horns’ 37. Whit Lovinggood ran 24-yards up the middle with 9:03 left in the first half to put Wilcox up 16-0.

Mascarella got the Longhorns on the board when he found a streaking Chase Jones for 28-yards and the touchdown one minute before the end of the second period.

The Longhorns went to the locker room down just 16-7.

"That touchdown right before half was big," said Little. "It gave us a little momentum going in and the momentum stayed on our side when we held them and scored again."

A sack by Gates on the Wildcats’ second possession forced Wilcox to kick from their own 11-yard line. Marengo got a good return by Eric Wilkinson and a personal foul call on Wilcox, moving the ball to the Wilcox 21. Mascarella scored on fourth and one just before the end of the third quarter, pulling Marengo closer to the lead at 16-14.