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Tiger football set for showdown against Cardinals

October 17, 2012
By Travis Andries ( , Marshall Independent

A short week, but a long time coming.

At least that's how it feels on the morning of 7-0 Marshall's regular season finale with the 7-0 Luverne Cardinals.

But even longer has been the wait for a conference title to be decided between to unscathed squads on the final week of the season.

"Somebody had said it's been 30 years since the last time two undefeated teams met for the Southwest Conference," Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann said.

Though the showdown between the Southwest Conference's top two teams was only guaranteed to be a contest between unbeatens after Marshall defeated Worthington and Luverne took care of Lennox, it has seemed inevitable since a 42-20 Tigers victory over Jackson County Central on Sept. 21. The Cardinals had beaten JCC the week previous by a score of 28-14.

Between the wins over the Huskies and a potential undefeated vs. undefeated for the conference title matchup were games against the bottom half of the conference.

Both programs made it through the waiting period unscathed, while simultaneously establishing themselves among the elite in their respective classes.

For the Cardinals, their 7-0 record (5-0 Southwest Conference) has them ranked fifth in Class AA, where they boast the No. 10 offense at 34.6 points per game and the No. 11 defense at 11.4 points per game. Luverne also occupies the top spot of the AA Quality Results Formula (QRF).

The No. 6 Tigers possess Class AAAA's third-ranked offense (46.0 ppg) and the fourth-ranked defense (9.7 ppg) which has not allowed a point in 109 minutes, 34 seconds.

"We take pride all the time in our defense," Bahlmann said. "The shutout streak is nice, but we just want to be fundamentally sound all the time and hustle to the football, and good things will happen for us."

To preserve the streak, however, the Tigers will need to contain a versatile Luverne backfield that features dual quarterbacks, Brett Heronimus and Skyler Wenninger.

"The dual quarterback role poses some problems for us," Bahlmann said. "It's a little different than anything we've seen all year. We just need to make sure that we read run or pass and not be too aggressive. They like to use a halfback pass out of it."

For the Tigers to defy the averages offensively and return from Luverne with a conference title, Marshall must use its physicality to bend yet another opponent to their will.

"That's our strength," Bahlmann said. "We want to be able to control the line of scrimmage and do things off of that. Luverne presents some problems with two big defensive tackles. And we expect them to do some things differently, maybe play eight in the box and make us throw the football. We'll have to react off of what they do."

Potentially playing into Marshall's favor is mother nature. High winds and rain are expected up until kickoff at 7 p.m, but if the elements continue into the game the Tigers should be able to rely on their power football identity which wracked up 509 rushing yards in a 49-0 win over Worthington.

"It's something you can't control, so we'll be prepared for anything," Bahlmann said of the weather. "If it turns into a smashmouth type of game, we'll hopefully be able to handle that. I like our chances there."



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