LE GRAND - The Mustangs have made their living on the ground this season, but it was through the air that they turned the momentum for their first district win.
With only 24 pass attempts on the year, East Marshall (3-3, 1-0) closed the third quarter with a picture perfect throw as Mitch Berry hauled in a 69-yard bomb from Walker Steward to turn the tide and hold off Roland-Story (1-4, 0-2) in a 33-31 thriller Friday.
"That was huge for our team. When Mitch caught that pass, it sealed the game. We got the momentum back and took it from there," said Mustangs running back Zach Rubenbauer, who - along with Josh Wilson - helped open up the passing game with a strong performance on the ground.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall’s Josh Wilson (23) opens up a running lane for Mitch Berry (31). Berry hauled in a 69-yard scoring strike to turn the momentum in a 33-31 victory over Roland-Story in Le Grand.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
East Marshall defenders Josh Wilson, left, and Matt Flugge team up to knock down Roland-Story’s Josiah Soderstrum (21) near the 5-yard line of Friday’s game in Le Grand.
Rubenbauer finished with 134 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries and Wilson rumbled for 136 yards and two scores on 17 rushes.
Leading 21-7 late in the first half, the Mustangs saw their grip on the game loosen quickly. The Norsemen responded with 17 unanswered points sparked by a 10-yard scoring strike from Evan Johnson to Ryan Skaar to close the half. The duo connected again on a 4-yard score with 4:21 in the third before Charlie Steenhagen tacked on a 30-yard field goal three minutes later as the Norsemen cashed in on a pair of East Marshall turnovers.
Following Berry's game-changing touchdown reception, the Mustangs added some cushion as Wilson punched in his second touchdown of the night from seven yards out to put East Marshall in front 33-24. Roland-Story answered with a one-yard plunge from Ryan Gast to close the gap to two, before the Mustangs went back to their bread and butter to bleed the clock.
Coming off a winless campaign a year ago, East Marshall is seeing its fortune change in Pat Farley's first season in command.
"We're still learning how to win. Roland-Story came in here and kicked us around a bit," said Farley. "Resilience is something we've talked a lot about in practice. It's something we haven't had in the past here and we're developing it.
That resilience is paying off - and leaving a big imprint on the Mustangs.
"Last year we didn't win a game. Now we're 1-0 in the district. It's huge. It's big. It's the best time of the year," said Rubenbauer.