By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MARSHFIELD – As the Marshfield Blue Jays put on a spectacular Military Appreciation Night, Aurora quarterback Aaron Fisher – whose brother served in the military – stood in awe.
And then realized what he better do.
“We had to stay calm,” said Fisher, who ripped off a 76-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, kick-starting a big-play first half that sent the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs to a 40-13 victory against Marshfield on Friday night at RA Barr Stadium.
Aurora led 26-0 by the end of the 3:08 mark of the second quarter, with Kohl Rohlman’s 7-yard and 66-yard TDs sandwiched around outside linebacker Cameron Savage returning a fumble 47 yards for a TD.
This as Aurora improved to 5-2 one season after finishing 1-9. Its keys Friday were sound line play on both sides of the ball as the flex-bone wing-T offense churned through 51 plays while the defense held one of the area’s most imposing rushers in check.
“We did a tremendous job of keeping their offense off-balance and our offense did what we had to do,” Aurora coach Craig Weldy said. “We had some great work by our offensive line and they allowed us to have some explosive plays.”
The stage certainly seemed to be set, though, for a big night for Marshfield, which had won two of its previous three games and then juiced up the atmosphere with Military Appreciation Night.
For instance, Marshfield’s white helmets featured the stars and stripes within the Blue Jay logo, while the “M” emblem at midfield was painted with a wavy U.S. flag and blue and grayish camo. Veterans and active military were invited down to the field during pre-game.
“I was really happy they were doing that. The field looked really nice,” Fisher said. “That brought a smile to my face.”
He nearly said the same about the Aurora offensive line, which includes Felix Barrientos-Perez, Dalton Cline, Jackson Cline, Kyle Anderson, Dwight Jung and reserve Alex Dewitt.
The line’s footwork and technique allowed Aurora to let plays develop and, ultimately, to hog the ball. The Houn’ Dawgs rushed for 341 yards, with Fisher making key reads as he made timely pitches when the wing-T created option plays.
Twice in the second half, Aurora had 5-minute drives, including one in response to Marshfield pulling within 26-13 with 9:41 left. That Aurora drive ended in Ian Jackson’s 5-yard TD run.
Then again, they were jazzed up by Savage’s fumble return for a touchdown, his first in a varsity game. “A turning point,” Fisher called it.
“I was playing my job. I saw the ball pop out and Dalton (Cline) hits the ball and it keeps flying. I thought, ‘I’ll see what I can do with it,’” Savage said. “I just turned the burners on.”
Meanwhile, it was a night of what-ifs for Marshfield (3-4). Senior rusher Daylon Kanengieter finished with 75 yard on 17 carries, including 4-yard and 11-yard touchdown runs that helped the Blue Jays pull within 26-13.
However, Aurora’s defensive line won the up-front battle most of the night.
“We came out extremely flat against a really good football team,” Marshfield coach Cody Bull said. “We talked about having to make sure we were executing offensively and defensively. We didn’t do that, and they did. So hats off to Aurora for playing extremely well. We dug ourselves a hole.”
Marshfield will look back and wonder what might have been. Several dropped passes, or penalties ultimately hurt in the opening half. Marshfield had a nice drive to the Aurora 24 late in the second quarter but got intercepted in the end zone.
That said, you can see where the Blue Jays may have something down the stretch. Sophomore quarterback Bryant Bull can throw deep and in the flat and run when necessary. His sideline passes on their first scoring drive in the fourth quarter included a 22-yarder. Defensively, they also forced three three-and-outs in the second half to give themselves a chance.
“We played well for a quarter and a half, and that doesn’t win games in the Big 8,” Coach Bull said. “We showed flashes. But it was a lack of focus early, and when you play a team like that, it’s tough.”