By: Jim Steele
It would have been very easy for McKenzie's football team to fold the tents.
The Rebels had limped to a 2-3 start, having lost two straight games by teams who used big plays to dispatch MHS. In the process, McKenzie suffered through numerous injuries, including leading ground gainer Joseph Miller, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter against Waverly. One of McKenzie's top receivers and kicker Lucas Waddell was sidelined by a knee injury sustained against TCA.
McKenzie coach Wade Comer's starting lineup almost looked like a junior varsity roster. But when the Rebels took the field against district rival Halls, their offensive and defensive lines took over the game.
The rejunvenated Rebels claimed a 38-8 victory.
Comer was relieved by his makeshift team's performance.
"We still have a lot out, but it's the next man up and they really stepped up," Comer said. "We had a lot of young people out there and they came ready to play tonight."
The Rebels dominance up front was evident from the jump as McKenzie scored on its first four possessions. Meanwhile, Halls had seven first-half possessions, five of them were three-and-out situations. The Rebs rolled to a 32-0 halftime lead.
"On offensive and defensive lne both, we controlled the line of scrimmage and we were able to do some things," Comer said. "We got them down a little bit and it worked out for us."
McKenzie stopped Halls and took over with 10:02 to play in the first. The Rebels marched 80 yards in nine plays, ending on a fourth-and-goal pass from senior quarterback Zach Jarrett to Josh Cannon with 6:32 to play in the first. The PAT pass failed, but the Rebels led 6-0. After the defense forced another three-and-out, McKenzie was on the move again.
Jarrett hit Cameron Rawls for a 45-yard completion, which set up the next score. Deaaron Diggs galloped in from the 6 with 2:53 to play. Lane Horton caught the conversion pass and the Rebels led 14-0. After yet another three-play possession from Halls, McKenzie needed just one play to dent the scoreboard again.
Jarrett led receiver Tyler Spivey for a 50-yard TD pass with :45 left in the first. The conversion pass failed, yet the Rebels held a 20-0 lead.
Halls started the second and had its most productive drive of the half when Rawls picked off a pass at mid field. Eight plays and 2:31 later, Jarrett found Spivey again, this time from 17 yards and the Rebels were up 26-0.
The Tigers mishandled a punt snap and Kyle Maxwell fell on top of it in the end zone with 5:21 to play in the half. The Rebels took a healthy 32-0 lead into the break.
McKenzie took possession to start the third frame and lit up the scoreboard again moments later. With 10:52 to play, Diggs broke free and raced 55 yards down the middle of the field as the Rebels took a 38-0 lead. That prompted a running clock until the 4: 16 mark of the fourth, when Halls quarterback Andrew Harris hit receiver Ma-ki Jola for a 70-yard touchdown pass. The combo hooked up for the deuce, but it was too little, too late.
Comer said he was pleased with his team's offensive cohesion.
"Deaaron ran the ball well and had big plays for us and Jarrett threw the ball well for us. We were clicking on all cylinders," he said. "We have to stay there and get refocused and get ready to play next week."
Jarrett was 9-11 passing for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Spivey had six catches for 124 yards and two TDs. Deaaron Diggs carried 12 times for 70 yards and a score. Elijah Horton had two sacks among his five tackles.
Halls, 3-4, will host Trinity Christian Friday night. Meanwhile, McKenzie will visit Adamsville for the second straight year. Last year, the ninth-ranked Rebels took a lead with just over a minute to play only to lose in the waning moments to the top-ranked Cardinals, 56-52.