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Speak with Marmion coach Dan Thorpe throughout the football season and you hear a lot about pulling guards.
They're a crucial part of the Cadets' ground game and due to key injuries the offensive line has needed tinkering. Entering the Class 6A playoffs, Thorpe thinks there's a proper recipe up front.
Sophomore Baylor Johnson moved in at center last week, 6-foot-3, 245-pound junior Luke Juriga moved to right guard and with 230-pound three-year starter Zach Siwiec at the other guard Marmion crunched Walther Christian, 43-0.
"I think we had three touchdowns on the sweep, which we have not had the last three weeks," Thorpe said. That's the momentum No. 5 seed Marmion will take Friday against No. 12 Fenton (6-3).
"We need to score points," Thorpe said. "When we score points we're a pretty darn good team."
Fullback Nick Warren and the sweep-oriented cast that includes Josh Meyers, Mike Montalbano and Enzo Olabi — quarterback Brock Krueger, too — may have to pick it up a notch. Marmion's top rusher, Jordan Glasgow, twisted an ankle at Walther Christian and may not play, Thorpe said.
Ball control, consistent passing and perhaps the luck of catching Fenton's aggressive defense blitzing the wrong spot will be useful to keep what Thorpe called an "explosive" Bison offense on the sidelines.
Alex Cowan, a 5-foot-7, 150-pound senior running back, has about 800 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns. Fenton also features offensive diversity. Quarterback Willie Wassmann has a pair of tall receivers to target in 6-foot-4 Zach Jakalski and 6-6 tight end Greg Wagner.
Marmion defensive backs such as Jake Gallaher, Seth Sevenich and Tyler Eberth are only too happy to see a jump ball coming. Gallaher picked off 2 passes last week, returning one for a 70-yard touchdown. Eberth hit St. Francis with a 98-yard interception return in Week 7.
Fenton needed all of its wins to reach the playoffs, facing teams that went a combined 30-51 compared to Marmion's 43-38. But if the Cadets can't get their sweep going or make turnovers, strength of schedule won't mean squat.
"The beauty of the playoffs is they just have to be clicking one night," Thorpe said. "If they're on Friday night, then who we play the first nine weeks is irrelevant."