Breakthrough denied: Marquette Redmen football team unable to get points on several deep drives, lose 35-7 at Traverse City Central

Marquette’s Brady Wright, front left, and John Thomson, right, hit Traverse City Central’s Tobin Schwannecke in the third quarter at Thirlby Field in Traverse City on Thursday. (Traverse City Record-Eagle photo by Jan-Michael Stump)

TRAVERSE CITY — Noah Norton set the tone for Traverse City Central’s offense on its first scoring possession after the Trojans fumbled the ball away at the goal line the first go-around.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound grinder touched the ball on all four plays of Central’s second possession, busting off runs of 22, 20, 8 and 20 yards, respectively — the last of featuring multiple broken tackles and a jaunt into the end zone.

Norton carried 11 times for 103 yards in Central’s 35-7 home opener Thursday night at Thirlby Field, forcing at least one man to miss on all 11 carries.

“I don’t consider myself a power runner. I don’t like to classify myself,” Norton said. “I just like to try to get to the end zone any way I can.

“(The linemen) were blocking their (butts) off, giving all they got. It’s our mentality. Every play we expect to score. Every down we expect to score.”

Statistically, the Trojans (2-0) ran away with the game on the backs of Norton, quarterback Tobin Schwannecke and a stingy defense that has only given up seven points over two weeks.

In reality, the game was close into the fourth quarter, as the Trojans scored just one touchdown in each of the first three periods.

Marquette got on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter when Redmen quarterback Brendan Kaski found Adam Jenshak streaking down the left sideline for a 33-yard scoring strike.

Drew Wyble’s extra point pulled the Redmen within 21-7 and gave momentary life to a Redmen offense that had moved the ball well between the 30s but struggled in the red zone.

“We had the ball first-and-goal right near the end of the first half, and we were down there one other time without punching it in,” MSHS coach Dave L’Huillier said. “We moved the ball well, but we weren’t able to finish strong down by the goal line.”

Maybe not overpowering, Marquette’s run game was still effective at times, gaining 112 yards in 37 carries. And Kaski proved accurate, throwing receivers open to windows where only his teammate could make the play.

Kaski finished 16 of 25 for 182 yards and one interception. Jenshak made five catches for 82 yards.

“I think Marquette is a better football team than a lot of people would give them credit for right now,” Central offensive coordinator Tim Odette said. “If you watch the (Traverse City St. Francis) game, SF does a great job, but Marquette fumbled the ball a couple times inside the 10. We knew they were gonna be a decent team.”

As easily as Norton ran over Redmen defenders, he credited Marquette (0-2) for making the Trojans work for the victory.

“It was a struggle. I’m glad they put up a fight. We respect them for not giving in,” Norton said. “We had some other teams in the past do that. We want to play the best of the best.”

Central head coach Eric Schugars said he was glad to see his team get tested early in the season. It is a constant reminder to his players the team must remain sharp.

Each defense made a goal-line stand, halting momentum at the time.

“Any time you give a team a glimpse of life, they take it,” Schugars said. “Coach Dave (L’Huillier) does a good job. They did some good things. He needed to control the ball, and they did that.”

Central did respond when it needed to.

The Redmen failed to recover an onside kick after they scored, and the Trojans promptly moved the ball for an insurance score.

Moswen Kirksey — who had a stellar defensive game at the corner position with a team-leading 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception — ran for an 18-yard gain, and Schwannecke finished off the two-play drive with a 37-yard TD run.

“Black and blue, smash-mouth football,” Kirksey said.

Schwannecke finished as the Trojans’ leading passer and rusher for the second straight week. He carried 14 times for 169 yards and two scores and completed 6 of 10 passes for 114 yards and two TDs, including a 38-yard TD to Trey Searles on a screen pass in the second quarter.

Schwannecke’s second touchdown pass was a 34-yard strike down the seam to tight end Tylor McCoon in the fourth.

Central finished with 338 yards rushing on 40 carries (8.5 yards per carry) and 457 total yards to Marquette’s 294.

This story includes information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.