Tigers gnaw on Trojans
WORTHINGTON -- Spreading the football among 10 rushers, the undefeated Marshall Tigers racked up 331 yards on the ground and dominated the first half -- scoring on their first four possessions -- as they claimed a 28-0 Southwest Conference football victory over the Trojans Friday night on Worthington's Homecoming.
Trey Welch, a junior running back for the Tigers, scored three touchdowns and topped Marshall's rushing chart with 110 yards on 11 carries, including a 46-yard TD burst midway through the second quarter that made the score 26-0 with 4:15 remaining in the first half.
"He is a regular in the weight room," MHS head coach Terry Bahlmann said after the game. "Trey put on 50 pounds of muscle since last year and he runs the ball hard."
Welch, who stands just five-foot-eight, tips the scales at 195 pounds and runs with authority. His 16-yard scamper capped Marshall's first drive of the game -- a five-play, 68-yard march -- putting the Tigers on the board at the 9:17 mark of the opening quarter.
Tiger senior running back Bryce Cable (6-0, 195) carried twice for 31 yards on that opening drive.
"We played very well from the start," praised Bahlmann, who picked up his 150th victory as a high school football coach. "Our offensive line did a fantastic job. We were physical at the line of scrimmage."
"They sure were," agreed Trojan head coach Dennis Hale. "Marshall dominated us in the first half. They have a nice offense with lots of misdirection and deception. Then when they block and run that well -- that makes them hard to stop."
After Marshall scored on its opening drive, the Trojans went three-and-out, setting up the first of five punts in the game by Homecoming King Joe Ahrens -- who averaged 31 yards per kick.
After a nice punt return -- on a reverse -- set the Tigers up on their own 45-yard line, Marshall pieced together another sustained drive.
But the Trojans almost stopped that drive -- twice.
Worthington's Mike Vorwald, who later had the game's only pass interception, nearly picked off a Tiger aerial at midfield, which could have created some excitement.
Later in the drive, the Trojans nearly stopped Marshall on downs. The Tigers faced a fourth-and-one from the WHS 11-yard line.
But Worthington's second off-sides penalty of the game gave Marshall a first-and-goal and three plays later, Welch bolted through the left-side of the Tiger line for a two-yard touchdown with 1:25 to play in the first quarter.
"That was disappointing," said Hale. "Our defense had a chance to make a stand and then a penalty gives them the ball inside the 10."
Mitch Jensen, who returned four kicks for 63 yards, brought the ball to the Trojan 37 with a strong 18-yard return and Worthington moved the ball well on its second drive.
Tim Roos rambled for gains of eight and five yards, respectively, giving WHS its initial first down of the game, right at midfield.
A few plays later, Trojan quarterback Kyle Vaske (7-of-16 for 67 yards) hit Roos on a well-executed 13-yard pass play and as PA announcer Kevin Lease proclaimed "That's another Trojan first down."
Unfortunately, the quarter break seemed to help the Marshall defense as the Worthington drive stalled, ending when Vaske was sacked by Cable at the Marshall 42.
"Worthington has good skill people and we began to do a better job of bottling them up," explained Bahlmann, who coached for 20 seasons at three different schools in Iowa before coming to Marshall for the 2004 campaign. "We were able to put more pressure on with our pass rush and that disrupted their timing."
Marshall's third TD drive started at its own 24-yard line with 10:30 to play in the first half. Welch had a big 18-yard gain after recovering his own bouncing fumble, Jamie Obler had an eight-yard gain and a 16-yard pass completion from Tiger quarterback Ryan Sanow to Brent Rysdahl propelled the Tigers into Trojan territory.
Obler, a 5-8, 180-pound junior, -- who runs much like Welch -- broke loose for a 25-yard TD burst with 6:58 to go in the quarter.
Less than three minutes later, Welch ripped off his 46-yard run, capping a two-play, 59-yard drive.
In between those two Tiger touchdowns, Vaske had engineered a six-play, 31-yard Trojan drive, moving the ball from the WHS 30 to the Marshall 39.
But again, the Tiger defense held.
The Trojans moved again after Welch's TD, as Jensen returned the kick all the way to the Tiger 49-yard line.
Vaske hit Vorwald for a nine-yard gain and then Adou Omot made a nice catch for a 10-yard gain and the Trojans were at the Marshall 30.
But three straight pass incompletions made it fourth-and-10. Vaske and Vorwald connected for a 4-yard gain, but the Tigers took over on their own 26 -- stopping Worthington's farthest penetration of the game.
Marshall's fifth drive was stopped by Vorwald's interception at the 12-yard line. His return back to the 45 ended the first half.
The third quarter was a defensive stand off, as neither team moved the ball much.
Field position favored Marshall and after Worthington's Matt King recovered a Tiger fumble at about the Trojan 15-yard line, WHS had the ball again.
But a pair of low snaps resulted in the ball going into and through the end zone for a Marshall safety with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Each team moved the ball some in the fourth quarter, but there was no more scoring.
"I give Worthington a lot of credit for playing a strong second half and not folding," concluded Bahlmann. "We were able to give lots of kids chances to play in the second half."
The Tigers finished with 21 first downs and 376 total yards of offense on 65 plays.
Worthington had seven first downs, but gained just 16 net yards rushing. The Trojans were 9-of-22 passing for 98 yards, as Travis Meinders had two completions for 31 yards, including a 26-yarder to Ahrens in the fourth quarter.
Trojan defensive end John Mead was announced numerous times for making tackles for the Trojans and linebacker Corey Steffl had a pair of crunching hits in the second half.
Marshall (5-0, 6-0) hosts Luverne in a conference showdown between the league-leaders Friday, while the Trojans (1-3, 1-5) travel to Redwood Valley.
Marshall 12 14 2 0 -- 28
Worthington 0 0 0 0 -- 0