Mustangs march to opening win
Defense helps East Marshall deliver first season-opening victory since 2012
LE GRAND — All the hopes and dreams that come with the start of a new season escaped with Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont’s opening drive, but the East Marshall football team bottled up the Rockets the rest of the way and got those feelings back.
The Mustang defense refused to relent after E-B-F took the opening possession 71 yards in 12 plays for a go-ahead score, and East Marshall made its comeback for a 22-18 season-opening win in Friday’s Week Zero contest.
Thrown into action a week earlier than most of the teams in the state, East Marshall’s defense looked equally unprepared to stop the Rockets on their opening drive. Save for a false start on its first play from scrimmage, everything Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont did yielded positive results, culminating with Trey Moore’s 1-yard touchdown run. Justin Ridout blocked the extra-point attempt by Ethan Olivas, and the Mustangs’ defense turned things around from there.
Cole Nauman returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter to keep East Marshall in the game, and the Mustang defense kept the Rockets at bay long enough for the offense to find its stride and help deliver the team’s first season-opening win since 2012.
“This feels a lot better,” said Mustang head coach Matt Bandstra. “There’s a lot of players back from last year, but this team just feels different. They showed that when they were down 12-8 and they scored and we came back.”
Nauman’s pick-six was all the offense East Marshall could muster in the first half, as the Mustangs were limited to 18 yards from scrimmage. The team had only two first downs but went into the intermission down only 12-8 after Moore connected with Wyatt Klyn for a go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left before the break.
Nauman’s 35-yard punt return late in the third quarter set up the Mustang offense with the ball at the Rockets’ 27, and Noah Bandstra toted the pigskin twice for 10 yards before Dillon Lee punched it across the pylon from 17 yards out for the go-ahead score.
“Cole Nauman is a playmaker for us, but we need him out there in a lot of rotations,” coach Bandstra said. “He’s a heck of a weapon but you have to do a balancing act in trying to keep guys fresh, but what a nice weapon to have.”
Leading 14-12, East Marshall’s defense stood strong. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, and Logan Nicholson recovered Moore’s fumble forced by Zane Johnson on the Rockets’ next drive.
The Mustangs didn’t capitalize with points, but absorbed a lot of clock before Johnson punted to E-B-F’s 8-yard line. A false start penalty sabotaged the Rockets’ chances and Moore threw incomplete on fourth-and-long, and Bandstra made a pair of 11-yard runs — the last of which finished in the end zone. Tyler DeBondt passed to Nicholson for their second two-point conversion connection of the game, and the 22-14 lead with 1:42 remaining withstood E-B-F’s two-minute drill.
The Rockets marched down the field against East Marshall’s cover-4 defense, which Bandstra said would never get called again after E-B-F’s six-play, 64-yard drive ended on Moore’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 41 seconds remaining.
Not until Johnson fell on the Rockets’ onside kick did East Marshall get to start celebrating its first win of the season, which matched the win total for each of the last three fall campaigns for the Mustangs.
Noah Bandstra led East Marshall with 64 rushing yards on 11 carries, and Lee finished with 60 yards on 14 attempts. DeBondt was limited to 2-for-11 passing for 11 yards with an interception, but the final score was all the Mustangs were worried about after the game. Kam Hoskins caught both DeBondt passes.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont outgained the Mustangs 200-126 in total offense, led by Moore’s 128 passing yards, but two turnovers proved costly for the Rockets.
Bandstra paced the Mustang defense with nine solo tackles and three assists, while Lee had six solo stops and five assists. Nicholson totaled seven tackles.
East Marshall’s originally scheduled season opener is a road game next Friday night at Hudson. The Pirates edged the Mustangs last fall, 8-7 in Le Grand.
East Marshall 22,
At Le Grand
E-B-F 6 6 0 6 — 18
EM 8 0 6 8 — 22
E-B-F — Trey Moore 1 run (kick blocked), 7:35.
EM — Cole Nauman 48 interception return (Logan Nicholson pass from Tyler DeBondt), :49.
E-B-F — Wyatt Klyn 6 pass from Moore (run failed), :10.
EM — Dillon Lee 17 run (pass failed), :56.
EM — Noah Bandstra 11 run (Nicholson pass from DeBondt), 1:42.
E-B-F — Moore 1 run (run failed), :41.
RUSHING — E-B-F: Ethan Olivas 9-40, Trey Moore 17-25, Ryan Henkle 6-15, Dillon Howard 6-(minus-8); EM: Noah Bandstra 11-64, Dillon Lee 14-60, Cole Nauman 1-4, Tyler DeBondt 13-(minus-13).
PASSING — E-B-F: Moore 11-21-128-1; EM: DeBondt 2-11-11-1.
RECEIVING — E-B-F: Wyatt Klyn 5-44, Howard 2-37, Olivas 2-31, Gabe Larkin 1-13, Henkle 1-3; EM: Kam Hoskins 2-11.