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Late TD drive helps Marmion hang on
By Eric Bridges | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 9/24/2011 1:58 AM

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Marmion had built 14-point leads three times during the game, but Immaculate Conception kept battling back until there finally wasn't any time left to the battle.

When the smoke cleared and the final gun sounded at Fichtel Field, the Cadets had outlasted the Knights 28-20.

Cadet junior Jake Ruddy scored his first of two touchdowns from 6 yards out with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, and felt that establishing their running game to control the clock and keep the Knights explosive offense off the field was a key to the game.

"We were trying to keep the ball out of the quarterback's (Demetrius Carr) hands because he's a really good runner and passer," Ruddy said. "We were trying to hold it as long as we could."

A 4-yard keeper by quarterback Charlie Faunce gave Marmion (3-2, 1-1) a 14-0 with 55 seconds left in the half on a drive that started on their own 20-yard line and consumed over five minutes. Knights junior quarterback Carr entered the game having ran for 327 yards and thrown for 408, accounting for 8 touchdowns in just three games, and it didn't take him long to march the Knights back down the field to pull within a touchdown.

With 48 seconds left in the half, Carr picked up back-to-back first downs with his legs and his arm. A 14-yard run and a 17-yard pass to Tim Hipskind brought the ball to the Cadets' 42-yard line, and an 11-yard run by Matt Mesnard and subsequent 10-yard penalty on the Cadets put the Knights on the 26-yard line with 6 seconds to play in the half. Hipskind reeled in Carr's pass in the front corner of the end zone, keeping both feet in bounds to secure the touchdown as time expired to bring Immaculate Conception (4-1) within 14-7.

Marmion's ball-control offense had allowed the Cadets to keep Carr and the high-powered offense off the field for most of the first half, and they started the second half with the same mindset. With 7:35 left in the third quarter, Ruddy scored his second touchdown of the night, catching a 19-yard pass from Faunce to give the Cadets a seemingly commanding 21-7 lead.

"We put in a new play," Ruddy said. "We saw it and checked out of it, and then we ran it later and it was open and it worked out pretty well."

Marmion's defense continued holding off the Knights best counters, but momentum seemed to change in the Knights favor with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter. Facing fourth down on the Knights' 47-yard line, the Cadets elected to punt to pin the Knights back, but the strategy went wrong when Dakota Baker and Nick Mrugacz blocked A.J. Friedman's punt and took over on the Cadets' 47-yard line. The field position changed enough to allow the Knights to start from their own 48-yard line two possessions later and Dan Vatch scored from the 1-yard line with 6:38 to play to close the score to 21-14.

Marmion's running game had been slowed by the loss of Garret Becker's hamstring injury early into the fourth quarter, but the Cadets continued to pound the ball right into the middle of the Knights defense for 3 to 4 yards at a time, chewing up over five minutes, and picking up four critical first downs on their way to scoring their fourth touchdown on a 5-yard run by junior Cody Snodgrass with just 1:42 left.

Carr brought the Knights downfield and made the score 28-20 with only 2.2 seconds remaining, but the onside kick was recovered by Marmion.

Knights coach Chris VanDyke credited the Marmion defense with keeping his squad off the field. "We just couldn't get into a good rhythm tonight," VanDyke said. "They did a great job of being physical up front, which we knew they would do, but we just left our defense out there too long, and it's hard to win ball games when you do that."

"We respected their offense tremendously," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. "We know they are well-coached and can run the ball and pass the ball equally well. This was a hard-fought victory and our kids had to earn it. I'm very proud of our kids, especially our offensive line. That was a heck of an effort there in the last six minutes of the game to drive it down there and score again."