Owls return to road at Moberly
The gap between the current state of the Marshall football program and the NCMC standard as represented by three-time defending champion Hannibal was evident last week.
However, there were some bright spots during the Owls' 49-12 loss, like the play of freshman linebacker Logan Harris and sophomore Joe Damiano's switch from guard to center with only one bad snap. Marshall (0-5, 0-4 NCMC) continued to play hard, even in defeat, and with more poise a week after drawing five major penalties the previous week.
"I liked the fact that we had a contract to walk away from personal fouls," noted MHS head coach Jay Eilers. "There were two of them, and we walked away from them."
After starting the season with three straight road games, the Owls pack up once more today for a tilt at league rival Moberly -- a 23-0 winner in last year's meeting. Marshall is traveling even lighter than usual, with injuries having trimmed the active roster to 33 players -- 13 of them freshmen.
"It's very important for us that we keep it simple," Eilers explained. We've got to be able to plug players into the offensive line and they understand it."
It will be a challenge, to be sure, considering the size and experience the Spartans (2-3, 1-0) possess on their defensive front.
"I think it's the best block-recognition line we've seen," Eilers said. "Not only do they see the gaps, but they can scrape off the blocks and get to the ball."
Moberly has an outstanding linebacker in senior Anthony Cedillo to plug any holes which may be created.
The Spartans struggled through the early part of their season, scoring only 21 points while dropping three straight non-conference games, but got well quickly last week with a 47-7 victory over Fulton in their conference opener.
Senior quarterback Ben Stoecklein ably directs Moberly's offense, having completed 34 of 74 attempts for 424 yards and two touchdowns this season. Eilers considers him the Spartans' "engine."
"He does it with his passing and they run him," Eilers said. "He's a good football player."
A pair of capable running backs, junior Josh Cedillo and sophomore Dimaja Smith, have combined for 684 yards and three TDs, but Eilers' greatest concern is with a line which averages 240 pounds and starts four seniors.
"We've got to get win our one-on-one tackling, pursue like we have been and get more than one person to the ball," he said. "It's going to be important for our defensive line to match up physically with the size of their guys."
That's going to be difficult for Marshall, which has only a handful of 200-pounders on the squad, but the club has shown the willingness to mix it up. Still, only two of the Owls' five offensive touchdowns have come against first-team defenses, and getting the unit going while the outcome is still in doubt is vital.
"I want to see us move the ball and take time off the clock," Eilers said. "We've got to score against the most competitive defensive team on the field."