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Longhorns top Southern Academy

GREENSBORO – After not having scored on Southern Academy in their varsity careers, Marengo Academy’s seniors got some retribution Friday with a 24-7 road win over the Cougars.

“I knew y’all were going to come to play hard,” Southern head coach Shaun Bonds said to the Longhorn players following the game.

Southern assembled a good drive to start the game and looked to be on the verge of taking an early lead when Marengo sophomore Matt Etheridge picked off a Sam Kelley pass to squelch the threat.

“That was big early in the game,” Marengo head coach Jesse Little said of Ehteridge’s play.

“You play a good football team, you don’t turn it over,” Bonds said. “That was really the difference in the game.”

The Longhorns had their own threat derailed when a Jesse Morgan pass was picked off by Southern’s Cody Freeman at the 24-yard line. Two plays later, Marengo’s Cody Baker intercepted a Kelley pass and returned it to the SA 19-yard line.

The Longhorns needed only four plays to punch the ball into the end zone on a two-yard run by Morgan. The point after put MA up 7-0.

The turnover bug bit Southern again on the next possession when Marengo’s Matthew Martin pounced on a loose ball and ran it 45 yards to the Cougars’ one.

“I pretty much have to give credit to Cody Baker for stripping it,” Martin said. “I just happened to be there to pick it up and run it.”

On the next play, the Longhorns dialed up Martin’s number, allowing the junior to finish what he started with a one-yard touchdown run.

Southern’s misfortune continued on the next drive when a facemask penalty pushed the team back to its own 25. Two plays later, sophomore Reid Barkley snuffed a potential third-down heave when he sacked Kelley for a 10-yard loss.

“When they got into the spread, I told (our players) they had taken (Southern) out of their game plan,” Little said.

After returning the punt to their own 42-yard line, the Longhorns put together a 12-play drive that milked nearly nine minutes off the second quarter clock and ended in a 29-yard field goal from Michael Martin.

“I knew I was fixin’ to kick it. He’s been getting better all year,” Little said of his decision to not press for the touchdown. Marengo carried the 17-0 lead into the locker at halftime.

The Longhorns’ biggest mistake of the night came at the end of the third quarter when they fumbled a punt. Southern capitalized on the miscue when William Washburn connected on a one-yard touchdown plunge to cut the score to 17-7.

Southern appeared to be on the comeback trail when Kelley connected with Coleman McClendon on a 28-yard pass. The Cougars advanced the ball all the way to the Marengo 12 before Cody Hilchey fell on a loose ball to again squash the threat.

“Just playing two good teams back-to-back got us ready for this rivalry,” Matthew Martin said of the Longhorns’ preceding games against Tuscaloosa Academy and Bessemer Academy.

Marengo was working to run out the clock when Martin squirted free for a 49-yard touchdown run to push the score to 24-7.

“It was just good blocking and I was just hoping they wouldn’t catch me,” Matthew Martin said.

“It was real big,” Morgan said of the win. “We hadn’t even scored on them in varsity.”

“They played with a lot of class, a lot of character, a lot of pride,” Little said of his team. “We hadn’t beat (Southern) since 2002, so it doesn’t take much to figure out it is a big emotional lift.”

Marengo returns to action next week when it travels to Pike Liberal Arts for the first round of the AISA Class AAA playoffs. Southern, who lost only its second game of the season Friday night, will host Shelby Academy in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.

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