MC off to a good start
Clark, Pioneers take down Geneva in opener
Marietta College celebrated the opening of their brand new field at Don Drumm Stadium in grand fashion Saturday evening as they opened the 2018 campaign with a 35-24 win over the Geneva College Golden Tornadoes.
Pioneer junior tailback Tanner Clark ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns and sophomore linebacker Caleb Boy came up with a huge defensive play that resulted in a 53-yard fumble return as Marietta downed Geneva for the second consecutive season.
“It wasn’t as clean as I hoped it would be but I thought we were gritty enough to go out and battle a tough physical football team,” said sixth-year Pioneer head coach Andy Waddle. “We were able to get the win and I’m proud of ’em for that.”
The Pioneers struck first in the opener played in front of a large crowd as Clark capped a 65-yard, 11-play drive with a one-yard plunge for a score.
Three consecutive completions by senior quarterback Darrien Fields, including a pair to junior Andrew Barker were key plays in the drive that resulted in their first touchdown an the new-look navy blue and gray field.
Geneva quickly answered as their highly touted senior running back Trawon Marshall rambled 58 yards on the first play from scrimmage and two plays later scored on a four-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.
“They (Geneva) have got an All-American back in Marshall and he proved it today,” said Waddle. “He’s pretty talented and broke a couple of big ones on us but fortunately we were able to tighten things up.”
A second quarter 29-yard field goal by Daniel Nordaas briefly gave Geneva their first and only lead of the game before Marietta answered on Clark’s 22-yard touchdown run to put MC back in front by four.
A 19-yard pass from Tornado quarterback Levi Cook to Marshall moved the ball close to midfield before the Pioneer defense came up with perhaps the play of the game.
After taking the hand-off, Marshall was hit hard by a swarm of Pioneer defenders including senior defensive back Javi Zaragoza with the ball coming free and right into the arms of Boy who rambled 53-yards for a touchdown.
“Everybody was flying over their blocks and trying to get to their assignments and Javi Zaragoza stripped it out and it bounced right to me,” said Boy, a Carlisle native. “All my defensive players were right in front of me giving me lead blocks and I was able to run it in.”
Marietta added to their lead early in the third quarter and once again it was Clark finding paydirt as the former All-Ohio quarterback from Caldwell High School broke free on a 30-yard run to give the Pioneers a 28-10 lead with 7:24 to play in the third period.
“I thought we really made some good adjustments and our line was just tremendous all game long,” said Clark, who also caught three passes for 17 yards. “Down in the trenches we were definitely the best. They were opening up holes for me and I was just running through them.”
Waddle was quite pleased with Clark’s effort in his first game as featured back after playing behind All-American graduate Roger Walker the past two seasons.
“I thought Tanner really played well in his first time as a starter and banged for some hard physical yards and it was great to see that,” said Waddle. “A lot of people wondered what we were going to be after Roger Walker because he was such a tremendous player but there are other good players in our program as well.”
Marshall, who carried the ball 26 times in the game for 196 yards, scored his second touchdown of the game late in the third quarter cut the lead to 12 but Marietta had a huge answer on the next possesion when Fields connected with Barker on a slant route that turned into a 62-yard touchdown to increase the Pioneer lead to 35-16 heading to the final period.
Fields completed 15-of-21 pass attempts in the game for an even 200 yards while Barker lead all receivers with four pass receptions for 91 yards.
Cook’s one-yard run and a two-point conversion by Marshall cut the lead to 11 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game but the Pioneer defense held the rest of the way to score the victory.
The home-town crowd of over 4,000 was treated to post-game fireworks to celebrate the first win on the beautiful new field and Boy hopes it is just the start of a special season of Marietta College football.
“This is a game we have had circled for awhile with the new field and the hype and expectations around the team,” said Boy. “We are 1-0 and we’ve got to go 1-0 again next week.”
Marietta College will open Ohio Athletic Conference play next Saturday when they host Capital at 3:30.