By: Jim Steele
McKENZIE, Tenn. - Dresden's visit to McKenzie Thursday night was the opening game of the middle school football season.
And it looked like it.
McKenzie and Dresden shook off rust and squared off in a physical battle. But it wasn't a thing of beauty. In the end, McKenzie finally capitalized on opportunity to claim an 8-6 victory over the Lions, its fifth straight. Jansen Davis scored from the 1 with 6:17 to play in the fourth quarter and DeMarkeese Nolen added the all-important deuce to push MMS into the lead.
Dresden responded with a touchdown of its own, but couldn't convert the PAT and the Rebels held on for the win.
McKenzie had four chances inside the 20, but came away empty three times. Holden Stanfill recovered a fumble at the Lion 9 early in the fourth quarter and at long last, the Rebels were able to turn the good fortune into points.
"We finally capitalized on an opportunity," said McKenzie coach Brad Chappell. "It wasn't pretty, but it was a win and we'll take it."
McKenzie claimed four turnovers. Mitchell Lunn ended a Dresden drive on the final play of the first half when he stepped in front of a Lion pass. Tyree Owens picked off a pass late in the final frame that essentially ended the game. Sprinkled in there were fumble recoveries by Noah Lowrance and Stanfill.
But McKenzie didn't have a lot to show for its efforts. Davis threw the ball well and was on target for most of the night. He finished 5-10 passing for 65 yards, but were it not for dropped passes, he may well have been 9-for-10 passing.
"Those were mental mistakes," said Chappell. "We need to work those out, but it's something we can fix, I think."
The Lions responded to McKenzie's score with a 75-yard drive and a 55-yard run by Quincy McDonald with 3:35 to play. But the Rebs stuffed the conversion attempt.
McKenzie got the ball back, but fumbled a minute later, giving Dresden decent field position. Oglesby stuffed McDonald for a 6-yard loss to the Rebel 37, then Owens picked off the pass to end the Dresden threat.
"Defense saved us," said Chappell. "We had a few breakdowns, but our defense played pretty well."
Chappell was pleased with the play of a couple of players.
"Oglesby is a player. He's not big, but he'll hit you and tackle you," said Chappell. "He does what he's supposed to do. Stanfill had a good game, too. He made some pretty big sticks."
Oglesby had 16 yards rushing, five tackles, a pass break-up and a tackle for loss. Stanfill had 22 yards on the ground, five stops, a fumble recovery and two tackles for loss.
It's not like Dresden has a bad team. It is huge and has speed.
"They are big, good and physical," said Chappell. "We responded to their challenge. We got after them pretty good and gave a great effort, but we need to be more consistent."
McDonald led the Lions with 73 yards rushing. Alex Warren and Dillon Jolley each had five tackles.
McKenzie, 1-0, will resume its rivalry with Huntingdon. The Mustangs visit Rebel Field 6:30 Thursday night, Aug. 26.