Guardians hope to even mark against Karnack
By Tyler Clifton email@example.com
Oct. 2, 2012 at 10 p.m.
It's been two years since the Marshall Christian Academy football team lost back-to-back games.
The Guardians lost their first three games of existence in 2010 before reeling off seven straight victories on their way to the first of consecutive state semifinal appearances.
The 2012 group has a new field, a new look and a new sense of identity when it comes to making its presence felt once again, but the sense of pride and work ethic is evident for a third straight season.
"We're such a young team this year, and there are going to be some mistakes," MCA coach Guy Barr said. "The important things to do when our guys do make mistakes are to come back strong, make the necessary adjustments quickly and work hard while absorbing what we're teaching them."
Barr attributes his team's current standing to any program's ebbs and flows and commended this team's attitude. The current MCA group won its season opener on Sept. 7 against Bloomburg but has lost the last two weeks at Leverett's Chapel and to Cleburne Academy on its new grounds at West End Park.
The Guardians lost the services of seniors Zachary Lastra and Stephen Cagle to graduation as well as the threesome of brothers Jeremiah and Micah Fortner along with Cannon Cagle from their 2011 team.
"You can't replace them, because not having them has changed the dynamic of our team when it comes to our speed and the way we attack other teams," Barr said. "We're not treating it as a negative, and it's simply something we must adjust to. These kids want to be here and are willing to learn, and they're very coachable and teachable. I'm having just as much fun with this group as the other two I've had."
The Guardians are up against a Karnack team it defeated 92-71 in 2010 and 73-28 in 2011. Barr knows this year's team probably has its hands full more than any other when it comes to facing its Harrison County foe. The Indians also have one thing they always seem to possess in their corner – athleticism.
"They're pretty much the same, and Stacey (Davis) is as good as any of the running backs we've played," Barr said. "We're going to be a slight underdog, but I expect it to be an intense game on both sides."
A blessing in disguise can be how there are no seniors on this team, but three key performers are back in juniors Samuel Lastra and Ben Whiting along with sophomore Elijah Hency. Newcomers include junior Josh Young, sophomore Caleb Beesinger and freshmen Dustin Oxford, Matthew Stokell and David Lastra.
There are also two eighth graders in Hunter Clark and Caleb Young who look to make an impact.
"Sam and Ben are back with some experience under their belt and have been providing great leadership," Barr said. "Elijah is back as well and did a great job filling in at center for us last season."
MCA defeated Bloomburg 63-39 in its season opener behind Samuel Lastra's 285 yards on 15 carries and seven touchdowns along with 13 tackles defensively, while younger brother David ran 12 times for 90 yards and the first two touchdowns of his young career. Whiting led the way defensively with a team-high 14 tackles, including two sacks, and Hency added nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
A 54-20 loss at Leverett's Chapel came two weeks later despite the loss of quarterback Clay White to injury. Freshman Colby Shaw more than filled in the void with 190 yards on 10 carries and three scores.
The Guardians recovered two fumbles and had an interception, but the offense couldn't get its passing game in check and finished with a mere 32 yards through the air and couldn't keep up with the Lions.
It was followed last week by a 73-55 loss to former district foe and state-runner up Cleburne Christian Academy in a game which was closer than the final score indicated. MCA was down only 39-30 in the third quarter, but their inability to convert on extra points helped contribute to the outcome.
Lastra ran 17 times for 195 yards and six more touchdowns, and he also completed 11 of 21 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns, but his interception and a lost fumble were the Guardians' undoing.
Whiting caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, with Hency and Clark also scoring.
They'll need similar performances tonight against a Karnack team which has revenge on its mind.