MARION -- West Memphis made three big plays to vault the Blue Devils to a 20-7 victory over Marion in 6A-East Conference action Friday night.
The Blue Devils (2-2, 1-0) cashed in on two costly Marion turnovers and rushed for 181 yards in the final two quarters in winning their 17th consecutive game in the series.
Jaylin Shepard returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown. Running back Dennis Dallas set up another West Memphis score with an 85-yard run and Bryson Jenkins tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Watson.
"I thought our defense played well all night, and we ran the ball a lot better in the second half," West Memphis Coach Robert Hooks said. "I applaud those guys up front for us on defense. We had a lot of leak throughs early in the game."
Marion (0-4, 0-1) was held to 72 yards of offense in the first half and was limited to 35 yards on the ground in the second half.
The game was scoreless until Shepard intercepted Daedrick Cail's pass intended for Kaleb Catt and returned it for a touchdown with 1:13 to play in the second quarter.
"I think (Cail) underthrew the ball," said Shepard. "All I know after that was I had to make it to the end zone."
Cail began the game misfiring on his first eight passes before finishing 3 of 14 for 77 yards and two interceptions.
"By the second half, I wanted to win the game with our defense because they were just playing so well," said Hooks, whose team was held to 65 yards in the first half. "We had a fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter near midfield and I decided to punt because I had so much trust in the defense."
The game swung dramatically early in the third quarter when the Patriots took the second-half kickoff and marched easily to the Blue Devil 4. But junior running back Cameron Anderson fumbled on the 1 and the loose ball was picked up by senior linebacker Eli Duncan, who advanced the ball to the Marion 5.
Duncan had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage on the night.
Two plays later, Dallas was very nearly stopped cold at the line of scrimmage, but squirmed free and bolted 85 yards to the Marion 10.
Three plays later, Dallas scored from the 1 to increase the Blue Devils' lead to 12-0
"Huge momentum shift there, obviously," said Hooks.
"I thought they had me, too," Dallas said, referring to his 85-yard run. "Instead of 7 points for (Marion) it was 6 points for us. That was the ball game, actually."
Jenkins was 3 of 10 passing for 56 yards. His TD pass to Watson came with nine seconds left in the third quarter. Jenkins then hit Cam Smith for the two-point conversion.
"We really hung our hats on big plays tonight," said Hooks. "And sometimes that's how you have to do it. As a coach you'd love to see your team grind it out on offense and score on nearly every possession, but that wasn't going to happen tonight."
Cail got Marion on the scoreboard on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 68-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Tajiri Ellis.