MacMurray College rolled into St. Bonifacius, MN on Saturday afternoon looking to move to 3-0. Thanks to Chazz Middlebrook, the Highlanders ground out a 48-34 as the senior rushed for 279-yards and 4-touchdowns to lead the way. The performance by Middlebrook ruined a spirited comeback by Crown College, who fell to 0-3.
After the Storm were forced to punt on their opening possession of the game, MacMurray mounted a 6-play, 62-yard drive to take the lead. Middlebrook carried the ball on the first three plays of the drive, moving the ball to the Crown 29. On third and 7, QB Nathan Russel kept the ball and scampered for 26-yards to the Storm 3. On the next play, the senior running back scored to make it 7-0.
On the Highlanders second possession of the day, Randall’s pass was intercepted by Jordan Thorn and returned to the MacMurray nine. The Storm wound up moving backwards, facing fourth and goal at the 15. Head Coach John Auer rolled the dice and Taylor Watkins delivered, finding David McIntosh for the 15-yard score to tie the score.
The Highlanders retook the lead on their next possession. Starting from their own 37, Randall found Ian Leib for the 29-yard completion to begin the drive. It looked like the drive may stall when MacMurray was faced with a fourth and 6 at the Crown 30, but MacMurray Head Coach Chris Douglas decided to do a little gambling of his own. The team went for it and Randall delivered a perfect strike to Devonta Preston for a first down to the Crown 22. Six plays later, Randall found Leib again, this time for the 6-yard touchdown completion to make it 14-7.
On the next drive for the Storm they would make this a one-point game. On the first play of the drive, Marlon Brown burst to the right and raced 55-yards before being pushed out of bounds at the MacMurray 15. Two plays later, Damien Jeffries scored from 5-yards out. On the extra-point attempt, the ball was bobbled and Ryan Synoground was tackled to keep this a one-point game.
MacMurray responded right away on their next possession thanks to Middlebrook. He carried the ball on seven of the first nine plays of the drive, moving the Highlanders to the Crown 7. On third and 4, Randall found Devonta Preston for a touchdown to extend the lead to eight. That would be the score at the half.
The first half had been an entertaining affair, but the second half was even more so. The Highlanders took the opening kickoff and moved 60-yards in 7-plays to extend their lead to 15. The senior running back led the drive, carrying the ball on four of the first six plays, including huge runs of 19- and 18-yards to the Crown two. On second and goal, Middlebrook scored from one-yard out to make it 28-13.
On the next possession for MacMurray they would reach the end zone again and it looked like this game was going to be a blow out. The combination of Marquez Ellison and Middlebrook led the way, as the two combined for 7-carries for 66-yards, and Ellison scored from 12-yards out to make it 34-13.
This could have been a crushing turn of events, but the Crown College Storm showed a lot of heart, scoring on their next possession to cut the deficit to 14. The Storm moved 71-yards in 11-plays with Derek Chilcoate scoring from 3-yards out to cap off the drive. QB Taylor Watkins also had a huge play on the drive, hitting Isaiah Zepeda for 20-yards.
On MacMurray’s next possession, a huge play would open the door for Crown to make this a one possession game. The Highlanders were forced to punt, but the snap went over the head of Corben Edwards and into the end zone. Instead of simply taking the safety, the punter opted to try to run it out and was tackled at the two. The Highlanders defense looked like they were going to come up big, moving Crown back a yard, setting up a fourth and 3. Once again, Coach Auer rolled the dice, and Watkins came through again, hitting Nick McCormick for a touchdown to make it 34-27.
The momentum was definitely in Crown’s favor, but the Highlanders changed that by responding with a touchdown drive to extend their lead back to 14. It took six plays to move to the Storm 19, where Middlebrook took over. On third and 6, he picked up 8 to the Crown 11, and scored on the next play to make it 41-27.
Crown turned the ball over on downs on the their next possession, when Watkins’ pass was incomplete, giving MacMurray the ball at their own 28. On third and 4, Middlebrook broke through the line and raced 66-yards for the score to make it 48-27.
With 3:24 left, the Storm would get the ball in good field position when Sebastian Alvarado returned the kickoff 45-yards to the MacMurray 36. Five plays later, Watkins found McIntosh for a 7-yard touchdown to make it 48-34. That is as close as the Storm would get as the Highlanders recovered the onside kick and were able to run out the clock.
Chazz Middlebrook rushed for 279-yards and 4-scores on 34-carries. Nathan Randall passed for 207-yards and 2-TDs, and rushed for 69-yards. Devonta Preston made 7-catches for 105-yards and a TD.
Taylor Watkins had his best outing for the Storm, passing for 153-yards and 4-touchdowns on 18-24 passing. David McIntosh made 6-catches for 69-yards and 3-TDs. Jeremiah Jones led the Crown defense with 15-tackles. Joe Duffy had 2-sacks.
Next Saturday, the Crown College Storm traveled to Illinois to take on Eureka College. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
By Robert Pannier