MARION -- The Marion Patriots outscored Pine Bluff 14-0 in the fourth quarter at Premier Bank Stadium to pull away for a key 38-24 victory in 6A-East Conference play Friday night.
The Patriots (4-4, 3-2) took their first lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when sophomore Ashton Gray, who was making his first varsity start, connected with Zion Burnside on a hitch route. Burnside eluded a pair of tacklers en route to the end zone for a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown, good for a 30-24 Marion lead.
The Marion defense forced a three and out and put the offense in position to take control of the game with 10:23 left in regulation.
Marion marched 64 yards in seven plays, culminating when tailback Cam Anderson scored from 19 yards out. Anderson added a two-point conversion to set the final margin.
"This is a very good win for us, a very gutty win," Marion Coach Lance Clark said. "It's a great character win for our guys because we had to come back to do it."
Marion had to come back because the visiting Zebras (1-6, 0-5) proved more than capable early on. Pine Bluff scored touchdowns and two-point conversions on its first three possessions, taking its largest lead at 24-14 late in the first quarter, a tally that would double as the score after the opening quarter.
Tailback X'Zavieon Barnett ran 13 and 80 yards for TDs to punctuate Pine Bluff's first two drives before Tyrea Campbell bolted 7 yards for the third Zebras score.
"The big story tonight for us was when our defensive line decided to play hard our defense was much better," Clark said.
After Campbell's touchdown, Pine Bluff managed just eight first downs and no points the remainder of the night.
Marion got back into the game when Brian Weatherspoon ran 18 yards on his first carry of the night for a score to trim the Pine Bluff lead to 24-21.
Marion senior kicker Dylan Pieri got the Patriots even with a 31-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Gray found out he was starting Thursday afternoon but still completed 12 of 16 passes for 156 yards and a TD. The sophomore rushed for 93 yards. Anderson rushed for 145 yards and TDs spanning 5, 4 and 19 yards.
Barnett ran for 121 yards and two scores in the first half.