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Dominant defensive effort leads Pios past Quakers

Photo by Rebecca Wheeler Marietta College’s Bryce Agnew (24) carries the ball during a college football game against Wilmington Friday at Don Drumm Stadium. Marietta won, 34-7.

Marietta College’s defense forced turnovers on Wilmington’s first three drives.

That set the stone for a dominant defensive effort for the Pioneers in Friday’s 34-7 victory over the Quakers in an Ohio Athletic Conference Divisional Crossover game. Marietta finished its spring season 3-2.

Wilmington’s offense got off to a good start, driving all the way inside Marietta’s 10-yard line on completion from Kyle Barrett to Itika Wynn Jr. On the play, Marietta safety Darius Hatch poked the ball away from Wynn Jr. and Caleb Boy fell on it to give the Pioneers the ball.

After Marietta punted it away, Barrett’s first pass of the next drive was a deep shot that Malik Grier plucked for an interception. Again, the Pioneers were unable to convert the turnover into points as Wilmington stuffed them on a 4th-and-1 try.

However, the Pioneers created another turnover when Jesse Berzonski stripped the ball from Malik Sims and Vic Giovengo recovered it.

That Wilmington miscue set up a 41-yard field goal try for Marietta kicker Logan Alward, but his kick was wide right to keep the game scoreless.

Marietta’s defense refused to back down, stopping Wilmington again on its fourth drive. The Quakers handed to Kyle England on 4th-and-1, but Chance Knight and Mahleek Melton combined to stuff him for a turnover on downs.

Marietta’s offense had to punt again, but the defense forced a three-and-out and Austin Veatch returned Wilmington’s punt 35 yards to the Quakers’ 20.

The Pioneer offense finally was able to cash in as quarterback Ethan Brown completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Gage Giovengo with 4:06 left in the second.

Wilmington continued to be unable to solve Marietta’s defense as Kyle Gallagher registered a sack on 3rd-and-9 to give Marietta’s offense another chance to score.

The first play of the Pioneers’ ensuing drive was a 38-yard bomb from Brown to Dre Baldwin, putting the ball at Wilmington’s 10. After a 7-yard run by Bryce Agnew, Brown connected with Maguire Morris in the end zone from 3 yards out to make it 14-0 with 1:04 remaining until halftime.

For the second time in the game, the first play of a Wilmington drive resulted in an interception as Jaelon Quiero-Gordon stepped in from of a Barrett throw and returned it to Wilmington’s 7.

After Agnew’s 6-yard gain moved the ball to the 1, Brown punched it in from there to make it 21-0 at the break.

Wilmington reached the end zone at the 6:37 mark in the third quarter when Barrett found Ace Taylor in the back of the end zone from 3 yards out to cut it to 21-7.

Marietta answered with a 4-yard TD run by Agnew at the 10:34 mark in the fourth to make it 27-7. Agnew finished with 24 carries for 100 yards.

On Wilmington’s next drive, Drake Neuberger picked up sacks No. 8 and 9 on the season, extending his OAC lead and forcing a turnover on downs. That led to Brown’s third TD pass of the day, an 8-yarder to Domenick Glenn to make it 34-7.

Marietta head coach Andy Waddle said “I think we’ve just become kind of a gritty football team that makes it hard for opponents to be successful on the ground and able to pressure the quarterback and do some things on the back end. We’ve started playing well on special teams and making some plays out there in those units. Offensively, the way we’ve been able to run the ball and kind of lining up with some bigger bodies and stuff like that, a lot of people don’t think that’s flashy, but I’ll tell you, I think it’s successful. I think it fits the type of guy we have on our team right now. Just a gritty, tough, hard-nosed guy.”

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