FLOWER MOUND – McKinney’s football team nearly pulled off a shocking comeback Friday night on the road, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half after trailing Marcus at halftime, 28-0.
The Lions pulled to within a score with 1:19 remaining on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Sampson Nazarko to Messiah Washington but ultimately fell shy following an unsuccessful onside kick.
"It was a tale of two halves,” said Kevin Atkinson, Marcus head coach. “We had some good things happen and we showed how explosive we can be. But that was the first half. The second half our defense was on the field a lot and ended up playing more than 100 snaps in the game.”
Marcus continued alternating quarterbacks, with Atkinson noting starter Jaxxon Warren is receiving two series against one for backup Cole Welliver.
On Friday, Warren completed 12-of-20 passes for 262 and three touchdowns, while Welliver went 4-for-9 for 43 yards and an interception.
The Marauders dominated McKinney at the start, scoring on just the second play of the game when Warren found Dallas Dudley – who finished with team-highs of seven receptions and 170 yards – all alone behind the defense for a 69-yard scoring strike.
It was one of three first-half touchdown passes for Warren with Isaac Khattab (18 yards) and Ashton Cozart (26 yards) also on the receiving end of scores for the Marauders.
The Marcus defense, meanwhile, was strong over the first two quarters.
McKinney managed just 88 yards of offense in the first half with the Marauders sacking quarterback Trevor Ham five times and forcing two interceptions from Jake Ballard and Seth Sanchez — both of which set up touchdowns. Marcus also forced a turnover on downs and took advantage of a 2-yard punt from McKinney preceding Cozart's touchdown reception.
However, McKinney received a spark offensively in the second half when it inserted Nazarko under center.
The senior helmed the Lions’ first touchdown drive, capping the series with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Washington.
McKinney then trimmed Marcus' halftime lead in half early in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from Nazarko to Dylan Rhodes — a drive that was aided by pass interference penalties on both third- and fourth-and-long.
Marcus had appeared to regain control on its ensuing possession, however an apparent lengthy touchdown pass to Dudley was ruled incomplete. Then following a Marcus punt, Nazarko and the Lions found the end zone again before falling short in the end.
“I thought we got set back when we had the big screen pass and then fumbled the snap and moved all the way back and had to punt,” Atkinson said. “We should have gotten points there and then I thought we had the touchdown pass later too, but they said (Dudley) didn’t control it when he came down.”
Nazarko finished the night completing 15-of-24 passes for 194 yards and three scores, while Sheldon King and Bryan Jackson rushed for 64 and 56 yards, respectively. Dylan Rhodes chipped in six receptions for 81 yards and a score for McKinney.
For Marcus, Khattab finished with 75 yards and the aforementioned touchdown, while running back Walker Wells had 34 yards and Gabe Espinoza had 14 yards and a touchdown.
McKinney looks to bounce back at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Rowlett, while Marcus looks to move above .500 at the same time at home against Keller Central.
“We have to run the football better,” Atkinson said. “And we have to do a better job of getting off the field defensively on third-and-long.”
Highland Park ekes past Flower Mound in final minute
Highland Park found the end zone with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter to overtake a game effort from visiting Flower Mound on Friday, 28-24.
The Jaguars battled back from a 21-7 deficit through three quarters, finding the end zone on a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Nick Evers — a 14-yarder to Walker Mulkey and a 2-yard throw to Caden Jensen, with an interception sandwiched in between — to pull even at 21-21 with 6:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Flower Mound later took a 24-21 with 1:50 left in regulation following a 28-yard field goal by Reagan Tubbs.
The Scots didn’t take long to counter, however, racing upfield to score in nine plays after Ben Croasdale found the end zone on a 4-yard run for a 28-24 lead.
With just 45 seconds to operate, Flower Mound was unable to so much as get past midfield before turning the ball over on downs.
In defeat, Evers threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-49 attempts. The signal-caller added 94 rushing yards, while Mulkey had a big night through the air with 10 catches for 109 yards and a score.