MFL MarMac rolls to record-breaking 65-28 win over Maquoketa Valley

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Whether it was offense, defense or special teams, Cullen McShane did it all for the Bulldogs in the 65-28 win over Maquoketa Valley Friday night. The junior scored two rushing touchdowns for MFL MarMac, in addition to blocking a punt and recovering a fumble that were both taken to the end zone. Here, he gets a block from lineman Josh Reichard. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Wing back Karter Decker carried the ball five times for the Bulldogs, accumulating 43 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff 68 yards for a touchdown.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The MFL MarMac football team rolled to a 65-28 victory over visiting Maquoketa Valley in the season opener Aug. 28—a school record for points scored in a game.

“I believed in my guys, believed we were going to win,” acknowledged head coach Dan Anderson. “But if you would’ve said we were going to put 65 points on the board in the first one of the year, I would’ve said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.’”

“We didn’t make the mistakes,” he said. “That team we played is a better football team than that. They made some mistakes and we capitalized on them.”

One of those mistakes came just minutes into the game, when, after the Wildcats’ opening drive stalled, MFL MarMac junior Cullen McShane blocked the punt and returned it for a touchdown. The extra point was good, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0.

Maquoketa Valley punted after their next drive too, and Bulldog sophomore Karter Decker returned it 68 yards to the end zone. The extra point was blocked, leaving MFL MarMac up 13-0 with 8:43 remaining in the first quarter.

Those returns “just got the momentum going,” Anderson said. “I don’t think we’ve had a blocked punt in the last couple years. We were up 13-0 before our offense even took the field. We just found ways to score touchdowns.”

Two minutes later, the Wildcats got on the board with a touchdown and two-point conversion, trimming the lead to 13-8.

The Bulldogs responded early in the second quarter, though, as senior quarterback Max Havlicek tossed a fourth down scoring pass to senior receiver Cayden Ball. A McShane two-point conversion upped the total to 21-8.

Maquoketa Valley then fumbled the kick return, which McShane recovered for the Bulldogs. On the first play of the offensive drive, Havlicek connected with Ball again, from 40 yards out. Junior Gabe McGeough went in for the two-point conversion, pushing the MFL MarMac advantage to 29-8.

With 10:26 left in the half, the Wildcats made it 29-14 after a touchdown and failed two-point conversion. Near the four-minute mark, they scored again, to trail just 29-20.

But the Bulldogs weren’t done scoring. With 59 seconds left, McShane recovered a Wildcat fumble and went 47 yards for a touchdown. He also completed the two-point conversion, making it 37-20. 

Decker then recovered the kickoff, giving the Bulldogs the ball at the Maq Valley 26 yardline. 

“We weren’t trying an onside—we just squib kicked it and their kid didn’t cover it up. Decker was down there and got it,” Anderson explained. 

McGeough reached the end zone with just seconds remaining. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but MFL MarMac entered the locker room with a big 43-20 lead.

“That was a backbreaker for [Maquoketa Valley] because it was still a pretty tight ballgame,” stated Anderson.

Heading into the third quarter, Anderson said time was on the Bulldogs’ side. The team was instructed not to throw the ball, but to “pound it and grind it,” to move the sticks and keep the clock running. They put the game out of reach with 6:40 left in the quarter, when Decker earned a rushing touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 51-20.

With less than nine minutes left in the game, McShane scored again. Havlicek tacked on two points after a fumble on the extra point attempt, to bring the score to 59-20.

The Wildcats reached the end zone for the final time at the 4:53 mark, cutting the Bulldog advantage to 59-28.

MFL MarMac, with younger players now in the game, tallied its last points with a minute and a half to go, when freshman Wyatt Powell raced into the end zone. The extra point was blocked, setting the score at 65-28.

Offensively, Havlicek completed six of eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Ball caught three of those passes, for 67 yards and two touchdowns, while McShane had 39 yards on three receptions.

McShane led the team’s ground attack, with 11 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. McGeough carried the ball 15 times for 84 yards and a touchdown, and Decker had 43 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

On the defensive side, four different Bulldogs—Havlicek, Decker, McGeough and sophomore Austin Schlee— had six tackles. McShane had four total tackles and a sack, and also led the team with three fumble recoveries.

Anderson said the key to the Bulldogs’ success was that they won all phases of the game: special teams, offense and defense.

“I think we learned we can win football games in different ways than we did last year. We don’t have to physically, up front, knock people back,” he noted.

“We ran the ball, three plays over and over again, proving that we can pound the ball still,” he added, “but we can also win on special teams. We threw some deep balls when we had time to throw it. We got them to jump offsides three or four different times that gave us easy first downs. Just playing good, smart football and taking what they give us.”

The Bulldogs hope to build on their success this Friday, Sept. 4, at Alburnett.

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