Trailing by just two scores at halftime even after allowing several opportunities to slip away, according to coach Mac Childress, the Marathon High football team could not sustain the push in the second half as Archbishop Carroll took advantage of the Dolphins’ turnovers to roll to a 36-7 victory on Friday, Sept. 22, at the Middle Keys Campus.
“A lot of it was self-inflicted wounds,” said Childress. “We felt we had great opportunities in the first half to take the lead, we just have to take care of the football.”
In fact, the Dolphins had four turnovers in the game that resulted in 21 points for the Bulldogs, which the Marathon coach noted was the difference in the game. Especially in the second half, as the Dolphins were trailing 14-0 at the break but were down by the mercy-rule 35 midway through the third quarter after three quick scores by Carroll, two coming off Marathon fumbles.
“If we can get that cleaned up, we will be a lot more competitive,” said Childress. “We have to keep the scores low and keep it close.”
Despite getting shut out for the first three quarters, and despite fumbling on their opening drive of the game just outside the red zone, Childress felt his offense was able to move the ball with effectively.
“We are feeling that our midline and our triples are starting to work, we just have to keep working it because it’s going to take a lot of reps,” said Childress. “It’s going to take a lot for these boys to get it, so we just have to keep plugging away at it.”
That’s what Marathon did in the loss as quarterback Michael Merryman went for 35 yards in the ground attack, and with time running out in the fourth quarter, Malachi Hawkins punched home his first varsity touchdown on the final play of the game, from 2 yards out. Hawkins would finish with 48 yards on nine carries, but did have a pair of fumbles in the game.
“I made it very clear to him, he is going to go through some growing pains for a first-time running back,” said Childress. “I think (Malachi) went through some it and now understands how important it is to take care of the ball. I think he can be a force to be reckoned with going forward.”
Hawkins also had six tackles on defense, Kenfrey Chacon wrapped up five tackles and with 10 was Thomas Eubanks.
“It was the best game he has ever played for us,” said Chidress about Eubank. “We just have to keep pumping these guys up.”
While the defense did make some big plays, Childress also noted the lesson learned by the Dolphins was about stay in their lanes, defensively.
“Every time we filled our keys, we stopped them for a loss,” said Childress. “When we started to cowboy it and do our own things on defense, that’s when they gashed us. So we just have to trust the game plan and stick to it.”
The coach furthered that he felt his team had an excellent film session on Monday following that loss, and all the players were taking it seriously.
“That’s a real good sign as a coach, it shows you do have kids who care,” said Childress. “We are finding out who really loves football and who wants to put in the work. Our core guys have stuck with it, and they are not down; I think a lot of them were really mad the other night because they felt we could have done a lot better and that’s a good sign because they are really starting to care.
“Our effort was great on film, we just didn’t execute as well as we could have,” he added. “We just can’t sulk in the past, we have to keep moving forward. We have to get more.”
For Childress, moving forward means focusing on ball possession, so next time they are within striking distance they can finish strong and not let the game get away in the second half.
“Most of our guys go both ways the whole game, and while we are in good shape, we told our guys they have to get in better shape, so we can keep it up in the fourth quarter of a tight ball game,” said Childress. “We can’t let fatigue be an excuse for us, because we know our depth is limited. We are playing these teams with a 40-man roster, so we have to keep the ball on offense because we have so many guys going both ways. If we have the ball and are protecting the ball, we will be in a lot of games just based on the offense we run.”