CONRAD - Jess VanderWeerdt questioned his team's collective mental toughness heading into the final week of preseason practice.
The Comets didn't seem to be lacking any Friday.
Winning the war in the trenches and limiting East Marshall's ground-and-pound attack, the BCLUW football team pulled away with 14 points in the third quarter to shut the door in a 42-13 victory in non-district play.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
BCLUW’S Luke Asche tries to evade a Mustang tackler as East Marshall’s Jake Pippin (33) and Payton Steward (13) close in on the play. The Comets took advantage of 13-first half penalties by the Mustangs in a 42-13 Week Zero win in Conrad Friday.
Setting the tone in his varsity debut, Comet senior Clarke Macy rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while Conner Ubben threw for 155 yards and two scores, while running for another in the rout.
The Mustangs committed 13-first half penalties though none loomed larger than a second quarter roughing the passer on 4th-and-6 from the East Marshall 8, which set up a four-yard TD burst from Macy on the next play and pushed the lead to 14-0.
Macy, who started last season as a JV linemen before moving to running back, broke loose for 43 yards on his first varsity carry and spurred BCLUW's ground game with 87 yards in the first half.
"It was kind of by accident, last year there was a JV game and someone got hurt," said VanderWeerdt of Macy's transition to tailback. "He gets his shoulders square early, he doesn't go side-to-side."
The Mustangs had their own forward movement going on the ensuing drive. East Marshall marched all the way down to the Comets' 15, though an illegal procedure penalty and an incompletion kept them off the board heading into the break.
Luke Asche opened the second half with a long kick return before Tyler Lutes followed with a 22-yard dash up the middle to stretch the gap to 21-0 only 23 seconds into the third.
East Marshall answered with a four-yard burst from Zach Rubenbauer, though a false start and missed extra point stalled the momentum before the Comets struck once again. Facing third-and-12, Ubben lofted a pass down the right sideline, which Taylor Sams reeled in and sprinted ahead for a 79-yard score.
"(Conner) made a great read. I'm glad he wasn't overly cautious there," VanderWeerdt said of his quarterback, who finished 7-of-17 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"He threw a good ball and it was kind of a backbreaker for (East Marshall)."
BCLUW continued to grind away with a 17-play scoring drive spanning nearly half of the third quarter, before Ubben plunged in from a yard out early in the fourth.
Mitch Miller set the continuous clock in motion with a 35-yard interception return on the next play from scrimmage to widen the margin to 42-6 with 10:56 remaining. After surrendering a 14-0 lead in a 36-21 loss to the Mustangs a year ago, the Comets left nothing to chance Friday.
"Everybody was just pretty motivated," said Macy.
"After we saw some early results, everybody just wanted to keep it going."
The Comets' opening score came on a nine-yard strike from Ubben to Ty Runge with 3:57 left in the first. Sams pulled in three catches for 117 yards, while Caster had three for 29.
Rubenbauer finished with 80 yards on 21 carries, while also hauling in a pair of catches for 35 yards. Tanner Parrish added 29 yards on nine rushes and Nick Long took his lone carry 85 yards for a touchdown to set the final margin. Though it was too little too late for the Mustangs, who stubbed their toe one too many times in the first half and couldn't match the Comets' aggression.
"We didn't execute. We didn't come here ready to play competitive football and BCLUW did a nice job," East Marshall coach Patrick Farley said.
"They were more physical than us - and in any scheme that's going to work to your favor."
Both teams are back in action next Friday at 7 p.m. The Comets travel to AGWSR, while the Mustangs host BGM.
"We have to get a lot better," Farley said of the Mustangs' upcoming game.
"We're not disciplined and we're not real physical, so those are things we have to try and patch up real quick because BGM is one of the top teams in the state and they're going to come ready to play."
East Marshall defeated BCLUW 36-21 last year, while the Comets claimed a 26-22 decision in 2011. Both games were in Le Grand.