Banks, Marshall highlight Buffs rout, but defense leaves room for concern

Banks, Marshall highlight Buffs rout, but defense leaves room for concern (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

MISSOURI CITY — Fort Bend Marshall's offense was in late-season form during the Buffalos' 68-34 season-opening rout of Aldine Eisenhower on Thursday night at Hall Stadium.

Junior quarterback Ja'koby Banks found highly-touted senior receiver Chris Marshall on a 57-yard catch-and-run on the first play from scrimmage. Marshall scored five touchdowns within its first 19 offensive plays and scored on 10 of 11 possessions overall.

Defense, however, was not so great, as the Buffalos' secondary had issues all night. Eisenhower even crept within 41-34 with less than four minutes left in the third quarter before Marshall's offense scored four touchdowns in eight minutes to finish the game.

"That's what we want to do, get out ahead," coach James Williams said. "We got the ball first, went down and scored on that first play. Get that momentum going. I think it's just disappointing the way we played on the other side of the ball. Truthfully, we haven't played that bad on defense in a while. We've got a lot to correct."

Marshall had not surrendered more than 30 points in a regular season game since September 20, 2019, against Manvel.

The Buffalos, VYPE's preseason No. 1 team in Class 5A, totaled more than 550 yards, but gave up more than 300. Junior receiver Ryan Niblett had his way against the Marshall defense. The versatile 6-foot, 170-pounder carried the ball six times for 66 yards and one touchdown and caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.

Niblett, who played quarterback last year, also made plays on defense, intercepting Banks in the third quarter for a pick-six from deep in Eisenhower territory.

"We just didn't play disciplined football," Williams said. "It was a different guy every time. We gave up big plays. We just had a lot of uncharacteristic things that we did. It wasn't us. We have to get back to square one and work on our fundamentals and work on our discipline."

Fortunately for Williams, by the time Niblett got going and the Eagles found ways to use him, it was too late.

Banks was dominant early. In sparking the Buffs to a 41-21 halftime lead, Banks, in his first year as QB1 after serving as a backup last season, rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns, and completed five of nine passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was very important for me to showcase my team," said Banks, who did not have a rushing attempt in the second half and finished with six for 11 passing for 154 yards. "I feel like the team we've got right now, if we can work together … we can do it all."

Both of Banks' touchdown passes went to the 6-foot-4 Marshall, a five-star recruit who hauled in four catches for 116 yards.

"We played pretty good, but there were a lot of mistakes," Marshall said. "We've got to get in the film room, make those corrections and get ready for Elkins next week."

The Buffalos also got inspired performances from senior running back Aaron McGowen (five carries, 12o yards, TD) and sophomore running back Jarrod Howard (12 carries, 89 yards, two TDs). Williams went to a more conservative approach in the second half, almost exclusively relying upon Howard.

"If we can continue to spread the ball around and take what the defense gives us, we'll have continued success," Williams said. "Sixty-eight points is pretty impressive."

It was Howard who ignited the Buffalos' response after the Eagles got close in the third. Howard quickly scored on a seven-yard run to push the lead back to 14 and capped the scoring with a two-yard run following an impressive strip-sack by senior defensive tackle Laurence Tillman deep in Eisenhower territory midway through the fourth quarter.

"The response was definitely what we want," Williams said. "We got into a tight situation and didn't panic. Our guys kept fighting. The defense tightened and our offense got back into a rhythm, running the ball like we do.

"I like the way we started; I like the way we finished. We've just got to work on that middle part."