If the Marmion Cadets laid an egg in losing at Batavia last weekend, then they laid something much better the foundation for another solid season on their home field Friday night.
With its defense "flying around" as coach Dan Thorpe had pleaded for all week, Marmion needed only one touchdown to notch a 6-0 victory over a strong Fenwick team.
When Kyle Kozak dove into the end zone from 6 yards out with 1:38 left in the first half at the humid sauna bath that was Fichtel Field, the teams dug in for what would be a defensive coach's delight.
After the extra point attempt by A.J. Friedman was blocked, it wasn't improbable to think Marmion could not make the six points hold up the rest of the night.
After all, Fenwick (1-1) had minus-1 yard of total offense and no first downs in the first half, while Marmion controlled the ball for 19:04 of the first half's 24 minutes.
But Marmion (1-1) needed numerous standout plays on defense to keep the Friars at bay.
The first came midway through the third quarter when Tyler Boyd wrapped up Friar fullback Robert Spillane at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-5 play at the Cadet 16-yard line.
Two more came with just over four minutes left in the game when Marmion cornerback Dan Wedge blitzed and sacked Fenwick quarterback Pat Hart for a 9-yard loss on a third-and-goal inside the Cadet 10-yard line, and then stopped receiver Joe Kelly short of the goal line after his fourth-down pass reception.
"It was a good time to call the blitz," said Wedge, a senior. "They were really tough runners, including their quarterback, but we did what we had to do and things went our way on that last play."
It gave Marmion the ball at its own 5-yard line with four minutes left, setting up what Thorpe felt was the biggest play of the night. After one first down, the Cadets were forced to punt from their own 15-yard line with 45 seconds left in the game. Friedman had to punt under a heavy rush and ended up booming it 50 yards. A roughing the passer penalty brought the ball back for Marmion to run out the clock for the victory.
"That was a big punt formation and we got it off, even though we knew they were coming," Thorpe said. "We were thinking of taking a safety there, but we decided to punt because the kids said they could do it.
"This was just a great win for us, and it was a total team effort," Thorpe added. "It was so hot, and we had to play a lot of kids, and they all came through tonight."
Marmion's offensive line carried the load in the first half, opening holes for Garrett Becker (13 carries, 55 yards) and Cody Snodgrass (13 carries, 50 yards) after quarterback Charlie Faunce had the Friars off balance with 29 yards on quarterback keepers.
"It was a slugfest the whole game and it was all about who won the line of scrimmage, and we won it tonight," Becker said. "I am really proud of our offensive line tonight because they really bounced back from a bad game (at Batavia)."
Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio put the loss squarely on his shoulders, saying he was disorganized and caused his team to burn too many timeouts.
"We were sloppy, it was the sloppiest coaching on my part," DiCanio said. "I, as a coach, blew this game. I had no control of the sidelines and didn't do what I normally do as a coach.
"Marmion was very good and we couldn't get them off the line of scrimmage," DiCanio said. "They were very good on defense, and it showed that they went to a state championship last year."
Fenwick finished with only 108 total yards on offense and mustered only five first downs. The Friars gained 60 yards rushing, with 27 of those coming on one carry by Nick Johnson.
Marmion didn't fare much better, with 166 total yards. But the Cadets compiled 12 first downs in staging time-consuming drives that kept Fenwick's offense off the field.