OTTAWA — Taylor Komater has heard the naysayers and seen the doubters.
Despite the Marquette football team being 10-0 this season and a top seed in the Class 1A playoffs, the senior left tackle and noseguard for the Crusaders has heard those who wonder whether Marquette is really that good or has benefited from 10 games against Northeastern Athletic Conference teams.
“I think we have a lot to prove because everybody is counting us out, and they don’t think a small school like us can do this well,” the three-year two-way starter said. “A lot of football teams, because of who we’ve played, don’t think we’re much, but we are ready to prove that we are and that we can play.”
That starts today.
The Crusaders will venture outside the NAC for the first time this season as they will look to prove themselves at 6 tonight when No. 2-seeded Marquette (10-0) plays host to No. 7-seeded Forreston (8-2) in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
“It’s going to be interesting,” third-year Marquette coach Tom Jobst said. “I think all the guys and coaches are looking forward to facing somebody outside of the conference just to see how we stack up against some of the other conferences.”
Forreston will make the approximate 1 1/2-hour trip to Ottawa after it dismantled the NAC’s Alden-Hebron 41-7 last week.
The Cardinals — who advanced to the 1A quarterfinals last season and are in the playoffs for a third straight year — went 7-2 in the regular season and finished third in the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference Northwest Division, which has three of its four playoff teams still alive.
“They are a very good team and very solid fundamentally,” Jobst said. “They look a lot like we do on offense and I think their size is comparable to ours. They run a lot of the same plays we run and they are a fullback-oriented offense. They are just well-executed power football.”
The Cardinals are led by senior fullback Ben Kraft, who this season has rushed for 795 yards and 13 touchdowns, including three TDs in the Week 10 win.
Junior wingback Ross Williams also is a threat as he has ran for 662 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“Whichever team controls the line of scrimmage will win,” Forreston coach Denny Diduch said. “Both teams are looking at the film and are wondering who is going to be more physical, but you can’t really judge that on film. Our first series and their first series we will both be looking to see who is more physical.”
In addition to their running backs, the Cardinals feature senior quarterback Brett Carlson, who has run for six touchdowns and thrown for two this season.
Carlson has actually rushed for more yards than he’s thrown (229-228), and Diduch says his team will pass only if necessary.
“As we go deeper into the playoffs, the competition will get tougher,” Jobst said. “This week is no exception. Forreston is a very formidable opponent. But we’re not doing anything different than we have the rest of the year. We just come out, practice and try to get better at the things we do.”
That includes a defense that’s allowed an average of 8.3 points per game and a balanced offense that is led by senior fullback Curtiss Johnson — who has ran for 1,279 yards and 19 TDs — and junior quarterback Patrick Killelea, who has thrown for 1,139 yards and 15 TDs with just one interception.
“It’s just been a whole different atmosphere this week,” Komater said. “It’s Week 11 so we’re all excited. It’s a good feeling.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.