When your team has been playing as well as the Marquette Crusaders have through the first three weeks of this football season, reflection could lead one to think there’s no place to go but down. Though a strong foe, overconfidence or a lack of focus could bring that about, the concept is not entirely true. There is always the goal to not only continue that high level of play, but to improve on it, seeking perfection.
However, the Cru, now ranked fifth in the AP's Class 1A poll, will have to go some to improve on how perfectly they’ve played against this week’s opponent, Mooseheart, in their history.
In the three meetings in that span, Marquette has outscored the Red Ramblers 176-0, bringing to the scoring balance to 293-27 in their six encounters in the Northeastern Athletic Conference. In fact, in their last five meetings the Crusaders have permitted their visitors only 35 yards rushing and 247 total yards.
But the past is past.
The Ramblers are just 1-2, but went 5-4 last season, are improving under head coach Jacob Pekofske and have the speed and athleticism to make big plays at any time and on either side of the ball.
In their season opener, Mooseheart scored four touchdowns, including an 85-yard kickoff return and a 26-yard TD burst by speedy senior Nelson Doe, albeit in a 54-27 loss. It then dropped a 19-7 decision to the same Hiawatha club that last Friday battled the Crusaders to a 7-0 first half before falling 35-0.
And it's had an extra week to prepare for the Cru because of last week’s forfeit win over now ex-NAC member, Rockford Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. That would have been Marquette’s foe next week.
“Mooseheart is no different now than they have been: they have a lot of speed both in the line and in the backfield,” said MA coach Tom Jobst, “and defensively, they just come at you from all over the place. They sure can make things messy, especially that No. 5 (Doe). He is good. As long as he’s on the field, you’re never safe. He can start out in one direction and end up in the completely opposite direction. He’s a handful.
“We have beaten three really good teams. Guys have stepped up, like Connor Durdan, who moved from tight end to tackle (for the injured Tanner Jonassen) and is doing a good job. A lot of guys have done that, whatever helps the team.
"This is an unselfish and hard-working team.”
Doe is off to a solid start to his final year, but he is not MHS’s only weapon. Wideouts Nick Rempert and Latif Abedboyejo, two seniors, and sophomore Elvs Iroegulem are the favorite targets of Javion Wells, a new quarterback in his senior year.
Marquette’s physical size, coupled with its aggressive, veteran style, should be enough to dominate the trenches against the quick but smaller Ramblers, who have a single 200-pounder listed on a preseason roster, junior tackle Tyreek Ware.
That style has been the key to the running game, which has been led by elusive senior halfbacks Jack Snook (38 carries, 365 yards, 4 TDs) and Evan Green (18-170-2) and battering-ram fullback junior Preston Aukland (53-335-6).
“We have some things we have to get better at, but we’re happy with where we’re at," Jobst said. “We’re just taking them one game at a time.”
Marquette Crusaders (3-0) at Mooseheart Red Ramblers (1-2)
Game time: 7 p.m. Friday at Mooseheart .
Radio: WCMY-AM 1430.
Last meeting: Marquette 56, Mooseheart 0 (2017).