Colts get first win
It took longer than Pat Morgans had hoped, and it wasn’t as easy as he would have liked.
But Friday night, the Marian head coach and his team finally got to celebrate a victory.
After seven straight losses to start the season, the Colts defeated Shenandoah Valley, 9-8.
The victory not only made for a memorable Senior Night, but it also virtually assured Marian of a spot in the District 11 Class 1A playoffs.
The Colts (1-7) and Blue Devils (0-8) are battling for the fourth and final playoff berth in the five-team Class 1A field.
“Yes. I know what it means in terms of the postseason, but that didn’t even cross my mind,” Morgans said. “All I could think when the game was over was how happy I am for our kids.
“They really deserved to celebrate a victory. They have been through a lot this season, and to see their excitement after the game was a great feeling.”
Marian got to celebrate a victory thanks in large part to an outstanding defensive performance.
The Colts limited Shenandoah to just 67 yards in total offense, including just 16 yards in the second half.
“I can’t say enough about the play of our defense,” Morgans said. “Especially during the second half — time-after-time they kept answering the call.
“I thought Mitch Miller played his best game of the season at middle linebacker. He was in their backfield the entire night. Mason Miler, Jared Spalti, Owen Brady ... they all made big plays as well. Our defensive backs did a nice job in coverage. It was a great all-around performance by everybody out there.”
Despite the strong effort from the Colts’ defense, the game came down to the final possession because Marian struggled to take advantage of great field position that it enjoyed most of the night.
The Colts started seven possessions in Shenandoah’s half of the field, and had the ball in Blue Devil territory on 11 of their 13 possessions in the game. Despite that, they managed just one touchdown and one field goal.
Marian had one touchdown run and another run that would have put the ball inside the Shenandoah 10-yard line wiped out by holding penalties. The Colts also had numerous motion and formation penalties.
“We have a lot of young kids playing and we put in an entirely new offense this week,” Morgans said. “So, some of those things might be understandable. But we still need to clean things up offensively.”
Marian got its only touchdown on a 54-yard pass from Mason Miller to Luis Teron just over three minutes into the game.
Shenandoah answered with its only sustained drive of the night, scoring on an 8-yard pass from Joe Karvois to Alex Donchak to grab an 8-6 lead.
The Colts took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Blue Devil 21-yard line before the drive bogged down. Marian than turned to its special weapon as special team star Lucca Stroia drilled a 38-yard field goal to make it 9-8 with 11:58 left in the second quarter.
They were the last points of the game.
“Lucca never played football until last year as a junior,” said Morgans. “But he works extremely hard and is a great weapon to have whether its kickoffs, field goals, punts ... he is even playing some receiver for us now. He came up big for us again tonight.”
GETTING HIS KICKS ... In addition to his field goal, Stroia also got touchbacks on two of his three kickoffs, and had a huge 45-yard punt with two minutes left in the game that pinned Shenandoah back at its own 13-yard line. The Devils managed just three yards in four plays, and the Colts took over and ran out the clock.
BRIGHT FUTURES ... Marian freshman Xavier Ocasio and Mitch Miller had outstanding games on both sides of the ball. Ocasio carried 22 times for 140 yards and also intercepted a pass. Miller, the younger brother of the Colts’ starting quarterback, not only drew praise for his linebacker play, but Morgans also signaled him out for the job he did at center after he was moved from his normal fullback position during the week because of injuries. That necessitated the Colts switching from their normal two-back set to a single back offensive formation last night.
ONE DRIVE ... Shenandoah had four of its five first downs and 65 of its 67 total yards in its first-quarter touchdown drive.