MARQUETTE - Offense usually gets all the headlines in Marquette, but the Marquette Senior High School defense took center stage in the Redmen's 24-0 shutout of Kingsford on Friday evening at William R. Hart Stadium.
The MSHS offense has put up some prolific numbers with junior quarterback Brett Place, such as his eight touchdown passes in the season's first two games or the 63 points the team scored on Gladstone a week ago.
On Friday, the Redmen recorded just their second shutout in Dave L'Huillier's fourth year heading the program, nursing a 7-0 lead at the end of the third quarter before exploding for 17 fourth-period points.
Marquette Senior High School junior Brett Place (10) fakes a hand off to senior Paul Smith (42) during the second quarter against Kingsford Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 at William Hart Stadium in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
More importantly, Marquette clinched a spot in MHSAA playoffs at 5-1, since the Redmen's eight-game schedule means they needed just five wins to insure their entry.
Just as significant to L'Huillier and his players is that MSHS stayed alive in the Great Northern Conference title hunt, improving to 2-1 with a season-ending game against Menominee that could give them a share of the crown.
L'Huillier was excited about the historic aspect of the game, too.
Marquette 24, Kingsford 0
Score by quarters:
Kingsford 0 0 0 0 - 0
Marquette 7 0 0 17 - 24
Marquette - Shane Duquette, 38 pass from Brett Place (Max Bednarek kick), 5:38
Marquette - Duquette, 30 pass from Place (Bednarek kick), 11:53
Marquette - Bednarek, 41 FG, 7:11
Marquette - Place, 1 run (Bednarek kick), 3:44
First downs - Kingsford, 9; Marquette, 13
Rushes-yards - Kingsford, 37-80 (Brody Sundquist, 14-31); Marquette, 34-77 (Paul Smith, 10-43)
Comp-Att-Int-Yards - Kingsford, Joe Hofer, 7-21-0-82; Marquette, Place, 10-20-1-188
"This is only the second time in 25 years Marquette has beaten Kingsford, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the first time we've ever shut them out," he said.
A check of records at the www.michigan-football.com website bears that out - before the Redmen's narrow 20-16 victory in 2011, the previous MSHS win over Kingsford was 14-12 in 1987, some 26 years ago.
Two years previous in 1985 Marquette notched a 12-0 shutout of the Flivvers. Friday's win also marked the Redmen's biggest margin of victory in this annual rivalry since a 35-7 win in 1974, which was 39 years ago.
All those records were on no one's minds, though, in the first half. Neither team had even 90 yards of offense before intermission, and L'Huillier felt fortunate to have a seven-point lead.
"Twice we had the ball on their side of the 50-(yard-line) when we couldn't convert in the first half," he said.
"But our defense played great that whole time. We stopped them on fourth (down) and goal at the 4 one time and on fourth-and-short on another."
The game's first three possessions resulted in three-and-outs before Marquette moved the ball 62 yards in five plays, culminating in senior wideout Shane Duquette's 38-yard touchdown catch from Place.
"The defender bit on my fake," Duquette said about getting open with a move near the goal line, then stretching both hands over his head and pulling in the pass. The defense allowed the Redmen to preserve that lead despite blunders on offense and special teams later in the half.
On fourth down with the first quarter nearly over, Kingsford junior Tyler Roberts went untouched and blocked Bednarek's punt, knocking the ball back 23 yards to start at the Marquette 9.
Roberts then ran the ball twice, moving the ball to the 4 before Flivvers junior QB Joe Hofer threw back-to-back incomplete passes to come up empty.
"We put pressure on their quarterback all night long," L'Huillier said. "He extended some plays with his legs."
On the Redmen's next possession, Place tried to get his team out of the hole with a long third-down pass that was intercepted near midfield by Kingsford junior Dan Harrington.
With help from a Flivvers penalty, Kingsford went backward despite keeping the ball for seven plays, punting on 4th-and-27.
The defenses grudgingly gave up some yards, but no points, through the end of the third quarter.
Then on the first play of the final period, Place hooked up again with Duquette, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone on the dead run for a 30-yard score. Bednarek's kick made it 14-0.
"That was a fade route with a little hook," Duquette said, "but my defender was right on me, so Brett threw it to my left to get it away from him. It was a beautiful read by Brett."
Bednarek, whose kickoffs sailed anywhere from six yards deep in the end zone to off the crossbar of the goalpost, sealed the victory with a 41-yard field goal with 7:11 left to make it a three-score game, 17-0.
"He's a great weapon to have," L'Huillier said of his strong-legged kicker. "It's great for the defense when you can count on starting your opponent at their own 20 every time."