The Paris Tiger football team hit the road for the first time this season on Friday, Sept. 8. The short bus ride home was a happy one.
Paris moved above the .500 mark with a convincing 26-0 victory over the Marshall Lions. The Tigers improve to 2-1(1-0 in the Little Illini Conference) while the Lions fall to 0-3(0-1). This marks the sixth straight season that the Tigers have defeated their rivals to the south.
As much as one team can dominate another team, the Tigers had their way with the Lions in their home opener. The Tiger defense held Marshall to just 77 yards of total offense for the entire game. Paris forced four Lion turnovers with a pair of interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The first quarter was a snoozer, even though the Tigers spent the majority of the period in Marshall territory. That all changed in the second quarter though as the Tigers exploded for 20 unanswered points. With 8:50 remaining in the first half, quarterback Drew Rogers floated a pass just over the outstretched hands of a Lion defender and into the arms of Karic Vitale. The sophomore receiver made an exceptional catch and an even more exceptional run down the Tiger sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Ty King added the extra point to make it 7-0 in favor of the visitors.
Vitale was not finished making his presence felt as he intercepted a pass from Kaden Matzke at the Marshall 25-yard line. On the very first play, Mason Byrnes took the handoff from Rogers and scampered in for the second touchdown just 70 after the first. King added the extra point to run the score to 14-0.
Both teams traded turnovers on their next possessions, with Carson Kollman recovering a botched snap from the Lions with less than three minutes remaining in the first half. Following a 32-yard pass from Rogers to King, Ethan Curl plowed his way in from three yards out, making it 20-0 with 1:42 left in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked.
The third period pretty much mirrored the first as neither team could find the end zone. Marshall did manage to drive deep into Tiger territory, but three straight penalties backed them up to squelch any chance of giving the home fans something to cheer about. Curl added his second rushing score of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter. The senior bulled his way in from two yards out to increase the lead to 26-0. That score was set up by a Kalvin Rigdon interception inside the Lions’ 10-yard line.
Rogers completed five of 12 passes for 89 yards, one touchdown and one interception. No Tiger had more than one reception with Vitale tallying 25 yards and a touchdown. King added 32 yards, Madox Hutchings had one grab for 17 yards, Rigdon also caught one ball for eight yards, and Robert Wells added seven yards.
The Tigers’ offensive line had its way with the front four of the Lions as the Tigers tallied 199 yards on the ground. Leading the way was Byrnes with 88 yards on just eight carries. Curl was the workhorse once again with 71 yards on 15 totes. King carried the ball four times for 33 yards and Rogers gained seven yards on four carries.
As good as the offensive line played, the defensive line might have one-upped them. Of the Lions’ 35 rushes on the evening, 14 of those plays went for negative yardage.
The Tigers will have their hands full on Friday, Sept. 15, when the 3-0 Lawrenceville Indians come to town on Homecoming night.