MARSHALL - Head coach Terry Bahlmann and the Marshall Tigers will enter Friday's matchup with the Fairmont Cardinals on a 13-game regular season winning streak. The Tigers will also put a current four-game winning streak over the Cardinals on the line as the two teams kick off at 7 p.m. in Fairmont.
Both teams enjoyed similar wins last week during their 2012 season premieres. Fairmont blasted the Worthington Trojans 47-15, while the Tigers trampled Mankato East 42-7. But Week 2 should provide a better test of character for both teams.
"Fairmont's experienced," Bahlmann said. "They return a lot of players, so it's a good test for us in a tough environment. Physically, size wise, they match up well with us."
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall split end Tanner Cirks, left, prepares for a down-field reception at practice Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers have their first road test of the 2012 season Friday when they travel to Fairmont to take on the Cardinals.
While the Cardinals, who are ranked second in the latest Class AAA poll, should provide a more stern test for the Tigers than Mankato East, the key to success will be the same.
"This year our experience is up front. We feel very good about how those guys played last week and they need to come out and dominate the line of scrimmage again," Bahlmann said.
Marshall owned the trenches against the Cougars. The Tigers' veteran offensive line paved the way for Marshall's multi-headed backfield to accumulate 414 yards on the ground and kept quarterback Austin Saugstad upright, allowing no sacks.
Conversely, Marshall's defensive line sacked Cougars quarterback Nic Seiler five times, had seven tackles for loss and held Mankato East ball carriers to 26 yards.
Specifically, the Tigers will look to simplify the Fairmont attack.
"We want to try and make them one dimensional," Bahlmann said. "We have to stop their running game. They've got a big tailback. Get him stopped and make them throw the football."
Fairmont's Brandon Martin rushed for 79 yards and two scores during the Cardinals' win over Worthington last week. But even if Marshall manages to limit Martin's effectiveness, the 2011 Class AAA runners-up have a talented wide receiver lurking down field.
"They have a tough receiver in (Bryce) Holm. He's about 6-3, gives us matchup problems," Bahlmann said.
Holm had seven catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1.
Marshall's top receiver against Mankato East was Tanner Cirks, who had a pair of catches for 52 yards and two scores.
"Pressure up front will help our secondary out. Last week we were able to put pressure on the quarterback with five sacks. We need that again," Bahlmann said.
After the Tigers defeated Fairmont 40-21 last season, the Cardinals ripped off 11 straight victories and earned a trip to the Prep Bowl, where they were defeated by St. Croix Lutheran 34-32.
The Tigers have the historical edge over Fairmont, but must defend their two impressive winning streaks in front of a hostile crowd and against a team that is on a hot streak of its own.
Bahlmann is confident that his team will be up to the challenge.
"I'm sure, at their place, they're going to be ready to go. It's going to be a great football game,"?Bahlmann said. "They had some success in the postseason last year and they have a lot of momentum."