MFL MarMac suffers narrow 21-20 loss to Wapsie Valley

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On a windy, rainy night, MFL MarMac’s ground game was especially important. The team had a combined 162 rushing yards, 102 of which came from Gabe McGeough. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Karter Decker snagged a 75-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Max Havlicek to score MFL MarMac’s first points against Wapsie Valley Friday night.

Bulldog tight end Braden Landt picks up a block during MFL MarMac’s 20-21 loss to Wapsie Valley.

MFL MarMac’s senior quarterback, Max Havlicek, was 6-16 and threw for 134 yards and one touchdown against the Warriors.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

Under challenging windy and rainy conditions, the MFL MarMac football team suffered a close 21-20 defeat to fourth-ranked Wapsie Valley Friday night. It was the Bulldogs’ first loss of the season and the program’s first regular season defeat since 2018.

“They played their hearts out. I’m proud of them,” head coach Dan Anderson said of his team. “Unfortunately, when two really good football teams play, someone’s got to lose. You hate for it to be you.”

MFL MarMac drew first blood in the contest, with a 75-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Max Havlicek and Karter Decker with 10:26 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion was successful, putting the Bulldogs up 8-0.

Wapsie Valley got on the board with four minutes to go in the quarter, trimming the lead to 8-7.

The Warriors added another touchdown right before the half, taking a 14-8 advantage.

Neither team scored again until the 10:19 mark in the fourth quarter, when MFL MarMac’s Cullen McShane made it into the end zone. The two-point conversion failed, leaving it tied 14-14. 

Five minutes later, McShane tallied another touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 20-14 lead they hoped would clinch the victory.

The Warriors didn’t agree. With under three minutes remaining, they responded with a touchdown of their own, to go up 21-20.

“They have some good athletes who made plays, and they didn’t cave. They had a big first down on a pass across the middle to their tight end, then they hit a couple up the middle with that running back—he’s an all-stater,” Anderson said. “They got a little momentum rolling. You could feel us have the momentum, and then when they got two first downs, you could feel it, like, ‘Ugh, you’ve got to figure out something.’ And we couldn’t do it.”

The Bulldogs got the ball back, but were pinned deep in their own territory on the kick-off. 

“I’m mad at myself. When they kicked off to us, we had a couple minutes left. I was the one who told Decker to take a couple steps up, and then [the Wapsie Valley kicker] boomed it into the wind over our heads, which was a back breaker,” Anderson remarked. “The guys were fighting to the very end. We got a first down on a fourth down, but just ran out of time.”

The MFL MarMac offense totaled 296 yards compared to Wapsie Valley’s 221. Havlicek was 6-16 and threw for 134 yards and one touchdown. Decker had one catch for 75 yards and a touchdown. Gabe McGeough snagged three receptions for 32 yards, and also led the team in rushing, with 106 yards on 20 carries. McShane had 52 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

Going into the game, Anderson said the team knew its rushing attack wouldn’t be able to get outside on the Warriors.

“[Wapsie Valley] is too fast,” he stated. “But the offensive line did a much better job in the second half, and we showed we could punch the ball right at them and be physical.”

Defensively, McShane led MFL MarMac with 10 total tackles. Chauncy Drahn racked up 5.5, while McGeough, Cayden Ball and Austin Schlee each had 4. 

Schlee recovered one of two forced fumbles. Havlicek had the other along with an interception that he returned 32 yards.

Ultimately, noted Anderson, the game came down to a few big plays.

“These are the ones that really hurt because you go back as a coach and look at little things, plays I should’ve called differently, or maybe we should’ve lined up differently,” he said. “We believed we could win this football game. The kids were fighting. We were just one or two plays short.”

Despite the loss, the season isn’t close to being over, he added.

“We could see these guys again,” Anderson quipped.

The Bulldogs (2-1) look to get back in the win column this Friday, Sept. 18, at Clayton Ridge (0-3).

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