MARQUETTE - The Escanaba Eskymos needed a half to fine-tune their bend-but-don't-break defense.
Once they did, Marquette spent two full quarters frustrated at moving up and down the field with nothing to show for it in a 31-22 victory posted by Escanaba.
The visiting Eskymos evened their record at 2-2 while the Redmen fell to 3-1 in both teams' first Great Northern Conference game of the season played at William Hart Stadium on Friday evening.
Marquette’s Jimmy St. Cyr (30) runs behind the block of teammate Alex Sherbinow during the second quarter against Escanaba at William Hart Stadium in Marquette on Friday. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We told our players at halftime, it's ATD," said first-year Escanaba coach Jim Hansen, referring to the acronym for "Attention To Detail."
"They were pulling off some big plays against us in the first half, but we said it was just a matter of paying more attention to the little details."
The Eskymos kept Marquette to just 121 yards on 26 plays in the third and fourth quarters, nearly half of them coming on a 58-yard pass by Marquette sophomore quarterback Brett Place to senior receiver Alex Gagnon.
Marquette at Gladstone, 7 p.m., Friday
The pass was remarkable in that it was threaded between two EHS defenders taller than the 5-foot-10 Gagnon and standing in front of him, too.
Although the play brought the ball to the Escanaba 6-yard-line, the drive stalled out four plays later at the Esky 4 with just a few minutes left on the clock. It was just one of the frustrating possessions for Marquette in the second half.
"We only had four possessions in the second half, so give Escanaba credit for keeping it out of our hands," MSHS coach Dave L'Huillier said. "One we had to punt, one ended up with a fumble on a reverse, the third was that intentional grounding in the end zone and the last one got right down inside their 5."
Marquette electrified its home crowd and looked like it had all the momentum when backup kicker Alex Sherbinow banged a 45-yard field goal just inside the right upright, but with plenty of distance at the halftime gun.
The amazing feat tied the score 22-22. It was amazing because regular kicker Alex Bednarek is at a high school soccer tournament this weekend for the Redmen, and also because Sherbinow spent most of the game playing linebacker and being the Redmen's leading rusher, totaling 20 carries for 130 yards.
"Sherby did a nice job, especially considering he doesn't get many chances at practice," L'Huillier said. "And also to stop and make that kick after being in for just about every other play in the game."
Place was starting his first game for Marquette, rushing for 56 yards in 13 carries and completing 4 of 10 passes for 109 yards.
"For his first start, he did a nice job and had good composure," L'Huillier said.
But the game's offensive star was his Esky counterpart, senior QB David Falish. He accounted for 232 of his team's 290 yards, scampering for 148 yards on the ground in 22 carries and completing 7 of 13 passes for 84 yards. His only interception came on a fourth-down pass deep in MSHS territory in the third quarter.
"David is a wonderful player, and a great role model on this team, too," Hansen said.
Falish deflected the praise.
"Make sure to give credit to the line," Falish said. "They had some great blocking for me."
Which was evident on the long time he had to look over the field on a number of passes throughout the evening.
"We were more concerned with contain on (Falish) than trying a hard rush on him," L'Huillier said. "He got around us a few times in the first half when we rushed him."
His biggest play came in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter, when he scampered 76-yard around the right end for a score that with his two-point pass to John Rappette, gave Esky a 15-12 lead.
It was part of a first-half offensive explosion that saw a TD scored on each of the game's first five possessions when Marquette led 19-15.
Sherbinow had two of those TDs on runs of 1 and 9 yards, while Place got one from 4 yards out. Falish opened the Eskymos scoring with a 1-yard run, then completed a 16-yard scoring pass to Cameron Beversluis that put the visitors up 22-19 with 1:02 left in the first half.
Falish scored the decisive TD on his team's first possession of the second half, and with the later safety, Escanaba had a two-score lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Both teams are on the road Friday, with Marquette at GNC rival Gladstone and Escanaba at non-conference foe Medford, Wis.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.