CARROLLTON, Texas -- The Marcus Marauders on Friday night sent messages early and often to the Hebron Hawks during a critical District 6-6A clash. Early? Marcus’ 17-play sledgehammer of a drive to open the game consumed half of the first quarter and put the Marauders up, 7-0. Often? Punishing, powerhouse performances from the defense and special teams from the first snap to the final whistle.
In the end, following a convincing 28-14 Marcus victory that abruptly halted Hebron’s four-game winning streak, perhaps Marauders head coach Kevin Atkinson sent the most resounding message of the night – directly to his team during the postgame address: “They’ll never play us for Homecoming again!”
Indeed, the Marauders took offense to being Hebron’s Homecoming opponent and they played with a chip on their inspired shoulders all night. Senior running back Gabe Espinoza scored all three Marcus touchdowns (on powerful runs of 2, 15 and 39 yards). The 15-yarder was set up by Zach Morris’ 54-yard punt return early in the third quarter and put Marcus up, 21-0. The 39-yarder gave the Marauders a 28-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and came one play after Emmerick Dopona forced a Hebron fumble that Bryson Barber recovered.
Junior kicker Michael Petro was a perfect two-for-two on field-goal attempts, including a 29-yard boot in the second quarter made possible by Jake Ballard’s 54-yard punt return.
The Marcus defense played one of its most complete games of the season, forcing five first-half punts and turning the Hawks over on downs on their first possession.
Marcus (6-2, 4-1 in district) ran its winning streak to four games with the victory and will face undefeated archrival Lewisville on Friday in the 36th edition of the Battle of the Axe rivalry game that will essentially be for the district championship.
It’s no real secret: The Marcus Marauders have exhibited a tendency to start games slowly on offense since the beginning of District 6-6A play almost a month ago -- but during Friday night’s 37-14 win over Plano West, that tendency was shattered.
Marcus needed just two plays from scrimmage to take a 7-0 lead on Jaxxon Warren’s 38-yard strike to Ashton Cozart. It was the first of three straight touchdown drives to start the game for the Marauders, who raced out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead that featured Warren’s 19-yard scoring toss to TE Connor Vaughn on the second possession and Walker Wells’ 1-yard TD run on the third. Plano West rallied with 14 unanswered points of its own to pull within 20-14 midway through the third quarter – but then came Marcus’ game-ending counter punch.
Michael Petro’s 26-yard field goal, set up by a Marcus fumble recovery, stretched the lead to 23-14, and Warren added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes – a 75-yard beauty deep down the middle of the field to a wide-open Cozart and a 16-yarder to leading receiver Dallas Dudley. In the end, Senior Night for the Marauders was a rousing success as Marcus won its third straight district game to improve to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in district.
Warren’s four touchdown passes came on just eight total completions and the senior finished with 250 passing yards. Cole Welliver added 111 yards passing. Cozart (three receptions for 118 yards and two TDs) and Dudley (five receptions, 132 yards, one TD) combined for 250 yards and three scores, and three different ball-carriers (Wells, Gabe Espinoza and Chris Ficke) covered 152 yards. The Marcus defense limited Plano West to just 221 total yards (including just 73 yards passing) and forced two turnovers.
The Marauders hit the road in Week 9 for a huge District 6-6A clash against Hebron.
Marcus Marauders junior safety Chance Sautter is a natural ball hawk. But on Friday night in a wild District 6-6A clash against visiting Coppell, the team’s turnover leader added a flair for the dramatic, too.
On the final play of a double-overtime doozie, Sautter delivered a victory-clinching interception on Coppell’s mandatory two-point conversion attempt to secure a hard-fought 39-37 victory and send the Marauders’ sideline and the entire student section into a field-storming frenzy. Sautter’s pick – his fourth turnover in the last two games -- provided a fitting end tp a night when Marcus’ defense was as gritty as it’s been all season.
The Marcus offense experienced some high drama of its own following Gabe Espinoza’s bruising 9-yard touchdown run that put Marcus up, 37-31, to start the second overtime. On the two-point conversion try, quarterback Jaxxon Warren rolled right and fired a pass into the end zone that deflected hard off a Coppell defender and caromed high into the night sky . . . before landing safely into the sure hands of tight end Connor Vaughn.
So much late drama provided a stark contrast to a game largely punctuated by stout defenses and high-level special teams play. Marcus mustered just 10 first-half points (a Michael Petro 28-yard field goal and Walker Wells’ 35-yard touchdown run) and entered halftime trailing, 14-10. The teams combined for five punts in a scoreless third quarter, but the Marauders’ offense grabbed momentum in the fourth.
Some teams have a dual-threat quarterback. Marcus has a dual-quarterback threat. Warren drove the Marauders 87 yards early in the fourth, the final 35 of which came on a perfect touchdown pass to Ashton Cozart for a 17-14 lead. One series later, following a Coppell game-tying field goal, sophomore QB Cole Welliver needed just three plays to put Marcus back on top with a beauty of a 70-yard TD dime to Cozart. Coppell responded quickly with a return-the-favor 76-yard touchdown pass to tie things back up, 24-24, setting up two raucous overtime periods.
The Marcus ground game delivered its best performance of the season as Espinoza (111 yards, one TD) and Wells (91 yards, two TDs) combined for 202 yards rushing and three scores. Warren and Welliver teamed to pass for 272 yards and the two TDs to Cozart, who led all receivers with 129 yards.
Marcus improved to 4-2 on the season (2-1 in District 6-6A) while Coppell dropped to 3-3 (2-1). The Marauders stay home next week to face Plano West on Senior Night.
PLANO -- On a windy, rain-threatened Thursday night inside Plano’s John Clark Stadium, it was the Marcus Marauders who appeared to be under the weather early. In a first-half earmarked by a sluggish offense desperately in need of a spark, the Marauders found themselves trailing 14-0 deep into the second quarter. The wake-up call finally came, however, when quarterback Jaxxon Warren found tight end Connor Vaughn on a catch-and-run 35-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining in the first half. The score capped a 10-play, 89-yard drive that was set up by a Chance Sautter interception.
And once the Marauders finally broke the seal on the end zone, they kept going back.
Linebacker Emmerick Dopona plowed in for a short TD run midway through the third quarter to bring Marcus within one, 14-13. Early in the fourth, Warren connected with Isaac Khattab on a 9-yard TD strike that gave Marcus the lead for good, 19-14. All the while, resilient and opportunistic defensive and special teams play from the Marauders kept giving the offense more snaps.
The Marauders would score twice more in the fourth quarter – on a Gabe Espinoza 1-yard run and a Cole Welliver-to-Ashton Cozart connection from 33 yards out with less than a minute remaining in the game.
The Marauders’ defense shined once again Thursday night, limiting Plano to 304 total yards and forcing three turnovers -- an early fumble recovery by sophomore Drew Trentham and two Sautter interceptions. Offensively, Warren and Welliver combined to go 16-of-29 passing for 237 yards and three touchdowns, while Khattab (seven catches, 74 yards) and Vaughn (four receptions for 82 yards) combined for 11 receptions and 156 yards. Espinoza (21 carries for 86 yards) and Walker Wells (14 carries for 38 yards) grounded and pounded for most of the second half.
The short-week win helped Marcus (3-2, 1-1 in District 6-6A) put last week’s Mound Showdown firmly in the rearview and gives the Marauders an extra day to prepare for next week’s home game vs. Coppell. Plano is now 1-4 on the season and 0-2 in district play.
In a plodding, bruising, workmanlike Mound Showdown rivalry game Friday night, defenses dominated, points were at a premium and the margin of error for either team was dangerously thin. In a game like that, mistakes get magnified – and the Marauders made just a few too many. The result: A gut-wrenching 17-14 home loss and the second-lowest-scoring game in the 22-year history of this heated cross-town rivalry.
Marcus leads the all-time series, 12-10.
To be sure, it took some uncharacteristic miscues by the Marauders (two interceptions, some costly penalties and a handful of dropped passes) for Flower Mound to win its first Showdown since 2018. The Jaguars led, 10-0, late in the first half but the Marauders’ offense picked up the tempo on its last drive of the half that ended with Jaxxon Warren throwing to a wide-open Isaac Khattab for a touchdown and a 10-7 halftime deficit. Warren’s second touchdown toss of the night – a 3-yard strike to senior H-back Connor Vaughn with four minutes left in the third quarter – gave Marcus its first lead of the game.
That’s where things stayed until a pivotal four-play stretch early in the fourth quarter that saw the Jaguars miss a 40-yard field goal, return an interception on the very next play to the Marauders’ 6-yard line, and score from four yards out two plays later to regain the lead, 17-14, with still 7:43 left. An exchange of punts ensued and just 3:51 remained when the Marauders got the ball back for one final drive.
Marcus traveled from its own 25-yard line to the Flower Mound 32 (highlighted by a dazzling 36-yard connection from Warren to Dallas Dudley on 4th-and-13) but could get no closer. On 4th-and-10 and with just 1:23 remaining, Marcus attempted a 49-yard field goal that sailed wide left and allowed Flower Mound to kneel the clock out.
Despite the loss, there were several positive performances for the Marauders. The defense limited Flower Mound to just 259 total yards, recorded five sacks and forced six punts. Offensively, Warren finished 29-of-43 passing for 219 yards, the two touchdowns and one interception, Dudley recorded a career-high 13 receptions for 118 yards, Vaughn caught his first TD pass of the season and Walker Wells ripped off a season-high 47-yard run to set up Marcus’ second touchdown.
The Marauders must put this one behind them in a hurry with a Thursday game in Week 6 against Plano.
There’s a timeless notion in the game of football that goes a little something like “a team that has two quarterbacks really has no quarterback.” Clearly, whoever initiated such nonsense has never watched the 2021 Marcus Marauders. They indeed have two quarterbacks. And both are good. Really, really good. And on a splendid Homecoming Friday night at Marauders Stadium, they proved as much yet again in a resounding 41-14 victory over Keller Central.
Senior starter Jaxxon Warren, the area’s second-leading 6A passer coming into the game, threw his eighth touchdown pass of the season (against zero interceptions) and completed 11 of his 16 pass attempts for 173 yards. Meanwhile, sophomore newcomer Cole Welliver delivered a spectacular breakout performance, throwing his first career touchdown pass (and his second and his third) while completing more than 81 percent of his passes (13-of-16) for 199 yards. The combined aerial damage: 24-of-32 passing (75 percent), 372 yards and four touchdowns.
But neither QB could do much in the first quarter as a slow-starting Marauders squad went scoreless and found themselves trailing, 7-0.
Fortunately, a young-but-rapidly-improving Marauders defense kept Keller Central (2-1) in check for much of the rest of the night and the Marauders’ offense found its stride – in a big way. Marcus (2-1) scored 41 unanswered points over the next two and a half quarters – an offensive onslaught that included . . .
All the while, a pressure-minded Marcus defense kept pounding away with a bevy of big hits, tackles for loss, forced punts and a dose of special-teams wizardry when punter Michael Petro rushed for 13 yards on a 4th-and-four from near midfield. That play extended a drive that ended with the Welliver-to-Wells 10-yard TD and a 28-7 lead.
In the end, it was a Homecoming to remember for Marauders everywhere that sends Marcus into the bye on a two-game winning streak in advance of Week 5’s Mound Showdown.
It was a tale of two halves for the Marcus Marauders on Friday night in their home-opener against the McKinney Lions. An explosive quick-strike aerial attack and a relentless defense helped Marcus (1-1) build a commanding 28-0 halftime lead. But a pair of second-half turnovers, a tempo-oriented Lions offense and some untimely penalties had the Marauders hanging on in the final 24 minutes. Ultimately, a tiring-but-tenacious Marcus defense did enough down the stretch to preserve a 28-21 victory, the Marauders’ first of the season.
It took all of two plays on Marcus’ game-opening drive for the Marauders to score their first TD – a pretty 69-yard dime from senior QB Jaxxon Warren to Dallas Dudley and a 7-0 lead. Warren connected with junior WR Isaac Khattab for an 18-yard TD on the second series and, shortly thereafter, a Seth Sanchez interception deep in McKinney territory set up Gabe Espinoza’s 9-yard scoring run and a 21-0 first-quarter lead. Warren’s third touchdown pass of the first half – a 26-yard strike to junior WR Ashton Cozart -- capped a 28-0 first-half trouncing that would end up being just enough.
The Marcus defense was on the field for much of the second half but turned in a gritty and often-punishing performance. Senior DE Bryson Barber was superb (and virtually unstoppable) en route to five sacks. DE Jacob Geddes also shined on a night when both Sanchez and safety Jake Ballard recorded first-quarter interceptions.
Warren finished with 262 yards passing and three TDs and Dudley led all receivers with 170 yards on seven receptions, followed by Khattab’s 75 receiving yards on four grabs.
Marcus will host Keller Central next week in a Homecoming clash.
DALLAS -- On a scorching Friday evening in Dallas, the Marcus Marauders kicked off the 2021 season against Jesuit with an offense hot enough to rival the late-August swelter. But in the end, it was first-half misses (two field goals, one extra point) and a fourth-quarter miscue (losing a fumble inside their own 10-yard line) that ultimately proved to be the difference in Jesuit’s back-and-forth 38-34 victory. The loss marks Marcus’ first regular-season defeat in 19 games but featured enough promising glimpses to generate optimism about what lies ahead.
Senior quarterback Jaxxon Warren played brilliantly in his first regular-season start, throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns (to four different receivers) while completing 76 percent of his passes (19-of-25). Warren found senior receiver Dallas Dudley -- a big-play personified all night long -- early and often. When the smoke from all the aerial fireworks subsided, Dudley had turned in a career performance with 199 receiving yards and a touchdown on nine catches. Warren also connected routinely with juniors Ashton Cozart and Isaac Khattab, Marcus’ two new receivers who combined for seven grabs, 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Marcus running game didn’t do much on the ground (just 39 yards on 17 carries), Walker Wells caught a 30-yard touchdown pass on a third-quarter wheel route and Gabe Espinoza scored on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Marauders’ defense started the game by forcing back-to-back Jesuit punts and remained gritty throughout, applying steady pressure with a barrage of front-seven personnel. But the momentum-changing big stop or turnover never materialized. But this is a young defensive unit that will benefit greatly from this kind of game.
Marcus will attempt to get back on track Friday with the home-opener against McKinney.