By Calen VanNess (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After a disappointing record last season, the Marshfield Blue Jays (1-0) were ready for a fresh start in their inaugural game as a member of the Big 8 Conference. After a tightly contested first half, it was a second half surge on both sides of the ball that sent a raucous crowd home happy as Marshfield pulled away to a 41-7 victory.
Marshfield senior linebacker Teagan Boles put the final nail in the coffin with 4:03 left in the game after a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown pushed the Blue Jays lead to 41-7.
Blue Jays head coach Cody Bull could not have been happier with his guys after their dominating performance.
“I was proud of our guys and the way we came out and set a tone early,” said Bull. “I told them that McDonald County is a good team and well coached. They were going to do things right. I told them they were going to see some adversity and needed to respond correctly to that.”
It did not take long for them to see that adversity. After a 5-yard strike from Blue Jays senior quarterback Brock Utecht to senior tight end Truett Gardner, the Mustangs (0-1) struck back with an 80-yard run up the middle from senior running back Oakley Roessler to tie the game 7-7.
“After they scored their long touchdown, I was really proud of our guys,” said Bull. “They came back and showed some poise and really put themselves in a position to win the game. They really kept their foot on the pedal and made plays.”
The Blue Jays saw Utecht pass for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns on the night. Junior running back Brennan Espy had a stellar performance on the ground and through the air as he rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown, while also throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. In the receiving game, Gardner had nine receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Seniors Austin Porter and Will Smith also had a combined six receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
The play of the night, however, came from Marshfield’s defense. Late in the third quarter with McDonald County down 28-7 and looking to start a comeback, junior quarterback Ben Mora threw a deep pass down the sideline that was intercepted with one had by a leaping Brooks Espy. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it was just that kind of night for Marshfield’s defense who forced four turnovers in the contest.
Bull had nothing but positives to say about his defensive players, and he attributed their success to their impressive work ethic.
“The work [our defensive players] have done in the weight room goes back to last summer,” said Bull. “Our guys just look different physically. They are strong and athletic and that translates great for us defensively.”
After only mustering a total of seven points in last year’s defeat to the Mustangs, Bull also praised the play of Utecht in jumpstarting the offense.
“Brock’s doing a good job of making decisions this year,” said Bull. “He is also doing a real good job of letting our playmakers go make plays.”
Utecht was also excited about his team’s dominating win.
“We finally showed where we want to be and our senior class just came out and did what we have been dreaming about for a while,” said Utecht. “It was just a sweet victory.”
The game plan against the Mustangs was a thing of beauty for Marshfield, and Bull gives all credit to his coaching staff for having his team ready to compete at such a high level.
“It is awesome to see Coach [Roy] Caderly work with [the offensive line],” said Bull. “And I can’t say enough about our defense. Coach [Matt] Holt does a great job. My entire staff works their tails off, and our kids are doing what we ask of them.”
Bull wants his guys to take pleasure in the victory, but he knows that it will not get any easier as Monett is next on the schedule.
“Monett is good,” said Bull. “They are two years removed from a state title. They are young, but they are fast. I told our guys we can enjoy the win over the weekend and then put it to bed. Sunday we are going to start on Monett. We are going to have to show and play.”
Marshfield will battle the Cubs on August 31 while McDonald County will play host to Logan-Rogersville.
McDonald County 7, Marshfield 41
McDonald County 7 0 0 0
Marshfield 7 7 14 13
Marshfield – Gardner 5 catch from Utecht (Meyer kick)
McDonald County – Roessler 80 run (Allison kick)
Marshfield – Porter 28 catch from B. Espy (Meyer kick)
Marshfield – Gardner 30 catch from Utecht (Meyer kick)
Marshfield – Smith 26 catch from Utecht (Meyer kick)
Marshfield – Espy 60 run (Meyer kick)
Marshfield – Boles 22 interception return (kick failed)