Beckman Catholic too much for Bulldogs in quarterfinal loss

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MFL MarMac senior Kaden Stocker hoists the team’s state participant trophy following the Nov. 5 quarterfinal loss at Beckman Catholic. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Quarterback Carver Blietz-Bentien hands the ball off to running back Cullen McShane, who had a team-high 76 rushing yards on eight carries.

Bulldog Wyatt Powell closes in on Blazer back Owen Huehnergarth. Powell had 7.5 total tackles in the team’s defensive effort.

Senior fullback Gabe McGeough scored MFL MarMac's only touchdown late in the first half.

Bryce Radloff demonstrates his flexibility while tackling a Beckman runner. The sophomore made 7 tackles.

Lineman Josh Reichard makes a block for Bulldog runner Gabe McGeough.

Karter Decker looks for room to run in the quarterfinal game.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The MFL MarMac football team took on Beckman Catholic in the Nov. 5 Class 1A playoff quarterfinals, hoping to avenge a tough loss in the regular season finale and punch a ticket to the UNI-Dome. But it wasn’t meant to be for the Bulldogs, who struggled to contain the dynamic Blazers in a 35-6 loss.


“They’re just a better team than we are. They’ve got everything: tall receivers, huge offensive line, senior laden,” said MFL MarMac head coach Dan Anderson. “We stayed in it until the fourth quarter. We were fighting until the end. But they got a couple late scores on us.”


The game was close—at 14-6—through the end of the third quarter. MFL MarMac scored its lone points right before halftime, capitalizing on a Beckman Catholic turnover that gave them the ball at the Blazer 26. A 25-yard catch by senior fullback Gabe McGeough put the Bulldogs at the goal line, and he punched it in a play later. The extra point was blocked.


MFL MarMac couldn’t continue that offensive momentum in the second half, however. A key to Beckman’s success was taking away the team’s go-to sweep, noted Anderson.


“We didn’t get very good push on our offensive line, and their defensive line did a great job of getting penetration and just driving us back. We couldn’t physically match up with them,” he said. “The big difference is we couldn’t get much going offensively, run or pass.”


The Bulldogs had just 215 yards of combined offense. Cullen McShane tallied 76 rushing yards on eight carries while McGeough had 60 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Quarterback Carver Blietz-Bentien completed only three of his 13 passes, for 62 yards. 


The Blazers, meanwhile, “seemed to have an answer for everything we were trying to do defensively,” Anderson added.


Beckman rattled off three fourth quarter touchdowns that put the game out of reach. And that was despite MFL MarMac limiting the Blazers’ Owen Huehnergarth to just over 100 yards rushing.


“We were able to do a good job of holding him, but that quarterback is such a dynamic athlete too,” said Anderson.


Cayden Gassmann completed 14 of his 18 passes on the night, for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times, racking up 160 yards and two more touchdowns.


“They’re tough to stop,” Anderson acknowledged.


McGeough earned a team-high 8.5 tackles and recovered a fumble for the Bulldog defense. Karter Decker and Wyatt Powell had 7.5 tackles each, and Decker led MFL MarMac with 1.5 tackles for a loss. Bryce Radloff made 7 tackles, McShane 5.5 and Austin Schlee 4. Schlee and Tristen Koehn also combined on a sack, and Chauncy Drahn had a solo effort. Kaden Stocker accounted for the team’s other fumble recovery.


After the loss, Anderson told his players not to hang their heads.


“I told them, ‘We made it to the final eight. There are 276 schools that didn’t get a chance to play in the quarterfinals,’” he shared. “When you get to this point, you’ve got such good football teams. We went up a class and made it just as far playing amazing competition.”


Anderson said the program will miss this year’s seven seniors—McGeough, McShane, Drahn, Stocker, Caleb Mezera, Callum Johnson and Collin Henkels. He’s coached them all for six years, since they were in middle school.


“When they were going into freshman year, I took over the varsity, so it’s even more special to work with them and see them mature and learn their personalities,” he reflected. “They won, I think, 31 ballgames in the last four years. I don’t know how many years it took MFL MarMac to win 31 ballgames before this group came along.”


Most importantly, though, they’ve helped change the culture of the Bulldog football program.


“Just their attitude and belief in what we’re doing. They believe in our system and expect to win,” said Anderson. “They’re a fun group to work with too. It’s about winning football games, but it’s also about making good memories.”


“It means a lot to them, and those kids mean a lot to me,” he added. “I’m going to miss all those guys because they worked hard, had a great attitude and set the tone for all these younger guys.”


With the loss of MFL MarMac’s “McDouble” rushing tandem, in McShane and McGeough, Anderson said some people might discount the Bulldogs next season.


“We may be better next year,” he warned. “We’re not going to fall off the map.”


The team will return a full complement of experienced offensive linemen, as well as quarterback Blietz-Bentien and rushing threats Decker, Powell and Radloff.


“We have a lot of young guys out there, you know, four or five sophomores on defense all the time. We’re not an old team, but we’re plenty experienced,” he added. “I expect these kids to work. We’re going to be back to the quarterfinals next year, and we hope we can get over that hump.”

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