Tunica Academy’s varsity moved into the district lead, going 2-0 with a solid win over the Marvell Eagles last Friday. The Blue Devils are now 3-2 overall.
“This was a big win for us,” said TA Head Coach Jimmy Hicks. “It gives us an automatic berth in the play-offs.”
TA took the opening kick-off, and a string of first downs moved the Devils to the Eagle 25. But the drive almost stalled there when quarterback Brandon Holmes was sacked at third and eight. Holmes scrambled on fourth down and found Austin Hagstrom for TA’s first score at 8:01 on the clock. Zack McCormick’s PAT kick was good to put the Blue Devils up 7-0.
Marvell came right back at the home team on their own first drive, taking a line drive kick to the 37 and making three first downs to move the ball to the TA six. The Eagles scores with just over two minutes left in the first quarter and went ahead with two points after the TD to make it Marvell 8, TA 7 at 2:26.
It didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to retake the lead. Senior back Freeman Gray returned the kick-off out to the Eagle 48, and two plays later, Holmes hit Caleb McCoy for six with 1:43 left in the quarter. McCormick’s kick was no good.
TA struck again quickly in the second quarter, moving the ball first to the Marvell 41. Freeman Gray took it in from there, putting another six up with 10:32 on the clock. A two-point conversion attempt fell short.
The teams then switched possessions back and forth to finish out the half, with TA leading 19-8.
The Blue Devils capped off the win late in the third quarter, starting on their own 24 yard line. At third and three, Freeman Gray took the snap from center and picked up 26 yards to the Marvell 43. Two plays later, Gray went into the endzone, and Holmes added two on the conversion to move the score to 27-8 with seconds left in the third.
The fourth quarter of the game was anticlimactic except for a scary injury to a Marvell player early on. Coach Hicks said Monday that the young man, who was taken from the field by ambulance, had suffered spinal bruising and some brain swelling and was out for the season but expected to fully recover.
The Blue Devils again piled up over 350 yards in total offense on the night, but it was the TA defense that completely shut down Marvell and made the difference in the win.
Freeman Gray led with 11 tackles, followed by Jake Graves with eight tackles, Chris Manues with seven, and Blake Perry with an interception, three tackles, and
“a bunch of assists,” coaches said.
Other good defensive efforts included: Stephen Gray and Tyler Billingsley, five tackles each; Taylor Hale, Austin Hagstrom and Brandon Holmes, four tackles each; Ali Obad and Camillo Arellano, three each; and Joseph Melton, two tackles.
On offense, Freeman Gray had 24 carries for 202 yards and two TDs. Quarterback Holmes was four of seven passing for 77 yards and 39 yards rushing; Holmes scored two TDs and had a two-point conversion run.
Blake Perry totaled 53 yards on nine carries, and Stephen Gray had two catches for 16 yards.
Caleb McCoy had a 41-yard TD reception, and Austin Hagstrom caught a 25-yarder for a TD.
Next up for TA is AA Hillcrest of Jackson, 0-6 on the season but “hungry for a win,” Hicks said. The Blue Devils have an open date on Oct. 8 and travel to West Memphis Oct. 15, before facing the DeSoto Thunderbirds in a huge home match-up on October 22.