The results from the first two plays of Saturday's Class 6A state playoff football game couldn't have been much better for Marmion.
After Prairie Ridge's Jordan Getzelman stepped out of bounds with the opening kickoff inside the Wolves' 5-yard line, Marmion junior defensive tackle Mike Hughes recovered quarterback Nick Nissen's fumble at the 9 on the Wolves' first play from scrimmage.
"The kick was great and we sold the house with the first play," said Cadets coach Dan Thorpe. "We wanted to let them know that we were going to be aggressive defensively so we blitzed everybody. The first two plays were exactly what we were hoping for."
But Prairie Ridge turned the Cadets' early scoring threat aside when Sean Folliard blocked A.J. Friedman's 24-yard field goal attempt.
Ten plays later, Nissen scored the game's first touchdown on an 11-yard keeper with 7:03 left in the opening quarter.
From there, things went from bad to worse for the Cadets (5-5).
Second-seeded Prairie Ridge (9-1) scored touchdowns on each of its final 4 possessions of the second quarter to build a 42-0 halftime lead en route to a 49-0 victory in Crystal Lake.
Nissen recovered quickly from his early turnover and finished with 4 rushing touchdowns, as the Wolves bounced back from last week's overtime loss to Cary-Grove.
"The defense came up huge stopping them that close to the goal line," said Nissen, who gained 38 yards on 12 carries. "We built off of that and got our composure back.
"Before the game, we talked about last week's loss," added Nissen, whose team will visit Glenbard South in second-round action next weekend. "Cary-Grove is one of our biggest enemies so it hurt to lose to them but it definitely helped out our team a lot."
Connor Greenwald (11 carries, 144 yards) and Getzelman added first-half touchdowns, while Getzelman capped the scoring with a 17-yard TD run midway through the third quarter.
How difficult was it for the Cadets?
They finished with just 23 total yards of offense all on the ground. Their lone first down came via a Prairie Ridge personal foul penalty in the second quarter.
"I don't want to give them any bad luck but they're pretty impressive," said Thorpe. "They're an excellent football team. They've got a tremendous program with great coaches."
It marked the second season-ending playoff loss at Prairie Ridge in 3 years for third-year varsity lineman Ryan Glasgow, who returned to the lineup after missing Week 9 with a shoulder injury.
"I wanted to play with the team again," said Glasgow. "I wasn't going to spend the last game on the sidelines.
"Being here, it's kind of ironic but it's also very difficult knowing that we may not have the same brotherhood ever again. It has been a great experience being with these guys at Marmion. Having it end so early in comparison to last year is really difficult."
While tying a school record with their third straight postseason berth (1996-98), the Cadets have posted a 26-9 mark the past 3 seasons.
"This senior group left the program better," said Thorpe. "Now, expectations are higher each year at Marmion. That's what you want in a program."