MARSHALL – A scoreless and sloppy first half didn’t stop Rock Bridge from earning a season-opening win against Marshall on Friday night.
Quarterback Logan Gray threw two interceptions in the first half of his debut at Cecil Naylor Field in Marshall, but managed to get to half time with a scoreless tie.
The Bruins cleaned up their game in the second half just enough to slide past the Owls 7-0.
“I was a little shaky at first,” Gray said. “I just tried to cool down in the second half and let things come.”
Marshall’s second lost fumble was the Bruins’ big break, for it came at a crucial point in the game on Marshall’s own 10-yard lineeventually led to the only scoring play of the night.
When the Bruins gained possession, they required only two plays to reach the end zone.
Gray rushed for five yards, and then tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Demond Thorpe with 9:11 remaining in the game.
“It was a great play,” Gray said. “I just put it up and let him make a play on it.”
Thorpe was making his debut at the position after playing wide receiver last year.
“I pointed for Logan to throw it up in the air and just went up and caught it and scored,” Thorpe said.
Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said he thought his team failed to have enough respect for the Owls in the beginning.
“I don’t know if our guys believed me all week when I told them how good this Marshall team was going to be,” he said.
After the Owls kept the Bruins off the scoreboard for the first half, Ofodile said that changed. “I think our guys started having the right kind of respect for Marshall down the stretch,” Ofodile said, “and I think that was the key.”
Gray finished the night with 114 passing yards and 44 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Running back Scott Concannon played a key role in the victory.
Rock Bridge put the ball in Concannon’s hands on the first play of its opening drive. Concannon found a hole and rushed for 19 yards.
He finished the game with 90 yards on 18 carries.
When the Bruins had to protect a lead late in the game, he ran the remaining minutes off the clock.
“He’s a model for what we need on this team,” Ofodile said after the game. “He knows his assignments and he’s reliable. In a game like this when we had so many mistakes, we needed a reliable person. So we went to him.”
Concannon said he was happy he could help his team get a victory, but felt the offensive line deserved credit.
“It was also a team effort to help that clock run out,” Concannon said. “If not for the line or my blocking, then I wouldn’t have had those yards and the clock wouldn’t have been running like that.”
The Owls threatened to score first in the third quarter when they attempted a pass on fourth and goal. Quarterback Paul Wayne Thomas’ seven-yard attempt was intended for sophomore Tyler Cary in the end zone, but Bruins’ junior Josh Conyers knocked the ball down .
The Bruins face Smith-Cotton at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
Jay Barton, whose son J.B. is a senior at Marshall and plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Owls, was optimistic despite the loss.
“Last year, we lost big to Rock Bridge, and holding them nothing-to-nothing at halftime is big for this team,” Barton said.
Barton was referring to a 42-6 loss to the Bruins in 2003 in which Rock Bridge tailback Van Alexander rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Patton. Marshall was 1-9 last season.
“We’re hopeful at this point in time,” Barton said of the Owls. “(We are) optimistic with what we’ve seen in the first half.”Ofodile said he was glad his team did what it had to in order to earn a victory, even if it meant abandoning its original game plan.
“In the end, we pulled it out,” Ofodile said, “and anytime you win, it’s a good thing.”