MARSHALL - The winner of tonight's Southwest Conference football game between Class 2A No. 10-ranked Jackson County Central and Marshall will be in control of the league.
The Huskies (4-1 overall, 3-0 SWC) and the Tigers (2-2 overall, 2-0 SWC) are the only undefeated teams left in the conference. JCC enters this game with a three-game winning streak, while Marshall has won its last two contests.
"We're playing better and we're gunning for this game because the winner takes control of the conference," Tigers head coach Terry Bahlmann said.
Photo by Jeff Arenz
Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann, second from right, talks to several varsity players during football practice Thursday at Marshall High School.
After losing their first two games this season, the Tigers can still reach one of their goals, and that is to defend their three-time Southwest Conference title.
In order to reach that goal, Marshall has to stop Jackson County Central's potent rushing attack, which averages 270 yards per game.
"We know that we have to stop the run," Bahlmann said. "JCC runs out of multiple formations and they are physical up front with two linemen (senior Nolan Hohenstein and sophomore Gavin Mulder) on the left side. Plus, they return three starters on the line from last season."
at MARSHALL (2-2)
Kickoff - 7 p.m. for Marshall's homecoming game at The Schwan Regional Event Center
Last Meeting - At Jackson in 2012, Marshall def. Jackson County Central 42-20.
Last Week - Jackson County Central def. Luverne 39-13; Marshall def. Pipestone Area 47-22.
State Rankings - Jackson County Central is No. 10 in Class 2A; Marshall is unranked.
Streaks - Jackson County Central has won its last three games; Marshall has won its last two games.
Scoring Averages - Jackson County Central: Offense 25.4 points; Defense 14.0 points; Marshall: Offense 21.0 points; Defense 17.0 points.
Key Players for Jackson County Central - OFFENSE: Shadrach Wacker is 23 of 51 for 347 yards passing with two touchdowns and five interceptions and has 29 rushing attempts for 137 yards and two touchdowns; Keegan Moore has 62 rushing attempts for 579 yards and eight touchdowns and four receptions for 31 yards; Luke Norland has 66 rushing attempts for 295 yards and three touchdowns; Paden Moore has 30 rushing attempts for 161 yards and two touchdowns; Darnell Taylor-Breck has 11 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns and has six rushing attempts for 33 yards. DEFENSE: Shadrach Wacker, Darnell Taylor-Breck, Ryan Salzwedel and Mitchell Macek all have one interception apiece.
Key Players for Marshall - OFFENSE: Brad Bahlmann is 33 of 53 for 547 yards passing with four touchdowns and three interceptions and has 53 rushing attempts for 231 yards and three touchdowns; Sam Marshall has 56 rushing attempts for 326 yards and two touchdowns and 14 receptions for 191 yards and one touchdown; Jack Bock has 23 rushing attempts for 103 yards and one touchdown; Andrew Hmielewski has 13 receptions for 282 yards and two touchdowns. DEFENSE: Jason Polzin has 24.5 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss; Tyus DeBoer has 21.5 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception; Brad Bahlmann has 20.0 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss; Max Roelfsema has 15.5 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss; Hunter Greve and Reece Winkleman have one sack apiece; Sam Marshall, Andrew Hmielewski and Nick Saugstad each have one interception.
Keegan Moore, Luke Norland and Paden Moore are the ground-gainers Marshall needs to contain.
The Huskies top rusher is Keegan Moore, who has piled up 579 yards and eight touchdowns on 62 carries. Norland is JCC's second-leading ground-gainer with 295 yards and three TDs on 66 carries. Paden Moore runs third for the Huskies with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
"Their left side is going to a physical side of the football and we need to neutralize that and then tackle," Bahlmann said. "Their backs run hard and they throw a lot of different things at their opponents."
Another factor is Huskies quarterback Shadrach Wacker, who has completed 23 of 51 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions.
But the Tigers counter with an offense that exploded for its highest point-total of the season (47) at Pipestone Area last week.
"Our kids made the plays when we needed them," Bahlmann said. "(Sam) Marshall and (Andrew) Hmielewski took some big plays and turned them into touchdowns. We had some good speed there. It was just a matter of executing our offense all at once."
The Tigers generated three touchdowns from Marshall (91-yard run, 30-yard interception and 75-yard pass from Brad Bahlmann) and two more scores from Hmielewski (78-yard and 17-yard passes from Brad Bahlmann). Brad Bahlmann ended up 11 of 15 in passing with 290 yards and no interceptions.
Still, Coach Bahlmann believes line play will go along way in determining the winner of this game.
"I think this game comes down to the team that controls the offensive and defensive lines," Bahlmann said. "Whoever can establish a dominant effort on either side of the ball will be successful because it will allow that team to do what it wants to do."