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Look for redemption: Marquette Redmen football team gets another chance at Muskegon

Marquette running back Desmond Mullen, bottom right, falls on his back into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Redmen’s MHSAA Division 3 playoff game against Muskegon Reeths-Puffer on Oct. 31 in Marquette. Making the push for Mullen and also ending up on the ground are teammates Tye Parker (76), Gideon Bell (partially hidden behind Mullen’s hands) and Jacob Schlemm (60). Reeths-Puffer defenders trying to stop him are Justyn Clark (60) and Caleb McNeil (behind Mullen's head). (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

“That team is gonna be good year-in and year-out, but it’s not the same team.” — Eric Mason, Marquette football head coach, on Muskegon no longer having current Ohio State player Cameron Martinez

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MARQUETTE — It’s understandable if a high school football team struggles when it has to play an opponent it’s unfamiliar with.

The Marquette Redmen, on the other hand, made that unfamiliarity look easy so far in the MHSAA Division 3 playoffs. After shutting out out Muskegon Reeths-Puffer in a 38-0 blowout at home two weeks ago, Marquette traveled downstate to Mount Pleasant on Saturday and took down the host Oilers 21-14.

Now the Redmen get to take on the team that ended their playoff dreams last year, Muskegon. Marquette struggled badly against the potent Big Reds offense that was led by current Ohio State Buckeyes’ player Cameron Martinez, but Muskegon could be a little easier to deal with now that Martinez has moved on.

Having become a defensive back in Columbus, he was a quarterback on offense in high school. In last year’s game against Marquette, he ran for seven touchdowns and gained 293 yards while only playing in the first half.

“The biggest difference is the obvious, the quarterback is now gone,” Redmen head coach Eric Mason said of Saturday afternoon’s rematch. “We barely touched him last year, let alone tackled him. He’s gone, so that’s big. They’re obviously still good.

“That team is gonna be good year-in and year-out, but it’s not the same team. The scores reflect that and the teams that they’re playing, you can just see it. Instead of beating teams 50- or 60-to-whatever, it’s in the 30s and whatnot.

“It’s still a good team and it’s still got a heck of a lot of good players. But I think we match up well with them. That’s why we play the games, right?”

Mason said that just like last year, Muskegon likes to run the ball, but with Martinez now in Ohio, the Big Reds aren’t quite as explosive as they were in 2019. That being said, they’re still good.

“They’re still (tend) toward the run, just not the big plays,” he said. “Still the same type of offense through the quarterback, and actually I don’t think they throw near as well as what they did in the last couple years. Again, of course, that quarterback has moved on.

“But the plays are more, where in the past, it’s been a 60-yard touchdown run, now they’re eight-, 10-yard runs. They’re just getting first downs now whereas before they were just scoring on big chunk plays.”

To get another win downstate, Mason said it’ll come down to the kids believing in themselves and after taking down two good teams already, that shouldn’t be a problem.

“Last year, one of the big things that I can recall once we realized we were playing Muskegon is every kid going, they watch the headlines and all that kind of thing, and unfortunately with that kid, he basically dominated the headlines in the state,” Mason said. “Our kids were kind of influenced by that I think a lot and this year, that’s just not there.

“Kids, they ebb and flow with emotion and I just think we’re gonna be confident going into this one. Our kids are gonna play better.

“They’re used to the experience. They’ve been there before and each time you can do that, the easier and better things get.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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