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Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Holtville’s Drew Pickett (8) runs the ball through Marbury’s defense.

It was all about strong second-half performances in the first half of the regular season for Holtville but the Bulldogs changed their tune a bit during Friday night’s rivalry battle with Marbury. Holtville scored the game’s first two touchdowns in the opening nine minutes and it never gave up the lead on its way to a 33-14 victory, its second Bulldog Brawl win in the last three seasons.

Holtville (5-1) stayed perfect in non-region games this season and it avenged last year’s 36-14 defeat at Marbury. However, coach Jason Franklin said it was not about revenge Friday night but just about playing Holtville football.

“It’s just another game on our schedule,” Franklin said. “I have been preaching to our guys to focus on doing the little things … We really preached discipline this week and I was proud of our guys for how they handled that. They competed really hard (Friday night).”

Drew Pickett got Holtville on the board first, capping the game’s opening drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. Pickett was the back of choice for Holtville once again, finishing with 166 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

Marbury (3-3) limited Pickett more than other opponents have so far this season, often stacking the box with seven or eight defenders. The Bulldogs struggled to get things going on the ground with anyone else and finished with 145 rushing yards as a team.

“They knew what they had to stop,” Franklin said. “That was a good defense but we knew what we had to do to take advantage of it. We knew were going to have to throw the ball a little more.”

Holtville turned to Braxton Buck for the rest of the damage on offense as he provided a season-high in completions, yards and touchdowns through the air.

“He was spreading the ball around and hitting the open guys,” Franklin said. “He was taking what the defense was giving him.”

On Holtville’s second offensive drive of the night, Buck aired the ball out and found Noah Yarroch in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown to put Holtville ahead by two possessions early. After Marbury cut the lead to six points early in the second half, Buck connected with Cade Law for a 32-yard score to regain the two-score lead and it never shrank.

Buck completed 14 of his 21 pass attempts for 176 yards and the two scores. He also added a rushing touchdown on a 1-yard keeper.

“We were able to take some shots down field,” Franklin said. “We were much more efficient throwing the football (Friday night). That’s something we need to do moving forward.”

Marbury was led by running back Ethan Gomez who finished with 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Quarterback Jack Thompson also added a rushing touchdown but he struggled through the air.

The Bulldogs limited Thompson to 104 passing yards and just a 50% completion rate. Dylan Bearden had a first-half interception at his own goal line to help limit Thompson’s damage. John Williamson added an interception as well.

Holtville’s defensive front had a lot to do with the disruption of the opponents’ passing attack. Malachi Shaw recorded two sacks while Jacob Nichols added another. Defensive end Kei Webb had a fumble recovery in the second half.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Franklin said. “They just keep working. We can enjoy this one for a minute and refocus so we can get ready to move on.”

Holtville moves to 5-1 for the first time since 1993 and will take the momentum into a bye week before returning to region play.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.