TROJAN FOOTBALL: Trojans fall to Tigers on the roadMARSHALL — Snapping off big play after big play and scoring on their first six possessions within the initial 17 minutes of the first half Friday night, the powerful Marshall Tigers claimed an impressive 49-0 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
MARSHALL — Snapping off big play after big play and scoring on their first six possessions within the initial 17 minutes of the first half Friday night, the powerful Marshall Tigers claimed an impressive 49-0 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
Marshall, which remains undefeated with a perfect record of 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the league, will travel to play Luverne (also 7-0 and 5-0) for the conference championship Wednesday night.
“We’re really looking forward to that game,” Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann said. “But we first had to take care of business tonight against a Worthington team that is very capable and has played well at times this season, including last week in the first half versus Luverne. We were able to run the ball effectively behind our offensive line, and that helped us gain control of this game early.”
The Class AAAA sixth-ranked Tigers racked up 363 yards rushing in the first half alone against the Trojans (2-5, 1-4), building a commanding 42-0 halftime bulge. Marshall finished the game with 520 yards of total offense (486 rushing, 34 passing) and limited Worthington to just 95 net yards (97 rushing, minus-two passing).
“Marshall is an outstanding football team and there are plenty of reasons why they are undefeated,” Worthington head coach Brad Grimmius said. “They are in a different class right now compared to the rest of our conference, as their all-around size and skill level is tough to match up with. But some of it comes down to fundamentals, and we didn’t block or tackle well at all tonight — we didn’t step up and compete like we expected to.”
Senior running backs Colton Citrowske (nine carries, one touchdown) and Rhett Struve (five carries, three touchdowns) both gained 158 yards rushing — all in the first half — to highlight the Tigers’ juggernaut attack on the ground.
Senior quarterback Austin Saugstad was an efficient 2-for-3 (31 yards) in the passing game for Marshall, completing a 22-yard aerial to Leo Zerr and firing a nine-yard touchdown strike to Aaron Mathiowetz. Brock Baumgarn and Sam Marshall (13 carries for 75 yards) each added a touchdown for the Tigers, who led 28-0 after scoring four times in the first quarter.
“I’m very happy with our performance in the first half,” Bahlmann said. “The strength of our team is our offensive line, and we got the job done up front. Colton and Rhett give us a nice combination in the backfield running the ball, and they both found some space for big gains several times.”
Indeed they did — right out of the gate. Starting the game at their own 12-yard line following good kickoff coverage by the Trojans, the Tigers needed just two plays and 22 seconds to light up the scoreboard for the first time.
Citrowske got loose for a 24-yard scamper on the first play before Struve ripped off a 64-yard touchdown dash on a nifty cutback run. Tanner Cirks, who was 7-for-7 on PAT kicks, split the uprights with the extra point to lift the Tigers to a quick 7-0 lead at the 11:38 mark of the first quarter.
Marshall got the ball right back after Worthington fumbled on its third play of the ensuing series, as Campbell Hofstetter recovered at the Trojans’ 26-yard line to set up the Tigers’ next score.
Saugstad’s 22-yard pass to Zerr preceded a pair of two-yard bursts, the first by Austin Nath and the second by Baumgarn for a touchdown plunge. Cirks booted the PAT to make it 14-0 with 8:53 remaining.
The Tigers’ defense came up with another turnover on the Trojans’ follow-up drive (third play again), as Zerr intercepted a pass over the middle. Starting at Worthington’s 28-yard line, Marshall utilized a familiar formula to reach the end zone for the third time.
A 16-yard rumble by Citrowske was piggybacked by a 12-yard touchdown surge from Struve on a sweep to the left (Cirks PAT good) to extend the gap to 21-0 with 6:24 to go.
“That was a tough way to start the game,” Grimmius said. “We turned the ball over twice and couldn’t stop Marshall’s power running game. They created room with their big offensive line, and their backs did the rest of the work — give them credit.”
Worthington, though, did put together a drive on its third possession. Troy Ektnitphong, who gained a team-best 52 yards rushing on 11 carries, had a nice 20-yard dash to give the Trojans their initial first down of the night.
A 15-yard penalty at the end of that run moved the ball to Marshall’s 33-yard line, but Worthington was forced to punt after going backwards 10 yards over the next three plays.
The Tigers then assembled a six-play, 73-yard scoring drive to punch in their fourth touchdown of the opening period. The big plays of the march were a 32-yard jaunt by Citrowske and a 22-yard sprint by Zerr.
Saugstad capped the series with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Mathiowetz on a quick slant over the middle. Cirks was good on the PAT, increasing Marshall’s advantage to 28-0 with 19 seconds left.
Then, after a three-and-out by the Trojans, the Tigers gave the ball to Citrowske four straight times — covering 66 yards on runs of 48, 12, five and one (touchdown) — to score for the fifth time. Cirks was once again accurate with the PAT, as Marshall held a 35-0 lead with 9:30 remaining in the second quarter.
The Trojans’ Jessie Guerra returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards, but Worthington was unable to use the favorable field position (starting at Marshall’s 46-yard line) and punted after just three plays.
Struve then got the handoff on the Tigers’ first play of their sixth offensive series and busted off a 75-yard touchdown run, weaving through various defenders. Cirks made it 42-0 after knocking his sixth extra point through with 7:16 showing on the clock.
“We have 25 seniors on our team this year, and they all played well on Senior Night,” Bahlmann said. “We were able to play a lot of kids in the second half and get many of our reserves some valuable experience at the varsity level.”
Worthington’s Tristan Sorenson recovered a loose ball after Marshall mishandled a punt return, and Ektnitphong busted free for a 24-yard gain in the next sequence of events. The Trojans, aided by a six-yard run by Alex Hayenga, then reached the Tigers’ 15-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with less than a minute to play.
The Trojans opened the second half with another big run, as Marcus Potter (nine carries for 28 yards) picked up 21 yards on a sweep to the right. But Will Mulder, who had Worthington’s lone reception on a pass from Blake Schroeder (1-for-10) in the first half, was called on to punt again a bit later.
The Tigers then put together their final scoring drive, going 71 yards on seven plays. Sam Marshall did the bulk of the work on that march and scored on a four-yard touchdown run (Cirks PAT good) to create the final score of 49-0 with 7:02 to play in the third quarter.
The rest of the game was evenly played for the most part. Jaron Sternke (five yards), Zack Palmer (four yards), Logan Thuringer (16 yards) and Jonathan Murillo (nine yards) each had positive runs late in the fourth quarter for Worthington.
“We played a little better in the second half,” Grimmius said. “But we’re going to have play a whole lot better next week against Redwood Valley (home, Wednesday). It will be a good opportunity for us to play well in front of our own fans one last time this season.”
WHS 0 0 0 0 — 0
MHS 28 14 7 0 — 49