CENTER, Mo. — Mark Twain did not let a challenging first half in the District 1 Class 2 semifinal on Friday.
After falling behind several times during the first half, the Tigers pulled out a 36-24 win over Louisiana at home to advance to the district title game.
“Got to give our guys credit,” said Mark Twain head coach Karl Asbury. “Even after falling behind ... they battled and made it a game. Very proud of the guys to battle through adversity and keep playing.”
The Bulldogs struck first when quarterback Ethen Harrison ran in a 22-yard touchdown on their first possession. After Harrison connected with Wyatt Harrison for the two-point conversion, Louisiana took a 8-0 lead.
Mark Twain answered two minutes later when running back Lakoda Preston ran in a 24-yard touchdown.
Louisiana scored its second touchdown when Harrison threw a 33-yard pass to Quincy Hutt. After a successful two-point conversion, the Bulldogs took a 16-6 lead.
Tigers running back Evan Torrence ran for 56 yards to the Bulldog one-yard line, which set up a Torrence one-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter. After Landon Moss ran in a two-point conversion, Louisiana’s lead narrowed to 16-14.
Mark Twain sophomore Conner Eckler recovered an Louisiana fumble, which would set up Torrence’s second touchdown run to give the Tigers a 20-16 lead.
Louisiana answered back with a score right before halftime, when Harrison threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Mason Washington to re-take the lead. The Bulldogs entered halftime with a 22-20 lead.
The Tigers defense stepped up in the second half and did not allow the Bulldogs to score.
“I don’t think we made too many adjustments in the second half,” Asbury said. “I just think we started playing like we’ve been playing all year.”
Mark Twain would score in its first possesion of the second half. Torrence scored his third touchdown on a six-yard run and ran in the two-point conversion to give the Tigers a 28-24 lead.
A couple of sacks by Ashton Hughes and Trey Monroe forced the Bulldogs to punt for the first time in the third quarter.
However, the Tigers were unable to score on their next possesion and Louisiana was in the middle of what looked to be a touchdown drive. Eckler then came up with his second takeaway of the game, when he intercepted a Harrison pass near the goalline and returned it 31 yards.
Torrence sealed the deal with his fourth touchdown run of the game with 2:25 remaining.
“We matched our season-high with 36 points,” Asbury said. “With the people we have, we can be very explosive. Especially if you have Evan, Lakoda and Landon, you can try to stop one but you got the other two.”
Mark Twain’s defense then stopped Louisiana on its final possesion, with Coleman Epperson and Clayton Turnbull coming up with sacks.
Mark Twain (5-5) will face South Callaway (6-3) in the Class 1 District final next Friday at Mokane.
“This is a special group of kids,” Asbury said. “A lot of people say there wasn’t much talent here with us starting all these freshman and sophomores. To be able to pull out five wins from this group, it speaks for their work ethic.”