Willmar can't stop Marshall rush to final
MARSHALL -- Run, and then run some more.
That's all Marshall did to erase Willmar from the Section 2AAAA playoffs late Saturday evening at Mattke Field.
The No. 2-seeded Tigers (9-1) bolted to a 21-0 lead and then snuffed a comeback by the No. 3 seed to claim a 27-18 win in the semifinals.
The Tiger offense displayed speed and power to roll up 321 yards, every inch on the ground.
Beau Bofferding sprinted for 158 yards and a touchdown and 240-pound fullback Brennan Cable bulled his way to 139 yards in 30 snaps and two touchdowns.
"They could burn you either way," said Willmar outside linebacker Jake Rambow. "They're a good pair. We just couldn't get a key stop."
Willmar ousted the Tigers a year ago in the quarterfinals, 34-28, at Hodapp Field. Despite three losses, the Cardinals looked like a good bet on the Tigers' home field at the Regional Sports Complex on the Southwest Minnesota State University campus.
"We knew they had two good backs and what they'd try to do," said Willmar coach Jon Konold. "They just kind of whipped us tonight."
Behind a big offensive line, junior quarterback Alex Fenske marched the Tigers 75 yards. Cable busted off tackle for the last 17 for a 6-0 lead. Willmar lost linebacker Coty Milhausen with a badly sprained ankle early in the drive.
Willmar came right back. Grant Schow ran for 24 yards to the Marshall 31. On fourth down at the 19, Alex Grove threw over the middle to Ryan Lawler but Mason Schniable made a leaping interception and wound his way 95 yards to the Willmar end zone for a 14-0 lead.
Then, Bofferding broke a 57-yard run for a 21-0 lead to complete an 80-yard drive.
Willmar finally answered with a 62-yard scoring drive interrupted by sudden blackness as Grove was taking a snap at the Marshall 4. The light towers went dark at 9 p.m., as programmed, after the college football game, which had ended at 7:15 p.m. After a 15 minute delay, Grove went four yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 halftime score.
Willmar held Marshall to a single score in the second half but was unable to make up the lost ground.
In the third quarter, Dean Stier caught an over-the-shoulder pass for 30 yards to the Marshall four. Two plays later, Nathanial Swoyer leaped over his linemen to make it 21-13.
Landon Peterson blocked a Marshall field goal and Willmar's Mitch Fader booted a 37-yard field goal at the other end that closed the Marshall lead to five points with eight minutes left in regulation.
The Tigers' responded with a 67-yard drive with Cable plowing in from the two for a 27-16 lead. The big play was a 13-yard counter for a first down by Ben Sanders.
Trailing by 11 with three minutes left, Willmar kept battling but the most they could squeeze out was an intentional safety by the Marshall punter.
"Down 21-0, we could have folded," said Konold, "but we came back with two scores."
Willmar totaled 309 yards. Schow ran for 88 yards and Grove threw for 199 yards, but was picked off twice by Schniable.
Swoyer ended his three years as a starting linebacker with 15 tackles.
"It's really hard to know this is the last time I'll get to play with this group," said Jeremy Schendel, one of 17 senior starters. "We've been like a family."
Marshall 27, Willmar 18
Willmar (6-4) 0 7 6 5 -- 18
Marshall (9-1) 14 7 0 6 -- 27
Mar - Brennan Cable 17 run (kick fail)
Mar - Mason Schniable 95 interception return (Ben Sanders pass from Alex Fenske)
Mar - Beau Bofferding 57 run (Tanner Cirks kick)
Wil - Alex Grove 4 run (Mitch Fader kick)
Wil - Nathanial Swoyer 2 run (pass fail)
Wil - Fader 37 field goal
Mar - Cable 2 run (pass fail)
Wil - Safety, punter ran out of end zone
First downs: 17 ... Rushing: 27-110 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 13-29-199-2 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 1-5
Rushing: Grant Schow 20-88, Alex Grove 5-20, Nathanial Swoyer 3-2 ... Passing: Grove 13-29-199-2 ... Receiving: Ryan Lawler 4-65, Jeremy Schendel 4-28, Dean Stier 4-28, 2-33, Blake Graves 2-38, Schow 1-34 ... Punting: Swoyer 2-33.5 ... Interceptions: Nate Esboldt ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles: Lawler 2, Jake Damhof 5, Gabe Amon 7, Esboldt 4, Landon Peterson 9, Nate Streed 6, Jake Rambow 5, Swoyer 15, Coty Milhausen 3, Carl Adamek 9, Matt Cordes 2, Cole Christopher 3, Taylor Neumann 1, Jeff Duininck 1, Nate Johnson 5 ... QB sacks: none
First downs: 16 ... Rushing: 47-321 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 0-3-0-1 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 5-42-
Rushing: Brennan Cable 30-139, Beau Bofferding 14-158, Ben Sanders 2-16, Alex Fenske 1-5 ... Passing: Fenske 0-3-0-1 ... Receiving: none ... Punting: Tanner Cirks 1-29.0 ... Interceptions: Mason Schnaible 2 ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles: not available ... QB sacks: none