MARKESAN — Defense took center stage in the Marshall football team’s Eastern Suburban Conference win Friday night, a 12-8 edging at Markesan.
The victory kept the Cardinals unbeaten through four games in 2020.
While the Cardinals (4-0 overall, 3-0 ESC) managed just 222 yards of total offense, the defense limited the Hornets to only 213.
“We knew it was going to be a game where we had to value every possession — I think (Markesan) ran 25-to-30 more plays than us — they’re clock eaters,” said Marshall head coach Matt Kleinheinz. “We knew it was going to be a grinder.”
The biggest play of the night came late in the game when Cole Denniston’s interception stopped a potential game-winning scoring drive by the Hornets.
Both defenses clamped down after Markesan led 8-6 through one quarter. That would be the score at halftime as well, however, Marshall would put up the only points of the second half.
With 9:52 remaining, junior quarterback Craig Ward hit tailback Bryce Frank with a screen pass and the junior showcased his blazing speed from there, taking it 51 yards to the house for a 12-8 Cardinal lead.
Markesan (0-3, 0-2) threatened late, but Denniston picked the perfect opportunity to make his second pick of 2020, stealing a Hayden Quade pass inside the 5-yard line with 1:34 left.
“Late in the game we knew with the lead they were going to have to throw the football, which we knew they weren’t that comfortable doing. We thought if we could get them in some passing downs, we’d be all right,” said Kleinheinz. “Cole sealed the deal with that interception.”
Two-way all-conference lineman Kelby Petersen also made it difficult on the Hornets to move the football.’
“Kelby was on the quarterback all night, he was breathing pressure down his neck,” said Kleinheinz of the 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior.
Petersen finished with a team-high 10 tackles while forcing a fumble.
Marshall made an early statement when Frank returned the game’s opening kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown. While Frank was held to a season-low 92 yards rushing, he accounted for 216 all-purpose yards.
“This week we knew we had to be a little bit more creative to find ways to get him the ball in space,” said Kleinheinz. “I think he only had 13 carries, so we didn’t get him the ball as much as we would have liked to.”
The Cardinals also were without one of their offensive weapons as Frank’s backfield teammate, freshman Matthew Motl, missed the game with an injury. Motl had rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns through the first three weeks.
“We’re hoping he’s back soon because he’s a big piece of our offense,” said Kleinheinz of Motl. “He plows in between the tackles giving Bryce some space. Without him, we weren’t really able to get that inside running game going.”
Markesan took the lead on its second possession when Blaze Grams busted loose for a 23-yard touchdown. Grams added the 2-point conversion run and the Hornets led 8-6 with 2:09 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Hornets also held a significant advantage in total plays, 58-37, which didn’t allow the Marshall offense on the field as much as it would have liked.
Through four games Marshall’s defense has only allowed 19 points, an average of just 4.75 points per game.
The Cardinals travel to Pardeeville Friday. The ESC kickoff is 7 p.m.
MARSHALL 12, MARKESAN 8
Marshall 6 0 6 0 — 12
Markesan 8 0 0 0 — 8
Marshall — Frank 70 kickoff return (kick failed).
Markesan — Grams 23 run (Grams run).
Marshall — Frank 51 pass from Ward (pass failed).
First Downs — MSH 8, MRK 14. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — MSH 24-140, MRK 50-144. Passing Yards — MSH 82, MRK 69. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — MSH 4-13-2, MRK 4-8-1. Fumbles-lost — MSH 0-0, MRK 3-2. Penalties — MSH 9-60, MRK 3-20.
Rushing: MSH: Frank 13-92; MRK: Qume 21-51. Passing: MSH: Ward 4-13-2, 82; MRK: Quade 4-8-1, 69. Receiving: MSH: Frank 2-56; MRK: Grams 3-53.