Lighting it up again: Marquette Redmen football team heads downstate to face Mount Pleasant after big playoff win
“We got comfortable being uncomfortable, which is kind of our motto going forward.” — Eric Mason, Marquette football head coach, on facing windy conditions to open the MHSAA playoffs on Saturday
MARQUETTE — The Marquette Senior High School football team looked like it had a significant obstacle in its way to open the MHSAA Division 3 playoffs despite being at home on Saturday.
A heavy wind blowing at kickoff that continued through the rest of the afternoon seemed like an ominous sign for a pass-oriented Redmen attack against Muskegon Reeths-Puffer.
But MSHS was undeterred by the difficult conditions and stepped up on both sides of the ball on their way to a blowout 38-0 win over the downstate team in the first round. Marquette forced six turnovers and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
“I guess the biggest thing is when you play well, good things happen,” Redmen head coach Eric Mason said. “The kids came out and did what we asked of them and put a heck of an effort in. And they didn’t get discouraged with the weather conditions and played through them. We got comfortable being uncomfortable, which is kind of our motto going forward.”
Marquette now has a different obstacle in its path — a trip downstate to face Mount Pleasant. Sometimes a long trip below the Mackinac Bridge can be tough on a team, but Mason isn’t sweating the travel.
“With the things that we’ve had to overcome and deal with this fall, a five-hour drive is the least of our worries, to be honest with you,” he said. “We get to that day, it’s supposed to be a nice day, mid-60s. That’s gonna be like a vacation for us after the last couple of weeks, actually, the last three weeks.
“It’s five hours, but in a normal year, when we’d be going downstate and playing Traverse City and Petoskey and Alpena, it’s not much further than that. So we’re kind of used to it at this point.”
Game time is 2 p.m. Saturday as one other area team will also be in action that afternoon. Newberry plays at Pickford at 1 p.m. in an eight-player Division 1 regional semifinal.
For the Redmen, the Oilers pose a bit of a different challenge than Reeths-Puffer. Whereas the Rockets used a variety of offensive styles, Mount Pleasant likes to focus on running the ball. That might look easier to plan for, but Mason says it’s different when you get on the field.
“To prepare for yes, but you’ve still got to stop it,” he said. “They’ve got a heck of an offensive line and two real quality tight ends and defensive ends. I think one is 6-(foot-)4 and the other one, I think, is 6-6. So they’re going to have two big bookends. They line up sometimes in a full-house T and just come at you, so you’ve got to be ready to step up and stop that.
“That’s gonna be our first chore to do. I believe the quarterback is the coach’s son, so he’s probably a very savvy, smart kid who is gonna direct their offense.”
It may seem tough, but Marquette looked confident against the Rockets. Mason said he’s noticed that for the past few weeks.
“Each week throughout, since about the (Sault Ste. Marie) game, to be honest with you, each week, we’ve gotten better and better,” he said. “They’ve risen to the occasion of, ‘Hey, you can’t overlook and you can’t underestimate.’ You just got to work hard and get better at the things that you do and good things will happen.
“Now I think they’ve got a pretty darn good confidence going forward and they understand that this is gonna be a difficult task. But that’s why we play the games, right? I mean, it’s playoff football and anything can happen.”
Mount Pleasant traveled to Marquette in a playoff game in 2014, Marquette’s most recent playoff appearance prior to last year. The Oilers won that game 40-14 on the fast track of the Superior Dome.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.