Black Knights rebound, knock off Marshall for first win of season
Five touchdowns from quarterback Parker Benson and a shutout second half on defense leads West Memphis Christian to victory
After overhauling their defense and devoting an entire process to addressing blocking assignments on the offensive line, the West Memphis Christian Black Knights (1-1 overall) came out looking unrecognizable to the Black Knights team from just a week ago.
Those changes helped West Memphis Christian rebound from a 33-29 season- opening loss to Macon Road Baptist and earn a 32-14 victory at home last Friday over Marshall Academy.
“I’ve had several people say that they don’t know what we did, but, whatever we did, we looked like a completely different team,” said West Memphis Christian head coach Marcus Davidson.
For Davidson, returning the defense to the form of last year’s squad, a group that caused over 50 turnovers, looked like starting the game with an almost completely new slate of defensive players, switching up a squad that allowed over 400 rushing yards in the season opener.
The Black Knights Week 2 defense responded by not allowing a single point in the second half, as West Memphis Christian scored 12 unanswered points after the halftime break to seal the win.
“You could see it starting to come together like it was last year, as far as the angles we were taking to the football, doing a little bit better job of tackling, having some excitement about it,” Davidson said.
“Last week, it seemed like we were dead defensively.
But, we started coming back to our swarming defense of old.”
Offensively, the Black Knights opened up the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown strike from senior quarterback Parker Benson to receiver Daron Mosley on the second play from scrimmage. After Marshall tied the game at seven, a few drives later, Benson again propelled the Black Knights with a 12yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Hunter Hicks.
Marshall would again answer in the second quarter to knot the game at 14.
Benson, however, was just getting started and connected with Tony Moore for another 60-yard bomb, giving West Memphis Christian a lead, the Black Knights would not again relinquish at 20-14 before halftime.
Those three first-half touchdowns were just a part of Benson’s fivetouchdown performance last Friday. After proving his ability running the ball from the quarterback spot last season, Davidson wants to open up the playbook more this season so that colleges can get a glimpse of Benson in the pocket. So far, the senior shot caller has not disappointed.
“We still got some pass protection woes and sometimes they just brought more than we could block,” Davidson said.
“But, Parker did a great job of scrambling and hitting his check downs and making something out of nothing.”
During the break, Davidson reminded his team, and specifically his defense, exactly who they were, sparking a surge in energy that allowed West Memphis Christian to pull away in the second half.
“I just told them that I wasn’t doing anything differently than what we did last year,” Davidson said.
“The only thing they were doing differently was not pursuing the ball. They had to have the want-to. I said, ‘You’re the defending state champions and the defending best defense in the MAIS last year. Go out and prove it. If they don’t score again, we win the ball game. Plain and simple.’ We went out and did what we had to do and what we’ve been executing for the past year and had a better showing in the second half (defensively).”
While the defense stifled the Marshall offense, Benson’s onslaught through the air continued as he connected with backup quarterback and receiver Garrett Waller on a backside slant play that Waller carried another 50 yards for a touchdown and a 27-14 Black Knights third-quarter advantage.
Finally, Benson once again found his 6-foot-6, 270-pound target at tight end, Hicks. This time, Benson channeled his inner Tim Tebow, faking a rush up the middle on a fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line, popping up and hitting Hicks in the back of the end zone for the Black Knights final scored of the contest, sealing the game in the fourth quarter.
Execution and timing of plays like that were key, according to Davidson.
“We threw it around a little bit more the other night, but we kept them off balance with some good running plays too,” Davidson said. “We kept them off balance. We were running when they thought we were passing and passing when they thought we were going to run.”
As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard, proclaiming West Memphis Christian the victors, the 32-14 score indicated much more than just West Memphis Christian’s first win of the season, it represented the first victory for the Black Knights over Marshall Academy in over a decade.
Former West Memphis Christian head coach Darrow Anderson, who coached the Black Knights to a state championship last season before accepting a job at Potts Camp High School this season, always referred to Marshall Academy as a “measuring stick”, a team to play early in the year in order to get a feel of how competitive that season’s Black Knight squad was going to be.
Now under the direction of Davidson, Anderson’s former defensive coordinator and current friend, the Black Knights have finally achieved their former coaches goal of measuring in on top of the Patriots at the start of the season.
“I think it’s a benchmark for them,” Davidson said.
“That’s what (Anderson) put out as the standards and the attitudes around there, to be at a level that could beat Marshall.
Marshall has always been very good at football, basketball, track or whatever they play and has been a measuring stick for a lot of people. So, for us, beating them the other night definitely put a good notch in the belt for us and gets us moving forward in the right direction for the rest of the season.”
Davidson hopes that that winning momentum carries over into next week, when the Black Knights hit the road for the first time on the young season, traveling to Steens, Mississippi to take on Columbus Christian (1-1).
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
By Collins Peeples