Penney's run comes to an end

By Ross Martin The St. Joseph News-Press
Posted: November 23, 2013 - 11:57 PM

Penney needed only five plays to build a two-touchdown lead in Saturday’s Class 1 semifinal.

Unlike most instances this season, the early offense didn’t translate into game-long success. The Hornets didn’t sustain a lengthy drive until late in the third quarter, and in between, Marceline took control with touchdowns on all four of its drives in the second half on the way to a 42-22 win at Chester Ray Stadium, ending Hamilton’s pursuit of a fourth state title and the record-setting season of junior running back Kellen Overstreet.


Penney’s last loss to a Class 1 foe came Nov. 10, 2008 in a sectional playoff game to eventual state champion Orrick — a stretch of 49 victories in between that defeat and Saturday.

“We’re pretty happy about how far we came, about how far Kellen has ran the ball and everything,” said Penney linebacker Keithan Litton, who recorded 11 tackles against Marceline. “We’ll come back better next year. Since we’ve got younger players, next year we’ll have a good team.”

Marceline (11-3) utilized the wind into a huge field-position advantage in the final part of the first half and then finished off the Hornets using brutally efficient success running counter plays after halftime, scoring 28 unanswered points.

The critical sequence came early in the third quarter.

After forcing a Penney three-and-out, Marceline marched 88 yards on seven plays, capped with senior running back Blake Belzer’s 1-yard touchdown run to put Hamilton behind for the first time. The Tigers then kicked off into the stiff wind, and the ball died in between layers of Penney's kick-return team, allowing Tigers sophomore Jared Best to corral the free kick.

Five plays later, Marceline scored again on quarterback Blake Linebaugh’s 1-yard sneak to give the Tigers a 28-15 lead with 5 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter.

“That hurt; that hurt a lot,” Penney coach Dave Fairchild said.

Penney answered with a 12-play touchdown drive that included three third-down conversions, capped with Overstreet’s 6-yard touchdown run to make it 28-22, but the Hornets never took the ball down one possession thanks to the earlier disastrous kickoff sequence.

Belzer (167 yards, 124 after halftime) scored twice in the second half, and senior fullback Dakota Lewis (73 yards, 75 after halftime) added another. Hamilton’s youthful roster with just nine seniors finally cracked in a season that included two other defeats to Class 2 KCI Conference foes Lathrop and Lawson.

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