Webster Groves used a career night from running back Marlon Peal Friday, as the Statesmen went on the road to defeat Parkway North 28-14 in the last game of the regular season.
Peal, a senior, had touchdown runs of 20, 68 and 78 yards en route to a 24 carry-336 yard night. And yet, with all that, the game itself was still largely in doubt until the last 2 minutes.
North's opening drive included a successful fake punt and a 4th down coversion at the Webster Groves 30 yard line but the Vikings could not turn that into points against the 5th ranked team in Class 5. When a pooch punt turned into a touchback, Peal flipped the field with a 64 yard scamper that led to Bri'on Sanders' 24 yard touchdown carry and a 6-0 lead following a failed extra point attempt.
But the Parkway North defense which had stiffened in recent weeks showed more of the same resolve Friday, managing to end one Statesmen drive by stopping Peal on a 4th down conversion, and a later a Cam Cosey interception ended another. On the ensuing drive, Viking senior Johnathan Little turned a swing pass on a misdirection play 64 yards for a touchdown that with the extra point gave North a 7-6 lead it would take to halftime.
In the first Webster Groves possession in the 3rd quarter, Peal converted a 3rd and 10 for a 13 yard gain to the Statesmen 32 before zipping off a 68 touchdown that gave them the lead back at 13-7. When Parkway North could not pull off a second fake punt deep in their own territory, Peal made them pay with a 20 yard run for a touchdown to make it 21-7 after a 2 point conversion.
With Roderick Hoskins carrying much of the running load after Little suffered a first half shoulder injury, the Vikings stayed in the contest. A Dillon Sechehaye punt return set up a Hoskins 5 yard TD late in the third quarter. A fumble on the ensuing Webster Groves drive triggered a Parkway North surge that started at their own 24 yard line and came inches away from potentially knotting up the game before Hoskins was stopped just short of the endzone with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter.
After forcing a Webster punt, the Viking offense could get no closer than the 22 yard line late, turning the ball over on downs before Peal provided the final margin with a 78 yard trip down the far sideline for the score.
That effort capped his career night and sent the Statesmen into district play on a winning note.
"He's been playing extremely well. He carried the ball 30 times last week. We sustained the running game when we had to run the clock out but obviously the yardage he got tonight, Marlon did a heck of a job, but I'd say the offensive line had a lot to do with it as well," Webster Groves Head Coach Cliff Ice said after the game.
Despite the large yardage totals given up to Peal on the ground, North Head Coach Bob Bunton said his team is better than it was three weeks ago and at an important phase of the season heading into week 10.
"We've got some confidence. You've seen us. We struggled through the first part of the year, but our goal has always been to be a better team, the best team we can be, heading into week 10, I think we are," Bunton said. "We'll be ready to go next Friday whoever we play."
Coaches all over St. Louis likely spent the late night hours trying to figure out the "whoever we play" part. A new state playoff system makes everyone eligible by starting the playoffs with a district tournament next week with seeding determined by a point-differential system. Ice left the field Friday thinking his squad would host Chaminade next week. Bunton wasn't sure where the Vikings would play. Early Saturday it appeared it would be against Holt, but again, nothing is official.