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Warriors Noah Walters (50) and Alex Kirkendoll (17 leave the field as Logan Campbell (59) and Eli Morrison (58) carry the runner-up trophy. The Marion County Warriors faced the Memphis Trezevant Bears in the Class AA TSSAA State Football Championship played in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville on December 3, 2016.

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Johnson leads Trezevant past Marion County in 2A title game, 42-20

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Cordarrian Richardson was, without question, the focus for Marion County defenders in the TSSAA's BlueCross Bowl.

The Warriors wanted to give Clemson recruiters reason for pause during the Class 2A championship game Saturday: Did the Tigers really want Trezevant's power back?

They accomplished that mission, focusing almost exclusively on stopping the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder and limiting him to 62 yards. It was a fifth of what he got against Marion on his way to offensive MVP honors in the 2015 title game.

The Warriors' defensive focus was so intense, though, that 6-4, 185-pound senior quarterback Tywon Johnson skipped past, skirted around and sliced through them for 200 yards in leading Trezevant to a 42-20 victory.

"It was (No.) 14, really a bunch of them all together," said Marion senior linebacker Alex Kirkendoll and Mr. Football lineman of the year. "We had mistakes — mental mistakes — and it wasn't until right there at the end that they scored a bunch, and the score doesn't show what really happened."

"The difference was a combination of their speed and talent," Marion coach Joey Mathis said. "Then we ran into a couple of injuries, and coming in we already had a few."

Seniors Hunter Zeman and Cory Murray were taken from the field on stretchers and transported to the hospital, but both were conscious and Zeman, who was initially knocked unconscious, managed a thumb's-up. He has a concussion and was still being monitored at the hospital Saturday evening. Murray was diagnosed with a bruised spine but was released.

This was the Warriors' third consecutive championship game, but they left for Jasper each time — twice under Ricky Ross and once now under Mathis — with a trophy adorned with silver, symbolic of second-best.

Richardson, who blitzed Marion for 342 yards a year ago, got loose only twice and picked up more than half of his yardage on two touchdown runs. He opened the scoring with a 19-yard burst less than four minutes into the game but wasn't heard from in a big way again until his 17-yard score that lifted the Memphis team to a 34-20 lead with 7:11 left in the game.

For a sock-it-to-them mindset, Trezevant scored again when receiver and punter Jonathan Gatewood broke off a 26-yard run from punt formation with 2:34 left to play.

"They're a good team and their coaches game-planned us pretty well," Mathis assessed. "There were some execution things we didn't do that we had done all year. We just never could catch that momentum."

Marion countered the Bears' initial score on Hunter McClain's 1-yard run and grabbed the lead on Houston McElroy's point-after kick.

Less than five minutes later, though, the Bears regained the lead on the first of three Johnson scores, a 5-yard run. He boosted their lead to 20-6 six minutes later on an 8-yard run.

Marion closed within a touchdown, Zeman's 27-yard reception from Isaah Sampson with six seconds left in the first half, and the Warriors, with the defense holding the Bears at bay, and then tied it on McClain's second rushing TD of the game.

That was it, though, for Marion's scoring punch.

Trezevant rallied immediately and Johnson's third score was a demoralizing 77-yard run on a fourth-and-long to burst the tie.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

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