FAIRMONT — It was a cool and collected response by North Marion High in Week 2 after rival Fairmont Senior hit the Huskies with an echoing boom on the game’s very first play courtesy of a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown from Kieshawn Cottingham.
North Marion, rather than quaking in the wake of the opening shock-wave, rolled out its offensive artillery and proceeded to pick at the Polar Bears’ defense with precision and confidence in response.
The Huskies — through quarterback Brody Hall’s command of the run-pass option game and a stout offensive line that feasted on a debilitated Fairmont Senior front compared to those of the Polar Bears’ past — were surgical on their opening drive, covering 77 yards over 13 plays. Then on their second series, North Marion eschewed its steady churn for mismatch hunting, calling on their ace — junior star wideout Tariq Miller — in 1-on-1 coverage. Hall took the snap, cranked up, and let loose to Miller on a straight go route down the sideline, and while FSHS cornerback Alex Brophy was step-for-step, Miller made a play on the ball and wound up reeling in an incredible 60-yard TD grab. The Huskies propelled in front 14-6.
From that point on, however, the North Marion offense slowly started to dry up as Fairmont Senior rejiggered the alignment of its defensive front, dialed up more pressure to send at Hall, and, perhaps most noticeably, activated junior cornerback Kayson Nealy who sat out the first quarter.
“We had to adjust our matchups and our rotations on defense,” said Nick Bartic, Fairmont Senior coach. “They caught us not rotating as we needed to and we had to flip some assignments to counter their RPO stuff.”
“We forced them to make adjustments,” said Daran Hayes, North Marion coach, “but they did a nice job with those adjustments.”
On its first two drives, North Marion amassed 140 yards of offense on 15 plays (9.3 yds/play) en route to two touchdowns. Thereafter, the Huskies gained just 203 yards of offense on 53 plays (3.8 yds/play) over their final 10 drives and scored only once, which came on a short field that started at the FSHS 13 yard-line following a Miller interception. On seven of its final 10 series, North Marion gained a net of 10 yards or less, and on five of those, the Huskies failed to pick up a first down. They also turned it over on three of their final eight drives, with Nealy snagging three INTs for Fairmont Senior in what was a lockdown performance after coming in off the bench.
In spite of North’s overall struggles following its first two series, however, the Huskies still managed to break the red zone twice, doing so on their final drive of their first half and their opening drive of the second half. The ending first half series saw the Huskies cover 71 yards on nine plays to reach the Fairmont Senior 2 yard-line, but they turned it over on downs when FSHS linebacker Germaine Lewis pressured Hall into an incompletion on a 4th-and-goal rollout. To start the second half, North Marion again found its offensive rhythm, marching from its own 46 inside the FSHS 20 yard-line, but once again the drive flamed out on fourth down, with Hall taking a shot to the end zone that Nealy picked off and returned 81 yards to the NMHS 18 yard-line.
After the back-to-back red zone trips came up empty, North Marion picked up just one first down the rest of the game.