MARIETTA - Marietta's deception was a thing of beauty.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, no one will ever know whether their attempt at trying to pull a fast one would have materialized into a victory.
Friday night in the 107th meeting between Marietta and Parkersburg, the Tigers trailed by three touchdowns with less than four minutes in the game and nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback before falling to the Big Reds 26-21.
Marietta's Anthony Kimbrough is sacked by Parkersburg's Austin Brown, Tyler Drake and Lantz Hoyler, clockwise, Friday. Parkersburg scored a 26-21 win over Marietta. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
Marietta recovered two onside kicks in the fourth quarter to keep its hopes alive. On their final drive, the Tigers faced fourth-and-10 from the PHS 44 with 18.3 seconds showing on the clock.
Instead of huddling behind the line of scrimmage, the Marietta offense was motioned toward the sidelines by the coaching staff. No timeout was officially called, yet the PHS defensive unit made their way to the Big Red sideline.
The Tigers quickly got into formation and just as the ball was about to be snapped, the officials interjected and did not allow the play to commence until the PHS players were allowed to line up. Needless to say, the Marietta sideline was fuming.
No longer did Marietta have a clear view of the end zone, and one incompletion later the Big Reds' fourth straight win against the Tigers was secure.
"This hurts a lot right now," Marietta coach Adam Eichhorn said. "There are a lot emotions, plus the 'what if' factor. You hurt for these kids who busted their butt to put themselves in that position to go out and get the win.
"It wasn't anything we schemed. The bottom line, we should not have been in the position to result to something like that. You never want to pin a loss on the officials."
PHS improved to 2-1 as sophomore wide receiver Dan Fox caught three touchdown passes from quarterback Aaron Roberts, who completed 16-of-23 passes for 253 yards.
"It got pretty ugly there at the end we're pretty young and made mistakes, but we got out with a victory and well learn from it," PHS coach Dan Reeves said.
Quinton Coffield's 66-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Anthony Kimbrough put Marietta, which fell to 1-2, in front 7-0 at the 9:36 mark of the second quarter.
PHS answered right back on a five-play drive which covered 80 yards. Roberts found Fox in the back of the end zone for the 9-yard scoring strike, and Cody Roney added the point after to tie the game at 7 with 7:20 remaining before halftime.
Later in the second quarter, Roberts hooked up with Matt Santer for a 51-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point was blocked and the Big Reds took a 13-7 lead into intermission.
Marietta took over the lead late in the third quarter, but a 12-play, 49-yard drive ended when PHS recovered a fumble on its own 5.
"Sometimes when preparation meets a little bit of luck, we'll take whatever we can get," Reeves said.
The Big Reds then created some breathing room by scoring on consecutive possessions first on Roberts' 41-yard touchdown pass to Fox and again when Roberts tossed shovel pass to Fox for an 11-yard TD.
Marietta didn't show signs of quitting despite trailing 26-7 with only 4:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kimbrough, who finished with 220 yards through the air, connected with Jaron Binegar for an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Binegar recovered the ensuing onside kick, and on the ninth play of the ensuing drive, Kimbrough completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to John Henry with 39 seconds left.
"The win was never safe, and we found that out," Reeves said. "We find a way to make things interesting."
Marietta placekicker Brent Huck again executed the onside kick to perfection and teammate Will Cogswell recovered to give the Tigers one more opportunity.
"We kept ourselves in a position where we could come back, put it close and give ourselves a chance to win the game - and that's what we did," Eichhorn said. "I told our kids, this is the first game where we had four quarters of fight. It's not a moral victory, but it was a positive that we played four quarters."