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Marquette fullback Jacob Martini (No. 21) attempts to break free from Hiawatha defender Tyler Hamrick during the Crusaders’ 48-7 victory in a Northeastern Athletic Conference game in Ottawa. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
OTTAWA —The Ottawa Marquette football team has the same game plan many teams in the Northeastern Athletic Conference have: run the ball down an opponent’s throat.
However, many of those same teams can’t put on the rushing display the Crusaders did in Friday’s 48-7 victory over Hiawatha because they don’t have skilled big men up front.
“I can’t say enough about the (offensive) linemen,” senior running back Jacob Martini said. “Watching film, I can’t tell you how many times our line has the defensive line pushed at least 10 yards. There have been times I’ve been tackled by the line because they’re doing such a good job of pushing them down the field. Without them, who knows where we’d be. They’re big, physical and averaging 265 pounds, so we have some pretty big boys.”
The offensive line proved to be a special unit for Marquette (5-0, 5-0 NAC) against the Hawks (3-2, 3-2 NAC) as the Crusaders rushed 32 times for 326 yards and four touchdowns, while Hiawatha had 25 carries for 29 yards.
Although the running game became the main scoring punch for the Cru, senior quarterback Patrick Killelea put the first points on the board with his arm as he threw a touchdown pass to Eddie Hettel with 8:52 left in the first quarter.
The Hawks gave the ball back to the Crusaders without running a single play as they fumbled the kickoff.
Following the fumble, Marquette needed just two plays to score as Cole Lindhout ran twice and found the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run up the middle to give the Crusaders a 14-0 lead with 8:21 left in the first quarter, or just 31 seconds after the first score.
“It’s good running behind my line, but make a mistake every once in awhile it’s fine, just forget it and get to the next play, which we did,” Lindhout said. “We did a good job about it, and it was a fun game.”
Marquette was penalized 85 yards on seven penalties and had four touchdowns negated throughout the game.
Lindhout intercepted a Hiawatha pass and took it to the end zone, but the score was called back on a block in the back. Later, running back Mike Hogan’s 75-yard touchdown run was downgraded to a 39-yard run because of a holding call.
“Yes, we made some mistakes that need to be corrected,” Marquette coach Tom Jobst said. “What it says about the team is they continue to play hard. They don’t let the bad breaks bother them. They just get ready for the next play and do the best they can.”
However, when a penalty took a touchdown away, the Crusaders stuck to the game plan and put another six points on the board each of the four possessions.
Martini was the next running back to fuel the offense as he carried the ball five out of the next six play calls after Hiawatha turned the ball over on their 44-yard line. His four-yard trip to the end zone put Marquette up 21-0 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
“Again with the line, the line does a good job opening holes,” Martini said. “As soon as the holes are open, you could probably drive a truck through there. I just run for daylight.”
The touchdowns didn’t stop in the second quarter as senior running back Tyler Verona scored in the air on a 41-yard pass from Killelea with 9:15 on the clock and on the ground as he took a 10-yard handoff to paydirt when the halftime buzzer sounded.
With the score 35-0 at halftime, Marquette did not put on the breaks in the second half.
Backup quarterback John Lechtenberg not only led the Crusader offense in the second half, but he scored on defense on a pick-six with a 33-yard interception return.
Joe Wheatland took over the rushing load and scored on a 36-yard run with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
The Hawks escaped the shutout loss with a last-ditch effort in the fourth as quarterback Mike Mercado connected with Brandon Phelps for a 10-yard touchdown to end all scores and close out the game with a 48-7 Marquette victory.