LEXINGTON TWP. The players gathered at midfield for a moment of prayer before going their separate ways.
An emotional night at Marlington Stadium was over. The Dukes, the state’s top-ranked Division III team, beat Carrollton 34-14 Friday to keep their perfect record intact.
Marlington-Carrollton photo gallery
High school football wasn’t the only thing on everyone’s mind.
A moment of silence was held for Carrollton cheerleader McKayla Hoopes before the game. Hoopes died Thursday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash north of Carrollton.
“It was a difficult day,” Warriors head coach Eric McCort said.
Marlington provided some comfort by remembering Hoopes before and after the game.
“Our hearts go out to them,” Dukes head coach Ed Miley said. “I’ve been in education for a lot of years and have been in districts that have lost students, and that’s never easy. It’s just sad any time you lose a young person.”
Playing with heavy hearts, the Warriors had the Dukes (6-0, 3-0) nearing the ropes early in the fourth quarter.
• "Game Night" has highlights from Carrollton-Marlington game:
Lynk Tranter’s 80-yard touchdown reception from Zade Deitz cut Marlington’s lead to 28-14. Less than a minute later, Carrollton recovered a fumble inside the Dukes’ 20. The Warriors reached the 4, but turned the ball over on downs. A Deitz touchdown pass was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Dymonte Thomas ended any doubt with just over five minutes left. The Marlington back raced 77 yards for a touchdown, his fourth rushing TD of the night.
Thomas rushed for 249 yards on 25 carries and also threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dan Krupko late in the first half. He did all this after suffering an ankle injury which caused him to miss most of Marlington’s first offensive series.
“I felt a little banged up,” Thomas said. “My left ankle was hurting pretty bad, but you have to tough it up for your team and do the best you can do. My team held me up pretty strong. They did a good job of making holes for me, and all I had to do was just cut and run as fast as I could even with my ankle messed up.”
Marlington’s defense had as big an impact on the outcome.
Carrollton (4-2, 1-2) did not score on three other trips inside the Dukes’ red zone. Defensive back Austin Hoover picked off Deitz at the goal line on the Warriors’ opening possession.
“We had our opportunities and we didn’t do it,” McCort said. “That has to go to coaching first. We have to get better at what we do, then execution has to come next.”
Hoover had two of Marlington’s three interceptions. Thomas had the other moments after he returned to the game.
“We always tell the kids when you get a chance to play defense, go play,” Miley said. “It doesn’t matter where they put the ball. Your job is to stop them.”