No. 10 West Marshall marches past No. 9 Atlantic
STATE CENTER — The West Marshall offense shifted over from big plays to big drives.
The 10th-ranked Trojans leaned on their sizable front line for four lengthy scoring drives to defeat No. 9 Atlantic, 27-7, in Friday’s Class 2A state football playoff game, collecting their eighth-straight win and their first trip to the quarterfinals since 2012.
West Marshall (8-1) will host No. 3 PCM (9-0) on Nov. 6 in State Center with a spot in the state semifinals at the UNI-Dome on the line.
Trojans head coach Cody Hackett doesn’t care if it’s the big plays from West Marshall’s second-round rout of Centerville or the long, time-consuming drives from Friday’s third-round triumph over Atlantic (7-2) that get them there, but he expects it will require the latter against a PCM squad that has pitched six shutouts this season.
“They’ve blown out a lot of teams, they have a high-powered offense and their starters have only played half of games throughout the season,” Hackett said. “They’re a good team and we’ve got to be ready to go. I think our kids have a goal in mind and we’re going to stay the path and hopefully we can keep moving on.”
West Marshall did that in a much more methodical manner than the round before, when a 60-0 victory over Centerville featured a number of short scoring possessions that ended with big plays. Against an Atlantic team driven with emotion over an injured teammate, West Marshall had to grind it out on the ground.
Fortunately for the host Trojans, that’s what they’re built for.
West Marshall piled up 268 yards of rushing on 57 carries, chewing up the clock and the yards while keeping Atlantic’s offense off the field at the same time. West Marshall dominated the time of possession, winning that battle 35:22 to 12:05.
The visiting Trojans ran just nine offensive plays in the first half, but got some good fortune to go with their internal motivation.
Atlantic senior Steele McLaren was hospitalized on Sunday when he reportedly fell out of the bed of a pickup truck and hit his head on the concrete while hunting near Anita. He was taken by ambulance to Omaha for surgery and as of Friday remained in critical condition.
McLaren’s brother, junior quarterback Garrett McLaren, wore his brother’s No. 32 jersey, while West Marshall honored their opponent by wearing No. 32 stickers touting “Steele Strong” on their helmets.
After West Marshall marched the opening possession 75 yards on an 11-play drive lasting 6 minutes, 2 seconds, and finishing with a 1-yard touchdown burst by sophomore quarterback Peyton Hart, Atlantic eventually fought back for its only lead of the game. Colin Mullenix boomed a 52-yard punt that pinned West Marshall back to its own 21, and a bad snap led to an eventual punt by the Trojans. Two plays later, Corey Parrott carried around left end for a 20-yard touchdown run, and Lane Nelson’s point-after kick gave Atlantic a 7-6 lead.
West Marshall kept pushing and responded in kind, capping a 14-play, 64-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hart to Brayden Evertsen. Preston Pope’s 2-point conversion run gave the hosts a 14-7 lead that lasted into halftime.
Hackett was simply pleased with the way his team responded to its opponent’s emotional play.
“We told them all week that Atlantic was going to play with emotions, high emotions, and things may get out of hand for them and that’s OK,” Hackett said. “He’s a very good teammate of theirs, a really good player and just a good person from what I’ve ready, so I thought our kids handled it very well.
“But we still have a goal, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do, and I’m proud of our guys. They controlled themselves as well. I’m excited, I’m proud of them and we won.”
West Marshall turned back to its ground-and-pound offense to push ahead in the second half. After an interception near midfield, the Trojans turned in a 10-play, 67-yard drive that finished with a 17-yard touchdown run for Pope, and after another interception by the defense it was a 14-play, 86-yard drive that lasted 8:42 and put the game away with Pope’s 1-yard plunge.
A number of the Trojans’ offensive plays, of no surprise to anyone, followed senior tackle Luke Pinnick, a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder headed to Northern Illinois.
“I give a lot of credit to our line, we really stepped up tonight,” Pinnick said. “We got the job done. We said what we were going to do and we did it.
“That’s what we’re all about, we’re a long-drive team, we’re going to drive it down your throat and that’s what we’re going to do. Once we get momentum going it’s hard to stop us and we like to take advantage of that.”
Pope finished with 25 carries for 150 yards, Hart had 21 totes for 104 yards, and fullback Jarrin Goecke added eight carries for 40 yards. All told, the Trojans racked up 309 yards of total offense to Atlantic’s 136. The visiting Trojans had just five first downs and lost the turnover battle 3-0.
“Now we’re down to the final eight teams, every team is going to get tougher from here on out and of course we have a tough one with PCM,” Hackett said.
HONORING THEIR OWN NO. 32
West Marshall had the last possession of the game, running three plays to wind the final 1:38 off the clock. The third kneel-down was performed by senior Ben Kielman, whose season was lost to knee surgery. Kielman, a two-time all-district linebacker, was a third-team all-state selection last fall as a junior. He led the Trojans with 79.5 tackles a season ago.
West Marshall 27, Atlantic 7
At State Center
ATL 7 0 0 0 — 7
WM 6 8 7 6 — 27
WM — Peyton Hart 1 run (kick blocked), 5:51.
ATL — Corey Parrott 20 run (Lane Nelson kick), :07.
WM — Brayden Evertsen 6 pass from Hart (Preston Pope run), 5:05.
WM — Pope 17 run (Hart kick), 5:37.
WM — Pope 1 run (kick failed), 4:29.
First downs 5 19
Rushes-yards 17-76 57-268
Passing yards 60 43
Comp-Att-Int 4-11-2 2-4-0
Total offense 28-136 61-309
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 7-53 4-53
Time of Poss 12:05 35:22
RUSHING — ATL: Parrott 7-37, Caden Andersen 3-23, Bodie Johnson 4-13, Garrett McLaren 3-3; WM: Pope 25-150, Hart 21-104, Jarrin Goecke 8-40, TEAM 3-(minus-26).
PASSING — ATL: Andersen 4-9-60-2, McLaren 0-2-0-0; WM: Hart 2-4-43-0.
RECEIVING — ATL: Joe Weaver 2-35, Colin Mullenix 2-25; WM: Evertsen 2-43.