Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local Sports

December 1, 2012

Wilcox beats Marion, advances to Final Four

Rochelle — Aerial tactics got the best over infantry maneuvers as pass-happy Wilcox County defeated run-minded Marion County 39-21 Friday night in a GHSA Class A public school quarterfinal game.

The victory was the 100th in the career of Patriot coach Mark Ledford whose team now moves on to a semifinal date five days from now against ECI, a 27-10 winner over Trion in its quarterfinal duel.

“Congratulations for making it to the Final Four with a great team effort,” a smiling Ledford told his troops as they and many of their fans gathered around for their post-game, on-the-field meeting.

“You got better in practice this week and were sound everywhere. You executed the game plan and when you do that you’re as good as anybody in the state.”

The visiting Eagles, who finish the year with a 9-3 record, would no doubt agree with that contention after surrendering 554 total yards of offense and six touchdowns to the now 10-2 Patriots.

Heralded Wilcox quarterback had a hand in most of the offensive stats, completing 28 of 34 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns and rushing 13 times for 125 yards and another score.

“Makail obviously had another great game — the kind we’ve come to expect from him,” said Ledford in praising his senior signal caller who in 11 games to date has completed 210 of 333 passes for 3,054 yards and 29 touchdowns and has run 152 times for 861 yards and 13 scores.

“With him at the controls, our passing game was very effective. The look they (the Eagles) gave us is what we had practiced against. With their blocking, route-running, throwing and catching, the kids did a great job of executing our game plan.”

Grace needed just 4:34 to lead his team to a game-opening score, engineering an 80-yard, five-play drive during which he connected with  Telly Whitfield for gains of 20 and 30 yards before floating a 10-yard scoring strike to Jonathan Howard in the left corner of the end zone.

After the Patriot defense forced the Eagles to punt on their first possession, Grace and Company were back at it again the second time they got their hands on the football.

Starting from its own 42, Wilcox went 58 yards in nine snaps the last of which ended with Quinn Tisdol leaping high into the air to snare a 15-yard scoring strike while sandwiched between two Eagle defenders.

Marion, a No. 7 power seed and the No. 3 team from Region 4-A, responded with a 75-yard, 10-play scoring drive kept alive by an offsides penalty against the Patriots in a fourth-and-1 situation at the visitors’ 34.

James Taylor, who on the night rushed 23 times for 109 yards and scored all three of his team’s touchdowns, capped the drive with a 10-yard burst.

Wilcox promptly proved itself equal to the challenge, traveling 80 yards in just six plays for a score that restored its previous two-touchdown lead. Grace started the march with a 25-yard pass to Howard and ended it on a 26-yard scamper around right end to make it 20-7.

The Eagles immediately looked like they might get back within a single score again when after receiving the Pats’ kickoff set up shop at their own 42 they drove to a first down at the Wilcox 11.

At that point, Patriot defenders rose up to make a stop at their 6 from where their go-team mates made an equally impressive contribution to the victory by going on a 94-yard scoring drive.

Grace, who had been killing the Eagles with his arm, hurt them badly with his legs as on third-and-1 from the 15 he raced 57 yards before being chased down by Marion’s Luther Lee at the 28.

He then hit Howard, who finished the night with a whopping 13 receptions for 141 yards and two scores, on a pair of 14-yard pitches to end the drive 25.9 seconds before intermission.

“The stop made by our defense and then the long scoring drive our offense went on in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half were huge as they really represented a two-touchdown swing in the score,” Ledford said.

The Patriots were foiled in their attempt to pick up six more points on their first possession of the third quarter when an offensive pass interference call turned a first-and-goal at the 5 into a fourth-and-20. Unable to advance from that point, Wilcox saw the visitors travel 80 yards for a touchdown recorded by Taylor on a 7-yard lug set up the play before by Demarqueze Mallard’s 29-yard, fourth-down toss to Johnny Royals.

Once again, Wilcox rose to the challenge by marching 80 yards in 11 plays for a score posted on Grace’s 14-yard pitch to Whitfield who caught the ball in the right flats, cut to the middle and made it into the end zone.

After forcing the Eagles to punt, Wilcox mounted an 85-yard scoring thrust on which it handed the ball to Maurice Edwards on 11 of 13 plays. The last ended with him seemingly stopped for no gain up the middle before he bounced outside and scored on a 7-yard run around left end. Roberto Carrillo’s PAT kick made it 39-14.

Turning the playing field over to reserves at that point, the Patriots gave up a meaningless touchdown with 40.9 seconds to go on Dennard’s swing pass to Taylor who then zig-zagged 54 yards for the score.

“We beat a good team that led by a guy (Taylor) who’s one of the best running backs we’ve seen did against us what it does best — run the football,” Ledford said.

“They hurt us at times with their ground game, but at the same time we got tough when we needed to

Please see GRACE page 2B

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