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Click here for a photo gallery of Marshfield’s playoff win over Hortonville.
By Paul Lecker
HORTONVILLE – Members of the Marshfield football team went into halftime hanging their heads following a disappointing end to the first half of Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 Level 2 game.
Trailing Hortonville 23-14 at the break, the Tigers found out what they were made of in the second 24 minutes, scoring five unanswered touchdowns to rout the Polar Bears 49-23 and advance to the Division 2 quarterfinals.
Marshfield (7-3) will host Menomonie (10-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Beell Stadium. Hortonville ends its season at 7-4.
The Tigers lost their season-opener to Menomonie 22-14 at home on Aug. 27.
“Coach (Paul) Foegen (the Tigers’ offensive coordinator) and Coach (Denny) Goettl said that we don’t need to make many adjustments, we just need to execute. It’s not about plays, it’s about running them,” Marshfield senior wide receiver Ian Padron said. “I think we came through, finally did what they were telling us and bought into it and put up 35 unanswered points.”
Elliot Ashbeck completed four passes in the second for 104 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown to Padron, and also ran for a score. Brad Dolezal had two rushing scores and Todd Vantassel ran six times for 88 yards and a touchdown as well in the second half to lead the Tigers in the rout.
“We stopped shooting ourselves in the foot,” Marshfield coach Denny Goettl said. “We talked a little bit about effort and enthusiasm at the half. They had their dobbers down a little bit when we got down by nine points, but we knew we could move the ball. We had to turn their heads upside down and get going.”
Marshfield scored on its opening drive, going 63 yards in eight plays, when Ashbeck hit Payton Marshall over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown.
After a three-and-out, the Tigers looked like they were driving for another score but Vantassel fumbled on the 26 and Hortonville recovered. On the next play, quarterback Keegan Gennrich hit Joe Sommers for a 74-yard touchdown pass to tie the game – and shock Marshfield.
Hortonville had its way throwing the ball for the rest of the first half as well. Gennrich completed eight of nine passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He converted three straight third down plays on the Polar Bears’ first scoring drive of the second quarter with long passes across the middle – the final one to Zach Vallafsky for 20 yards to give Hortonville a 14-7 lead.
Marshfield answered when Dolezal scored from the 4, but Hortonville closed the half strong. Gennrich capped a 64-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. After an interception by Andrew Wolf with 17 seconds left in the half, Gennrich had a nine-yard run and completed a 30-yard pass to Travis Ernst to set up a 20-yard field goal by Taylor Pahl on the final play of the half, putting the Polar Bears up 23-14.
Whatever they did at halftime, it worked for the Tigers.
Hortonville had just 76 yards and four first downs in the second half. The Polar Bears completed just three of 14 passes and threw three interceptions as Marshfield’s defense tightened the screws.
“We knew we couldn’t give up any easy points. We had to stop them from running the ball,” said Marshfield senior cornerback Dan Kniech. “We knew we had to get a lot of stops defensively. We forced them to punt a lot and made some big plays when we needed to with some interceptions.”
Padron scored on a 43-yard pass from Ashbeck on Marshfield’s first possession, the same play that Marshall scored on in the first half where the Hortonville defense surrounded tight end Tyler Rollins in the middle of the field and Ashbeck went deep to a receiver running a slant toward the goal post.
“When we run Tyler down the seam like that, the safety has to make a decision,” said Padron, who added a 37-yard reception in the fourth quarter. “Hopefully he makes the wrong one, which he did two times and we were able to exploit that.”
The Tigers scored again on their next possession when Dolezal ran in from the 8 to put Marshfield up 28-23.
Following back-to-back turnovers on its next two possessions, Marshfield needed just 10 offensive plays to score three touchdowns in the fourth.
Ashbeck had a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score. After an interception by Kniech and a return of 49 yards to the Polar Bears’ 25, Dolezal ran 14 yards and Vantassel finished off the short drive with an 11-yard touchdown.
After a three-and-out, Dolezal iced it with a 42-yard run on the Tigers’ first play.
Vantassel finished with 154 yards rushing on 15 carries, and Dolezal added 84 on just nine carries as the Tigers racked up 272 yards on the ground. “We made a little halftime adjustment at halftime,” Goettl said. “Lenny (Luedtke Jr., the defensive coordinator) went to a little Cover 3 look and had an over-under look on that No. 6 (Vallafsky) because he’s a pretty good player.
“They knew it was their last game if they didn’t win. I think that was a big deal.”
Notes: Marshfield has advanced to the third round of the WIAA football playoffs for the 10th time since 1996 and for the third straight season. … Hortonville’s football field is named Akin Field after George Akin, the longtime teacher, coach and administrator for the Hortonville School District. George Akin is the grandfather of Marshfield High School cross country and girls track coach Dan Akin, and the great grandfather of Marshfield High School athletes Jake and Chelsea Akin. … Friday’s game against Menomonie will mark the fourth time Marshfield has played the Indians in the playoffs. Menomonie won a third-round game in 2003, 10-6, and a first-round game in 2006, 21-0. The Tigers beat Menomonie 34-20 in the third round in 2008.
Tigers 49, Polar Bears 23
Marshfield 7 7 14 21 – 49
Hortonville 7 16 0 0 – 23
M – Payton Marshall 21 pass from Elliot Ashbeck (Gus Utech kick), 8:55.
H – Joe Sommers 74 pass from Kegan Gennrich (Taylor Pahl kick), 4:46.
H – Zach Vallafskey 20 pass from Gennrich (Pahl kick), 6:01.
M – Brad Dolezal 4 run (Utech kick), 4:24.
H – Gennrich 6 run (kick missed), 2:06.
H – Pahl 27 field goal, 0:00.
M – Ian Padron 43 pass from Ashbeck (Utech kick), 9:16.
M – Dolezal 8 run (Utech kick), 6:52.
M – Ashbeck 1 run (Utech kick), 10:00.
M – Todd Vantassel 11 run (Utech kick), 8:14.
M – Dolezal 42 run (Utech kick), 7:01.
First downs: Marshfield 16, Hortonville 9.
Rushing (att-yards): Marshfield 38-272, Hortonville 40-72.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): Marshfield 13-24-193-2, Hortonville 11-23-264-3.
Penalties: Marshfield 4-35, Hortonville 6-51.
Fumbles (total-lost): Marshfield 2-2, Hortonville 2-0.
Rushing: M, Todd Vantassel 15-154, Dolezal 9-84, Riley Gebelein 7-20, Elliot Ashbeck 3-20, Josh Shupe 4-8. H, Zach Vallafskey 11-42, Eric Sprangers 11-32, Nick August 1-3, Gunner Ploch 1-2, Kegan Gennrich 14-minus 3, Cole Parker 2-minus 4.
Passing: M, Ashbeck 12-22-190-2, Chris Stemen 1-2-3-0. H, Gennrich 11-21-264-1, Vallafskey 0-1-0-1, Ryley Rosenfeldt 0-1-0-1.
Receiving: M, Payton Marshall 3-32, Ian Padron 2-80, Austin Littman 2-25, Tyler Rollins 2-24, Jake Lisiecki 2-19, Dolezal 2-4. H, Vallafskey 5-96, Joe Sommers 2-75, Travis Ernst 2-54, August 2-39.
Fumble recoveries (defense): M, none. H, Patrick Hart, Dallas Hannus.
Interceptions: M, Dan Kniech, Brad Esselman, Daniel Drach. H, Andrew Wolf.
Records: Marshfield 7-3, Hortonville 7-4.