Bulldogs outlast East Buchanan 37-24 to advance to third round

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MFL MarMac senior Cayden Ball helps break up a pass in the Bulldogs’ 37-24 win over East Buchanan on Oct. 23. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Cullen McShane continued to power the MFL MarMac offense, picking up 166 yards on the ground and 45 through the air, and scoring four touchdowns.

Gabe McGeough carries the ball—and two Buccaneer players—for extra yardage.

Bulldog quarterback completed just four passes against East Buchanan, but he made them count, throwing two touchdowns.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

It’s on to the round of 16 for the MFL MarMac football team, which outlasted East Buchanan 37-24 in a second-round playoff match-up Oct. 23.

“Every week it’s going to get tougher,” said head coach Dan Anderson. “We knew these guys would be tougher than some of our last opponents. They were big, physical kids—even more physical than our guys gave them credit for at first.”

“We did enough to win,” he added. “It wasn’t always pretty, but you don’t have to be pretty.”

The Bulldogs didn’t get on the board until over halfway through the first quarter, but they did so in a big way. Junior running back Cullen McShane exploded down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown that made it 6-0.

Four minutes later, he caught a scoring pass from quarterback Max Havlicek that upped the lead to 12-0.

At 5:53 in the second quarter, the Buccaneers narrowed the advantage to 12-8 on a touchdown and two-point conversion.

MFL MarMac responded near the end of the half, though, as Havlicek connected with receiver Cayden Ball on a three-yard pass. The extra point put the Bulldogs ahead 19-8.

East Buchanan cut that score to 19-16 halfway through the third quarter and was driving a few minutes later when McShane forced a fumble near midfield.

“It was a huge key in the game,” said Anderson. “They completed a pass over the middle and Cullen tomahawk chopped it and popped it out of there. They get that first down and continue down, then all of a sudden they can tie it up or take the lead possibly.”

MFL MarMac capitalized on the miscue, with a third McShane touchdown that made it 25-16.

Fullback Gabe McGeough then created more breathing room, at 31-16, early in the fourth quarter, busting into the end zone after Hunter Meyer recovered a Buccaneer fumble that placed the Bulldogs at the East Buchanan 17 yard line.

The Buccaneers scored again with less than four minutes remaining in the game, narrowing it to 31-24, but MFL MarMac wasn’t content with a seven-point victory. After the Bulldogs recovered an onside kick, McShane notched his fourth touchdown of the night, sealing a 37-24 final. Havlicek set up the final points with a timely 13-yard run.

Assistant coach Brandon Burke called the play.

“I’ve got smart assistant coaches. They’ve always got some good ideas,” Anderson said. “Burke said now is the time to hit the belly keep, where we fake it to Gabe, McShane helps seal and [Kaden] Stocker helps seal, and we can get Max around the outside. That was a big first down because it kept the clock running. After that, we probably could’ve taken victory formation, but I said, ‘We’ll run one more play and take a knee,’ and McShane breaks it. It was a good, close football game.”

Havlicek completed just four off 11 passes Friday night, but he made the most of them, throwing two touchdowns. Ball caught one and McShane, who had three receptions for 45 yards, snagged the other.

The Bulldogs’ ground attack continued to dominate, accumulating 361 total yards. The first half of  the team’s “McDouble,” McShane, led the effort with 166 yards and three touchdowns on 11 attempts, while McGeough carried the ball 16 times for 154 yards and a touchdown.

“We always believe there’s something we can run when we need it,” stated Anderson. “McShane ran well, Gabe ran well, Max was efficient throwing the ball again.”

The MFL MarMac defense, which has forced the most turnovers in Class A, earned four more against East Buchanan, including two interceptions by Kaden Stocker. 

McShane was the team’s leading tackler, with 8, followed by McGeough with 7, Karter Decker with 6 and Wyatt Powell with 5.5.

The defense still needs to step it up, though, according to Anderson. The Buccaneers were perfect on fourth down conversions and completed several third and long situations.

“We’ve gotta get off the field,” he said. “That was really frustrating. We just couldn’t get the stops.”

“We can’t give up 24 points in the playoffs and expect to win every week,” Anderson added. “There are going to be teams who will hold us to less than 37. As we get further along, it’s going to be harder and we need to make some stops when we need them.”

That will be especially important in the third-round game at Edgewood-Colesburg on Friday, Oct. 30. The Vikings are undefeated and, like the Bulldogs, are ranked in the top 10 in Class A. They haven’t played in two weeks, however, thanks to a first-round bye and Clayton Ridge opting out of last week’s game. Kick-off will be at 7 p.m.

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