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If the Knights played the North Bullitt High School Eagles on paper, Marion County would have walked off North Bullitt's field a happy team on Friday night.
However, the numbers don't tell the whole story in this district rivalry that will surely escalate after this bout. Despite producing 405 yards of total offense and only allowing 119 yards of total offense from stand out Dalton Cissell and the Eagles, the Knights fell 21-14.
Multiple penalties against the Knights moved the Eagles 45 yards down field and set up an easy North Bullitt score early in the fourth quarter, changing the momentum of a game that had been deadlocked 7-7 since early in the first quarter. Another score in the fourth quarter would put the Eagles up 21-7.
Coaches and fans cried foul as flag after flag was thrown against the Knights, many from unsportsmanlike conduct calls that weren't always evident from the sidelines. Head Coach Jeff Robbins and crew became more and more furious with the officiating crew as the men in stripes kept tacking on the penalties.
No flags were thrown against North Bullitt until late in the fourth quarter, after Marion County had already amassed 90 yards of penalties against them. Jeers from the crowd proclaiming it was too late for the refs to reconcile could be heard after the first flag against North Bullitt was thrown.
Later, a defensive pass interference call against North Bullitt nearly put the Knights back in the game, helping them secure good field position on their last drive.
A late touchdown by junior Dylan Peterson put the Knights within a touchdown, making it 21-14. The "Maroon Curtain" defense snuffed out the Eagles attempt to run out the clock, holding the Eagles to a three-and-out and forcing a punt with about a minute and a half to play.
However, in the process the Knights burned their last two timeouts, leaving none for their last drive.
A few successful pass attempts by senior quarterback Eric Miles and a pass interference call put the Knights in striking distance. On the last play of the game, Miles was unable to shake the Eagles defense and was sacked as time expired.
In the post game huddle, Robbins told his team to hold their heads high because they played their butts off.
This game is just another chapter in the North Bullitt rivalry. Last season Marion County beat the Eagles 27-20 to claim the regular season district title. The Eagles later returned the favor, winning 20-13 in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Friday night's match up was a crucial game for both teams, deciding which seed each team received in the playoffs as well as who plays at home and who hits the road.
North Bullitt locked up the second seed in the district and a first round home game with their win. Marion County will have a three seed and a guaranteed game on the road in the opening round of the playoffs.
Robbins said after the game he hopes to avenge losses to Bullitt East and North Bullitt in the playoffs.
The Knights went into the game preparing to put the clamps on North Bullitt's "Mr. Everything," who played out of his mind for three weeks straight during a three game losing streak for North Bullitt. Cissell racked up 640 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns in those losses. Cissell had 1140 yards rushing and 19 total touchdowns going into the game against the Knights.
Cissell was a constant force for the Eagles offense, scoring all three touchdowns. The Knights "Maroon Curtain" defense put forth a good effort on Cissell, laying out the running back several times with big hits.
The "Maroon Curtain" allowed only four passing yards for the second week in a row. They have allowed 805 yards through the air on the season.
The Knight defense held North Bullitt to only six offensive plays in the second quarter. The Eagles would have only attempted three plays if a Marion County special teams player hadn't run into the North Bullitt punter, setting up an automatic first down for the Eagles.
Marion County lost a scoring opportunity as well, fumbling the ball inside the five-yard-line and giving the Eagles the ball.
The Knights rushing attack was consistent across the board again last week, with two backs rushing for nearly 100 yards apiece. Peterson and Jordan Bell led a ground attack that saw attempts from eight players, including quarterback Eric Miles.
Peterson and Miles scored a touchdown apiece from the ground.
Peterson closes in on 700 yards rushing for the season with 693. David Litsey eclipsed the 300-yard mark on the season against North Bullitt, racking up 316 for the year. Three other Knights will likely eclipse the 300-yard mark against Anderson County this Friday night.
Kicker Mark Corbett continued to kick the ball well, hitting both extra points. Dubbed "Easy Money" by radio commentators Jerry Fowler, Jim Reed and Eric Daugherty, Corbett did come up short on what would have been a record-breaking field goal. A 49-yard field goal was well off the mark for an otherwise immaculate Corbett. The junior is 28-29 on the season for extra points.
Friday night Marion County host's 5A school Anderson County (6-2). The contest will be the last home game for this year's seniors. The game won't have any effect on the playoff picture, as district play is complete.
Anderson County has no stats posted on the season at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association website. The team is coming off a 35-21 loss to Oldham County at home. Oldham scored 29 unanswered points to rally for a win against Anderson.
Robbins did not return a phone message Sunday night and was not available for comment.