CENTER, Mo. | Mark Twain's inexperienced team opened the 2020 season one-week late, losing a shootout to Clopton-Elsberry 51-34, at home on Saturday night.
The Tigers were forced to cancel their week one match against South Callaway as practice was sidelined for two weeks because of a COVID-19 positive test result on the team.
But Mark Twain did not fail to light a fire for fans on what was a very early-season senior night. The Tigers returned three kicks for touchdowns.
Senior Evan Torrence had a runoff 83 yards for the first return for touchdown of the night. After a successful two-point conversion, the Tiger led, 8-0.
Clopton-Elsberry scored off a Mark Twain turnover later in the quarter and after a missed extra point, Mark Twain led, 8-6. However, the Mark Twain lead stretched to 14-6 after senior Dalton Talbott posted a 62-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Torrence would later add another return for a touchdown.
“I do not remember that ever happening. That was special,” said Mark Twain head coach Karl Asbury of three kick returns for touchdowns.
Returning kicks to the house helped Mark Twain keep Clopton-Elsberry off balance for much of the first half. Combined with stellar play from his from the defensive line, holding the normally potent Clopton running game from gaining yards, the young Tigers were competitive.
Then came the second half. With the running game shut down, the Hawks took to the air, overmatching the Mark Twain secondary.
“We did stop them well at the line, but they have at least three receivers at least 6-foot-2 or above, our backs are maybe 5-9, and they just threw over our heads,” Asbury said. “That was the big difference in the game. Our backs played well. They were in good position, but the receivers just reached over them to make the catch.”
On the defensive line, it was a monster night for nose guard Coleman Epperson who grabbed three fumbles.
Overall, the Tigers played hard, said Asbury, though they struggled to produce on offense. But he was overall pleased with the intensity of his team.
“They were ready to play.,” Asbury said. “We have new personnel all around. I liked the way we played defense against the run. The passing game got away from us, but we were in position. We need to work on getting better offensively and sustain our blocks. Our running game is not up to par, yet.”
Mark Twain trave to Vandalia to face Van-Far on Friday at 7 p.m.