OKEMOS – Sexton sophomore Marcus Alston openly admits he had jitters going into Friday’s CAAC Blue showdown against Okemos.
Alston, whose primary position is wide receiver, learned last week that he would be the starting quarterback after usual starter Jackson Barnes suffered a concussion.
The nervousness was evident, as Alston threw an errant pick-six on the third play of the game and followed that with an interception two possessions later when the Big Reds were deep into Okemos territory.
But the sophomore settled down and eventually overcame three first-half interceptions to help Sexton rally back and top the Chiefs, 20-7, on Okemos’ homecoming night.
“Coming into Okemos’ (stadium), on its homecoming game, I was nervous. The fans were loud,” Alston said. “Toward the end of the first half I started getting it all together.
“In the second half, my team just kept cheering me on.”
After Alston’s initial interception to the Chiefs’ Alex Luo, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, the Big Reds (3-2, 2-1) finally got on the scoreboard three possessions later when Alston found tight end Khari Foy-Walton, who finished with a game-high 62 receiving yards, for a 12-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.
The touchdown came a possession after Alston threw his second interception of the game – this one coming as Sexton was working in Okemos’ red zone – to Domonique Clerkley.
The Big Reds were able to grab their first lead with 4:53 to play in the third quarter. The Chiefs (1-4, 0-3) started the second half with possession, but on the fourth play of the drive, Sexton’s defensive line blew up a jet sweep, forcing and recovering a fumble in Okemos territory.
The Big Reds followed the momentum-swinging turnover with an eight play, 42-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by tailback Karey Faulkner, putting his team up, 12-7. The score was setup by a 17-yard run by Faulkner, who had a game-high 167 rushing yards, and a 20-yard pass from Alston to Foy-Walton.
“We just thought that we had to get everyone all in,” Faulkner said of his team’s slow start. “Our quarterback, he’s young, so he’s going to make some mistakes.
“Starting the second half, we came out and played strong.”
The Alston-Foy-Walton connection also led to the Big Reds’ final score early in the fourth quarter, as the two connected for a 30-yard pass to put their team at the Chiefs’ 1-yard line. Alston ran the ball in the end zone on the next play to help give Sexton a 20-7 lead.
For Okemos, the offense was unable to put together enough threatening drives to make Sexton pay for its early mistakes. The Chiefs’ biggest offensive play of the game came late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jason Pridgeon found Clerkley for a 24-yard reception.
Okemos was on the cusp of cutting its deficit to one score with 2:18 to play, but the Big Reds’ Karl Brooks intercepted Pridgeon at the Sexton 3-yard line to seal the win.
Senior running back Dalis Williams said the inconsistencies on offense is what has hindered the Chiefs through the first half of the season.
“When a bad play happens, we get down a little bit,” said Williams, who had a team-leading 68 rushing yards. “We just have to keep going. …We have to finish, and we didn’t do that today.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.