The Murfreesboro Rattlers celebrated a homecoming and conference win Friday night by edging out the Lafayette County Cougars, 28-26.
The win dropped the Cougars to 0-4 on the season and evened the Rattler record to 2-2. Murfreesboro will stay at home this Friday night to play the undefeated Mount Ida Lions. Kick-off is set for 7:00. Mount Ida has posted wins over Centerpoint, Jessieville, Lamar and Mineral Springs.
Friday night’s stats would indicate a Cougar win, but the Rattler defense came up big throughout the second half and in the final minutes of the game to deny the visitors the end zone and preserve the two-point win.
The Cougar offense totaled 507 yards with 425 yards gained on the ground. The Rattlers managed 313 total yards, splitting the offense with 147 yards rushing and 166 on the ground.
Rattler Garvin Gardner went over the century mark in both rushing and receiving and scored all four of the Rattler touchdowns. Gardner carried the ball 15 times for 114 yards and two TDs and pulled in six catches for 171 yards and two more TDs.
Quarterback Ryan Roberts hit eight of 17 passes and rushed six times for 13 yards.
Cameron Snowden added to the rushing total with seven carries for 24 yards.
The Cougars were led by Martavious Miller with 20 carries for 133 yards and one TD; Lapatrick Miller with 12 carries for 122 yards; Kleavious Johnson with nine carries for 75 yards; and Stephon Copper with nine carries for 64 yards.
Murfreesboro opened the game with a quick drive set up by Gardner’s deep kick return. The drive went 26 yards in five plays and was capped by Gardner from five yards out.
The Rattler defense turned back the Cougar on their first drive with a fourth-and-goal stop to give Murfreesboro the ball at its own one-yard line. The offense stalled and Jarrett Faulkner came on to punt after five plays and a short distance gained.
The Cougars responded by stringing together a six-play drive that was good for 36 yards and a touchdown to tie the game, 6-6. Murfreesboro’s offense was headed back off the field five plays later.
The Cougars appeared headed for more points on their next drive but Snowden stripped the ball from the LC runner on the sixth play of the drive to give Murfreesboro the ball at their own 23. The home team’s offense again failed to generate much yardage and Faulkner punted the ball away after four plays.
The Rattler defense kept the score tied at 6-6 in the second quarter when it forced a Cougar punt to set the offense up at their own 39. The Rattlers moved into the lead on the next play when Roberts connected to Gardner for a 61-yard TD reception. The two-point play failed to set the score at 12-6.
Another strong stance by the Rattler defense forced another punt. QB Roberts steered the offense through a six-play drive that went 78 yards and was capped by a 35-yard TD run by Gardner. Roberts’ two-point pass play to Troy Stone and another stance by the defense lifted the Rattlers up to a 20-6 lead that held until the second half.
The Cougars opened the second half of play with a quick two-play 57-yard drive that cut the Rattler lead to 20-12. The Rattlers opened the second half with a punt but their defense put up another roadblock and shut down the Cougar offense on a fourth-and-17 at the 30-yard line.
On the first play of their next possession, Roberts dropped a pass off to Gardner who raced 83 yards for the TD. Todd Snyder carried in the two-point run to put the Rattlers up, 28-12.
The Rattler defense again gave their offense the ball back when it turned back the Cougars on a fourth-and-23 but the Rattler offense had scored their last points of the night and Faulkner punted the ball away. The Cougars needed only four plays to cover 73 yards and cut the Rattler lead to 28-20 in the third quarter.
The Cougars cut the lead to 28-26 in the fourth quarter with another quick drive of four plays that covered 60 yards. The two-point conversion was denied when the Rattlers forced an incompletion.
The Rattler offense was unable to increase their lead in the fourth quarter and left the task of preserving the win to their defensive counterparts, which included holding off a nine-play drive and that stalled on a fourth-and-25.
Murfreesboro took over at their own 20 with just minutes left in the game and Snowden’s two-yard gain on fourth-and-one allowed the home team to run the clock out on the narrow win.
The Rattler offense tandem of Roberts and Gardner also led the defense in stopping the Cougars. Roberts had 12 tackles while Gardner posted eight stops that included two sacks for losses. Also registering high on the tackle chart were Zayne Flaherty and Snowden with 11 stops each and Faulkner with nine. Other Rattler tacklers included Andrew Keeney, Chris French and Scott Evans with six stops each, Stone with four and Tyler Tomlinson and Nathan Libranda with three each. Cody Nolen and Laramie Beshears each had two stops.