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McKENZIE (August 9) — The McKenzie Middle School Rebels kicked off the football season Thursday with a big home win over the Dresden Lions, 38-14. After a slow start, the Rebels scored three times in the final five minutes of the first half. The defense held strong throughout, faltering just twice to allow the Lions to avoid a shutout.
McKenzie received the opening kickoff and drove 50 yards on a dozen plays, including a big fourth-down conversion, before turning the ball over on downs.
Dresden’s first possession took the game into the second quarter. The Lions managed one first down, but the Rebel defense then made a big stop on fourth-and-inches to take over near midfield.
Marquez Taylor started with a pair of carries to move the chains. Then, Etijay Tharpe got two touches for another first down. Taylor followed with a 23-yard run, then, two plays later, walked into the end zone untouched. Quarterback Jackson Cassidy threw to Rashad McCreary for the two-point conversion, and the Rebels led 8-0 with 4:31 to go in the first half.
Dresden started the ensuing possession with good field position and converted a fourth-and-four with an eleven-yard keeper by quarterback Tatum Oliver. On the next play, Oliver’s pass was picked off by Rebel Zach Aird at the McKenzie 20.
On the first snap, Taylor jetted 80 yards for another McKenzie touchdown. He also got the hand-off to convert for two and give the Rebels a 16-0 lead with just under two minutes on the clock.
Lion Raymond Johnson made a solid kickoff return to midfield and, on second down, moved the chains with a 14-yard run. Dresden’s progress was halted again as an Oliver pass was intercepted, this time by Cassidy at the Rebel 34.
McKenzie marched down the field with three straight first downs. Taylor ran for 14, then Tharpe followed for 25. Cassidy threw to Aird for 19 yards and a first-and-goal at the eight, then the quarterback kept, pushing the pile the last five yards to fall across the goal line. Cassidy found McCreary for the two-point conversion, and the Rebel lead was 24-0 with 23 seconds to play in the half.
Starting at the far 42, the Lions gained seven on runs by Johnson and Oliver. With five seconds on the clock, Oliver threw to Mace Wilson for five yards and a first down. The scoreboard showed all zeroes, and the Rebels headed for the locker room. The referees called them back, declaring that Dresden had called a timeout with one second remaining. The Rebel defense rushed out and managed to get set before the Lions snapped the ball, but Oliver found DeAngelo Lambert open for a 40-yard touchdown. Johnson ran it in for two points, and the half ended with McKenzie leading 24-8.
Dresden seemed to carry momentum into the second half, moving the ball well on three carries each by Oliver and Lambert for a first-and-goal at the Rebel 10. Lambert gained just a yard, stopped by Christopher Beck. Wilson took the next hand-off, but lost a yard on a Cassidy tackle. Cassidy made another stop, holding Lambert at the line of scrimmage. On fourth down, Oliver kept, but Ty Anderson brought him down in the backfield to give the ball back to the Rebels.
Taylor started the McKenzie drive with a four-yard run, then broke through for 72 yards before slipping at the Lion 13. Tharpe took a toss from Cassidy eight yards, then took a hand-off the final five for the touchdown. Another pass from Cassidy to McCreary added two points, and the Rebels led 32-8 in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
The Lions began at their own 37. After Oliver threw incomplete twice, he kept but managed just a pair as the quarter ended. The quarterback started the final frame with another incomplete throw, broken up by Aird, to turn the ball over on downs.
McKenzie fumbled on the first play, and Dresden recovered.
Oliver threw to Johnson for three yards on first down and then was sacked on second by McCreary for a loss of nine. On third-and-long, Dresden fumbled and the Rebels recovered.
Cassidy kept the first snap, running 33 yards before being driven out of bounds at the five. On first-and-goal, the Rebels fumbled again but this time managed to recover. Cassidy kept for a short gain, then neared the goal line before the Lion defenders forced the ball out and into the end zone for a touchback.
Both teams sent in reserves for Dresden’s possession. The Lions went three-and-out, punting from their own 10.
New Rebel quarterback Drew Chappel started at the 25, keeping for a five-yard loss. On second down, he scrambled and ran up the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. A fumble doomed the two-point attempt, but McKenzie led 38-8 with just under two minutes left in the game.
Oliver returned the ensuing kick to the Dresden 33. Lion Tristen Jett took the first-down hand-off 67 yards to paydirt. A two-point pass by new quarterback Cameron Schlicht fell incomplete, and the score was 38-14 with just over a minute to go.
Cassidy returned at quarterback for McKenzie, and took a knee twice in victory formation to run out the clock.
The Rebels (1-0) will host Huntingdon Thursday at 6:30 p.m.