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By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – Marshfield football coach Denny Goettl said his team was lucky to walk off the field Friday night with a win.
The Tigers were sloppy, committing 11 penalties and fumbling four times (only one lost) but used a strong rushing performance from junior Keiron Howlett and a stout defensive effort against the Oshkosh North rushing attack to pull off a 26-13 victory in the Valley Football Association South Division opener at Beell Stadium.
Howlett, forced into full-time duty for the second week in a row as starter Riley Geblein went down with an injury, rushed 20 times for 181 yards and scored on plays 40, 41 and 11 yards to lead the Tigers’ offense.
Marshfield (2-0, 1-0 VFA South) held North (0-2, 0-1 VFA South) to 100 yards rushing on 38 attempts. The Tigers were beaten on two long pass plays, but held the Spartans out of the end zone for the final 11 minutes to hold on.
“Everybody says you make the greatest gains from Week 1 to Week 2 – and we digressed,” Marshfield coach Denny Goettl said. “It was all week, kind of a little bit lackluster in practices. They took people for granted and that kind of makes me angry. We were lucky to get out of here with a win.
“You take what you can get and we had some great performances to get us through.”
Marshfield got on the board first when Howlett ran in from 40 yards out to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 4:03 to go in the first quarter.
North responded with a drive that ended in a 40-yard field goal by Turner Geisthardt on the first play of the second quarter.
The Tigers came back with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that lasted 6:12. Despite three penalties that set them back 18 yards, the Tigers picked up a pair of fourth downs and Caleb Cline scored on a 2-yard run to put Marshfield up 14-3.
North put together a 12-play drive to open the third quarter and Geisthardt connected on a 27-yard field goal to cut the Tigers’ lead to 14-6.
Howlett busted the first play after a Spartans’ punt for a 41-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 20-6 only to see North use some trickery to quickly get back in the game.
Running back Shane Hammerseng took a pitch and tossed a 71-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Phil Brechlin on the opening play of the fourth quarter to cut Marshfield’s lead to 20-13.
Marshfield held its ground, forcing turnovers on two of the Spartans’ next three possessions and Howlett capped off the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run following a 36-yard punt return by Ryan Trierweiler.
“Last Friday, I just wasn’t ready,” Howlett said of last week’s game in which he ran for 91 yards. “I was little scared. This game, I was prepared.
“I felt, in my heart, that we needed this. I’m not a senior, but the seniors, this is their last season and I tried my heart out and stepped my game out. We all played a good game, especially the defense, that’s what kept us in the game.”
Howlett’s performance caught the eye of his coach.
“He’s a special kid, we know that,” Goettl said. “It’s hard to say to Keiron, ‘Go out there and win it on your own.’ We’ve got to get everybody together and get him some holes bigger than what they were. He can slither through a hole that’s a foot wide, but we need to make it a little easier for him. He had a great game.”
Marshfield plays at Fond du Lac next Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on WDLB-AM 1450 and streamed on the internet at wdlbwosq.com.
Tigers 26, Spartans 13
Oshkosh North 0 3 3 7 – 13
Marshfield 7 7 6 6 – 26
M – Keiron Howlett 40 run (Nathan Borchardt kick), 4:03.
ON – Turner Geisthardt 40 field goal, 11:55.
M – Caleb Cline 2 run (Borchardt kick), 5:43.
ON – Geisthardt 27 field goal, 6:22.
M – Howlett 41 run (kick missed), 1:02.
ON – Phil Brechlin 71 pass from Shane Hammerseng (Geisthardt kick), 11:50.
M – Howlett 11 run (kick blocked), 6:40.
First downs: Oshkosh North 9; Marshfield 13.
Rushing (att-yards): Oshkosh North 38-100; Marshfield 37-216.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): Oshkosh North 10-19-168-1; Marshfield 11-23-140-0.
Penalties (No.-yards): Oshkosh North 3-15; Marshfield 11-78.
Fumbles (total-lost): Oshkosh North 3-2; Marshfield 4-1.
Punting (No.-avg.): Oshkosh North 6-39.1; Marshfield 4-26.5.
Rushing: ON, Peter Lenz 19-72, Shane Hammerseng 6-24, Alex Hintze 3-7, Michael Becker 1-5, Sean Bilderback 2-4, Turner Geisthardt 7-minus 12. M, Keiron Howlett 20-181, Riley Gebelein 6-27, Craig Zalizniak 1-12, Caleb Cline 3-3, Ryan Trierweiler 1-2, Bo Howard 6-minus 9.
Passing: ON, Hammerseng 1-1-71-0, Hintze 1-1-39-0, Geisthardt 8-17-58-1. M, Howard 11-23-140-0.
Receiving: ON, Phil Brechlin 7-154, Hammerseng 2-12, Lenz 1-2. M, Trierweiler 6-90, Tanner Dennis-Brown 2-22, Cline 1-17, Gebelein 1-7, Isaac Accola 1-4.
Fumble recoveries (defense): ON, Matt Salbego. M, Daulton Varsho, Tanner Happe.
Interceptions: ON, none. M, Kalvin Schultz.
Punting: ON, Geisthardt 6-39.1. M, Zalizniak 4-26.5.
Records: Oshkosh North 0-2, 0-1 VFA South; Marshfield 2-0, 1-0 VFA South.