First, we need to revise our final score tweet. Marist, or at least this version of Marist, did not look the part. Coming into the year, we said if Marist ran the table they would stand alone as the default champion of 4A football. However, this Marist team isn’t what we expected. The Marist we saw tonight, and we mean specifically tonight, did not look the part.
Here’s what we saw:
- Cascade dug themselves a hole early, and it doomed them. It wasn’t that the Cougars couldn’t move the ball—they did fairly easily between the 30-yard lines—but in the red zone the space they exploited just wasn’t there. Toss, after toss, after toss works when there are 70 yards of field left, but when the difference between an 8-man box and an 11-man box becomes blurred in the red zone, it does not work to the same degree.
- The Cougar offense had its moments, but generally they were relegated to moderate gains and lengthy drives. Coupled with a tremendous defensive performance, this can be one of the best ways to take down a team like Marist: take the air out of the ball, and play keep away. With the early deficit, though, this style of game seemed out of reach almost from the opening kickoff.
- There is significant talent on the Cascade roster. Collin Smittle and Shawn Kuenzi head up a junior class that could have this program back in the thick of things come fall. Add in lone senior David Kanoff, and there isn’t a game left on Cascade’s schedule in which they can’t compete.
- Cascade looked significantly better in the second half, as the gamble of man-blitzing began to pay off significantly. The Cougars regularly had one or two men in the backfield providing pressure when Marist dropped back to pass and consistently blew up inside-run plays on the Marist side of the line of scrimmage. There was significant improvement from one half to the next. Had there been more time on the clock, we may have seen a different outcome.
- For Cascade to make a comeback attempt, Marist had to open the door, and open it they did. Muffed snaps on punts, snaps over the head of the punter, weird and at times unexplainable defensive breakdowns, and an overall drain of juice gave Cascade the fuel with which to stage a comeback.
- Similar to Cascade, Marist was a completely different team after the first quarter. The quick strike plays of the first half weren’t there, whether by miscue or missed assignment. Part of this can be chalked up to the pressure the Cougars produced, but that’s not all. For all of Marist’s talent, there was a lack of ‘it’ tonight. There was a fire that was missing, a lack of flare, a lack of consistency, and an overall lack of, well, ‘it’. The Spartans have it in them; it just needs to be shown.
The best way to sum up the evening: if not for the early hole Cascade dug themselves, they probably win. If Marist had played a whole game with the fire of the first quarter, it would’ve been a bloodbath. Cascade is a very good team and will win their league. Marist is a potential championship candidate and in coming weeks hopefully will show it. The story tonight is more about what both teams didn’t do rather than what either team did: neither played to their potential.
The good news is this: the ceilings for both squads are above, possibly way above what was shown tonight. That’s reason for hope, and incentive for work to be done in the coming days, on both sides.