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OTTAWA — The Marquette football team is coming off its most successful season since 1998 when the Crusaders went 6-4.
Marquette moved from the Big Rivers Conference to the Northeastern Athletic Conference and immediately made an impact, going 9-0 in the regular season before ending its season 10-1.
“After having the season we had last year, we now have kids that are starting camp with confidence instead of being hopeful,” said Tom Jobst, who returns for his fourth season with the Crusaders. “We lost a lot of good players from last year, but we have a bunch returning that want to make their own mark.”
The Crusaders have 29 varsity players with 20 of them being letter winners from that playoff team in 2012.
Marquette lost an all-state running back Curtiss Johnson, who carried more than half of the team’s rushing attempts last year and gained 1,413 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
“Curtiss was outstanding for us last year on both sides of the ball,” Jobst said. “In this system we have — two wingbacks and a fullback — I have to do a better job of evening out the carries and not being as predictable on offense.”
Leading this year’s offense is senior quarterback Patrick Killelea, who is back for his fourth year at the varsity level.
The NewsTribune All-Area selection threw for 1,304 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 71.6 completion percentage last year.
“Patrick had a great season last year and summer as well,” Jobst said. “The only thing we need from Patrick is for Patrick to keep being Patrick. He is a great leader out there. I don’t want him to change a bit.”
Stepping in the fullback role this year is senior Jacob Martini and sophomore Joe Wheatland. They will be flanked by returning wingbacks Cole Lindhout and Tyler Verona. Joining them in the backfield will be Mike Hogan and Nolan Durdan.
Blocking up front for that group is a line that returns starters Andrew Allen and Mitch Endres. Joe Garland moves from the offensive line to tight end.
Allen also helps anchor the defensive line and is joined by Garland and Eddie Hettle.
Matt Schramer and Casey Wheatland are the linebackers along with John Lechtenberg.
The defensive backfield is solid as well with Lindhout, Martini and Verona all returning for the Crusaders.
“We have a really good nucleus on both sides of the ball,” Jobst said. “I think this group does everything well and they believe in themselves and in each other. At the same time, in order to have another good year, we have to improve on everything we do as well. We have a lot of experience back and we’ll see what happens.”