Late first-half touchdowns can be just as important as the ones scored in the second half.
Marian Central Catholic marched 80 yards in 7 plays, capped by quarterback Chris Streveler's 11-yard touchdown run with 37.9 seconds left in the first half, to break a 7-7 deadlock and give the Hurricanes a 14-7 halftime advantage.
From there, the state's top-ranked Class 5A team pulled away in the second half for a 28-7 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division triumph over Marmion on Friday night at Fichtel Field in Aurora.
Utilizing a no-huddle offense, Streveler completed 5 of 6 passes for 69 yards -- 3 of them thrown to 6-3, 235-pound tight end/wide receiver Scott Stochl (8 catches, 86 yards) for 47 yards during the one-minute drive that put Marian Central Catholic (9-0, 5-0) on top for good.
"We've got to get some points but the key to the game was that drive right before halftime," said Cadets coach Dan Thorpe. "That's the sign of a good team. They went 80 yards in a minute or so. I would call the same defenses -- they just executed."
Marian's hurry-up score came moments after Marmion place-kicker A.J. Friedman's 42-yard field goal that would have given the Cadets their first lead of the night caromed off the crossbar.
"That score right before halftime was big," said Marian coach Ed Brucker, whose team had outscored its last four opponents by a staggering 195-19 margin. "We really sputtered tonight but give credit to Marmion.
"We really haven't played a full game in four weeks because we haven't had to," added Brucker. "We made some mistakes tonight but we played well enough to win."
Marian grabbed a 7-0 first-quarter lead on a 33-yard TD pass from Streveler (14-of-20, 205 yards) to Nikko Theodorou on a fourth-and-2 play.
The Cadets (5-4, 2-3), who will learn of their playoff fate tonight but are expected to have enough points to qualify in Class 6A, tied the game on an 82-yard touchdown run by Cody Snodgrass (11 carries, 121 yards) with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter.
"That was miscommunication on our part," said Brucker. "We weren't where we were supposed to be."
Kyle Thompson's interception helped set up Streveler's 1-yard touchdown run with 5:03 left in the third quarter, while a 1-yard TD plunge by tailback Sam Calderaro (16 carries, 140 yards) with 8:55 remaining helped seal Marian's unbeaten regular-season finish.
Despite the loss, Thorpe liked some things he saw from his team that was without injured 2-way lineman Ryan Glasgow (shoulder) and junior linebacker Matt Lally (foot).
"We played with some energy that we haven't had lately," said Thorpe. "We talk about big games coming down to three or four plays. We had the chance to get some interceptions in the first half. You've got to make those plays.
"But the better team won tonight. My hat's off to Coach Brucker and their kids. They're very deserving of being undefeated conference champions, and they're going to be fun to watch in 5A (playoffs)."
Thorpe is eager to find out where his team will head for next weekend's first round of the playoffs.
"It'll be interesting to see what we do next week," said Thorpe. "There's not many times where you get a second chance in life. We've got a second chance. Everybody is undefeated now. I'm excited for next week."