JASPER, Tenn. — The tone was set early. State-ranked No. 4 Marion County proved physical is far better than fancy in a brutally simple 23-0 Region 3-2A whipping of previously unbeaten Tyner on Friday night at Bill Baxter Stadium.
The Warriors (6-0, 3-0) opened the game with a grinding 14-play drive that drained nearly six minutes off the clock before quarterback Taye Hutchins swept around right end, converting third-and-goal into a 4-yard touchdown that was the equivalent to a punch to the gut for the Rams.
From there, Marion's size and physicality up front allowed the hosts to dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage.
"That first drive was huge," Warriors coach Dale Pruitt said. "The first five minutes against a good team is always important, and I thought our kids did an excellent job of taking the ball and doing what they had to do to get it in.
"We've got some 300-pounders up front, and they can't pull and do some other stuff, but what they can do is come off the ball and get a good push forward, and our backs have some speed running behind them."
The Warriors were so dominant up front, they outrushed Tyner 213-33 and ran 18 more offensive plays, holding possession for nearly 31 of the game's 48 minutes.
After the opening score, Marion used another time-consuming drive to add a 23-yard field goal by Dillon Fulfer and then turned things over to its defense, which forced three turnovers and held Tyner on fourth down three times for its third shutout of the season.
"The defense did a phenomenal job," Pruitt said. "We had some kids banged up who showed a lot of guts out there.
"Offensively, we played ball possession once we got the lead and didn't do anything catastrophic to hurt ourselves."
Tyner (6-1, 2-1) turned the ball over on downs on its first possession at the Marion 33, and Rams quarterback Josh Jackson had a deflected pass intercepted by Austin Anderson at the Warriors' 26 on Tyner's next drive.
Trailing 10-0 to begin the second half, Tyner drove to the Marion 2, but on fourth-and-goal a bad snap was recovered by the Warriors, preserving the shutout.
That set up a short touchdown drive that was capped by Alex Condra's 10-yard run, and after Rylee Rogers intercepted a Jackson pass at the Tyner 25 and returned it to the 15, Hutchins added his second score of the night on a 1-yard keeper.
"Our offensive line definitely set the tone early for us and got us started," said Hutchins, who finished with 22 carries for 72 yards and has more than 600 yards over his past four games. "Those guys make it easy for us. We couldn't do nothing without them. They give us a lot of confidence."
Tyner had started a season with six straight wins for the first time since 2002 by averaging 40 points per game, but on Friday the Rams never found an offensive rhythm running or passing, finishing with just 83 total yards.
"The speed of the game got to us," Rams first-year coach Scott Chandler said. "This was the best team we have seen this season, and I think there was a little bit of shock that set in with how physical they were up front and how quick they were.
"We had our chances but never finished drives the way we should."