LEWISVILLE – The Marcus Marauders just keep chopping. On a postcard-perfect Black Friday afternoon, they chopped down rival Lewisville to earn, for the first time in school history, a second consecutive District championship. They also brought the coveted Axe home for the 20th time in the 35-game history of the storied “Battle of the Axe” rivalry – presumably to continue chopping.
They did it with efficient first-half offense, dominant late-game defense and a punishing, ground-and-pound running game in the second half. The Marauders improved to 8-0 (5-0 in District 6-6A) on the season and won their 17th straight regular-season game dating to last season.
On a crisp, windy, sun-kissed day, the Marauders struck early and often in the first half. QB Garrett Nussmeier threw four first-half touchdown passes (the first to Connor Vaughn from 4 yards out, the second and fourth to Dallas Dudley from 23 and 35 yards out, respectively, and the third to Tyler Schott from 21 yards out). Those aerial antics, and Tyler Gainey’s short TD plunge in the first quarter, helped the Marauders build first-half leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 28-14. Yet, Lewisville’s touchdown just before halftime sent Marcus into the locker room clinging to a slim 35-28 lead.
When Lewisville came out and scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, the Marauders found themselves trailing, 38-35. And then, something nasty took over. Like a tired-of-it defense that made play after play after play when the game mattered most. Like a pulverizing running game that saw Walker Wells (89 yards rushing and a TD) and Caden Novarro (29 yards and a touchdown) carry the offense for much of the second half. Novarro’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter put Marcus ahead for good, 42-38. Two series later, Wells scored from 11 yards out to give the Marauders a 49-38 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing drive, junior safety Zach Ohlemeier delivered the Axe-clincher, a 31-yard interception return touchdown that gave his team a commanding 56-38 cushion. It was the biggest defensive play in a second half full of them for the Marauders. A Gainey sack to end the third quarter was huge. So too, was Bryson Barber’s fumble recovery that set up Wells’ score. And then there was the relentless pressure that forced Lewisville into an intentional grounding call from its own end zone for the safety that provided the final margin of victory.
Marcus will host Plano East next week in the final game of the regular season.
PLANO -- The Marcus Marauders found themselves trailing in a football game for just the second time all season Friday night against Plano West. But after surrendering the game’s first touchdown midway through the first quarter, something clicked. Actually, everything clicked. By the time the third quarter ended, the Marauders had crafted a commanding 46-10 lead en route to a 46-24 victory that keeps them perfect on the season at 7-0 (4-0 in District 6-6A).
Bolstered at times by spectacular individual performances – from QB Garrett Nussmeier, and WRs Dallas Dudley and J. Michael Sturdivant, to name three – and at others by a patented pack-swarm mentality, the Marauders inflicted damage in the passing game, in the running game and with defense.
Nussmeier finished with 349 yards passing and three touchdowns (one each to Dudley, Sturdivant and Connor Vaughn), Dudley and Sturdivant each eclipsed 100 yards receiving, and six different ball-carriers produced 84 yards rushing and three touchdowns (one each for Gabe Espinoza, Walker Wells and Tyler Gainey). On defense, the Marauders got interceptions from Gainey and Ty Johnson and limited Plano West to just 236 total yards.
Nussmeier’s touchdown passes to Dudley (44 yards) and Sturdivant (59 yards) would be fixtures on any highlight reel in the country and are must-see material.
Marcus, originally scheduled to play Hebron next week, receives an unexpected second open week with the Hawks forced to cancel two games due to Covid restrictions. Instead, the Marauders will have an extra week to prepare for archrival Lewisville and the Battle of the Axe rivalry game on November 27.
COPPELL -- For the first time all season Friday night, the Marcus Marauders found themselves trailing in a game following an early Coppell field goal. They didn’t trail for long.
Two plays into the ensuing possession, quarterback Garrett Nussmeier fired an absolute dime to Tyler Schott for a 34-yard TD to claim the lead. And then Nussmeier continued firing -- all . . . night . . . long. He threw to J. Michael Sturdivant for an 18-yard score late in the first quarter. He threw to Dallas Dudley for a 7-yard TD early in the third quarter. He threw to Connor Vaughn for a 9-yard score early in the fourth quarter. By then, Marcus owned a commanding 31-10 lead. When Nussmeier finally stopped throwing, the numbers spoke for themselves: 30-of-44 passing (68.2 completion percentage), a season-high 433 yards, four touchdowns and, most importantly, a convincing 38-24 victory.
The win keeps the Marauders undefeated at 6-0 (3-0) and alone atop District 6-6A.
For most of the night, Marcus’ “Red Swarm” defense – anchored by a deep, disruptive front line and an active, athletic back seven -- reciprocated the offense’s output, refusing to allow Coppell any real momentum until it was too late. It was relentless in allowing the Marauders to build all-but-over 24-3 and 31-10 third-quarter leads.
Marcus’ four-headed receiving monster was scary-good again on Friday. Both Sturdivant (nine receptions for 185 yards) and Schott (six for 104) eclipsed the 100-yard barrier, and Dudley and Vaughn combined for 132 yards on 12 receptions. Nussmeier paced the team’s rushing attack with 41 yards on two scrambles while running backs Gabe Espinoza and Walker Wells combined for another 51 rushing yards. Espinoza’s fifth rushing touchdown of the season midway through the fourth gave Marcus a 38-17 lead.
The win keeps Marcus alone in first place in District 6-6A heading into a pivotal clash next Friday at home against Plano West. The Marauders have now won 15 consecutive regular-season games dating back to last season and 10 straight district games.
They did it on the ground. They did it through the air. They did it on defense. They did it on special teams. They did it . . . everywhere. And when the Marcus Marauders’ 2020 Homecoming clash against Plano came to an end in the briskness of a late-October night, they had done it on the scoreboard, too: Marauders 56, Wildcats 17. It was another blunt-force victory for Marcus (5-0, 2-0 in district) and arguably the team’s most balanced performance of the season.
While quarterback Garrett Nussmeier once again conducted an extremely efficient passing attack (going 19-of-22 passing for 342 yards and four touchdowns), the Marauders’ running game saw five different players account for a season-high 278 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Junior Gabe Espinoza amassed 116 total yards and three touchdowns (including two rushing), while fellow junior Caden Novarro galloped for a season-high 119 yards (and one TD) on just 11 carries. The passing game also benefited greatly from a deadly dose of diversity. Eight different players finished with at least one reception, with Dallas Dudley (81 yards, one TD), J. Michael Sturdivant (57 yards, one TD), Connor Vaughn (57 yards, one TD) and Tyler Schott (51 yards) leading the way.
A relentless Marcus defense upheld its end of the bargain once again Friday night with a seemingly unending supply of pressure that generated a bevy of sacks and forced two first-quarter interceptions (by linebackers Emmerick Dopona on one series and Tyler Gainey the next). As for special teams, junior kicker John Wegendt brilliantly executed a kick-it-to-himself onside kick that set up Nussmeier’s 43-yard strike to Dudley for an early 14-0 lead.
In the end, it was a thorough “team win” that keeps Marcus perfect at 5-0 and alone atop District 6-6A. It’s also the Marauders' 14th consecutive regular-season victory dating back to last season. Next week, Marcus goes back on the road to face Coppell.
FLOWER MOUND -- The Marcus Marauders made history Friday night. By executing a brutal 55-14 dismantling of cross-town rival Flower Mound in the #MoundShowdown, they completed the most lopsided victory in the game’s 21-year history. It was blunt. It was brilliant. It was sublime. And it was extremely well-rounded.
Quarterback Garrett Nussmeier dazzled once again with more than 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. His ability to extend plays with his feet while looking downfield for airstrikes was breathtaking once again – for fans watching and for Flower Mound defenders seemingly forever in pursuit.
Nussmeier became the school’s all-time leader in touchdown passes Friday night, a milestone aided immensely by a standout receiving corps that shined brightly throughout. Seniors Tyler Schott (six catches, 117 yards, two TDs), J. Michael Sturdivant (10 catches, 93 yards, one TD) and junior Dallas Dudley (five catches, 34 yards, one TD) combined for 21 receptions, 244 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Marcus ground game benefited from an efficient committee approach that featured seven ball-carriers tally 112 total yards and two short, powerful scoring runs by Emmerick Dopona and Caden Novarro.
But perhaps an even bigger story on Friday night than a history-making offense? The spectacular performance by a pulverizing and opportunistic Marauders defense. The unit continued to impress Friday with a bevy of big plays, big hits and big turnovers, including two pick-6’s – from seniors Mark Vassar and Christian Espinoza – that ensured the Marcus defense would score as many touchdowns as the Flower Mound offense. It was another gritty display of the pack-swarm mentality that continues wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
The Marauders (4-0, 1-0 in District 6-6A) took a 12-9 series lead in the #MoundShowdown rivalry and sit atop the district as its only unbeaten team. Marcus, who has now won 15 of its last 16 games dating back to last season, will host Plano in Week 6.
KELLER -- In a rematch of last season’s Bi-District Playoff Game victory against Keller Central, the Marcus Marauders appeared to be at least close to postseason form already, just three weeks into the new season. Marcus got plenty of contributions from an upstart running game as junior running backs Walker Wells (43 yards) and Gabe Espinoza (15 yards) book-ended first- and fourth-quarter touchdown runs around five Garrett Nussmeier touchdown passes. A stout defense flustered and flattened Keller Central throughout the game with equal doses of power, persistence and passion. Ultimately, Marcus was way too much for the Chargers once again in a thorough 49-10 victory that sends the team riding high into the open week.
Thursday night’s was a game that featured just about everything that has quickly come to define these 2020 Marauders: Nussmeier extending plays with his feet and impressing with his arm, a bevy of pass-catchers making plays all over the field, an opportunistic defense applying pressure and forcing takeaways and plenty of players adding quality content to their highlight reels (J. Michael Sturdivant’s leaping Randy Moss routine on the first of his two TD grabs, Nussmeier’s back-foot frozen rope to Tyler Schott, Bryson Wade forcing a fumble and Jake Jund recovering it, Christian Espinoza’s punt return and Aaron Thomas’ interception just to name a few).
Nussmeier finished the game with 205 yards passing and five touchdowns (while completing 76 percent of his passes), Gabe Espinoza recorded the team’s first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, four different receivers caught touchdown passes (Sturdivant, Schott, Dallas Dudley and Connor Vaughn) and the Marcus defense limited Keller Central to just 144 total yards. With the open week looming in Week 4, the Marauders will take the opportunity to tighten a few things up before playing Flower Mound in the Mound Showdown in two weeks.
McKINNEY -- Bolstered by a gritty, relentless defense and another sterling performance from the passing game, the Marcus Marauders took down the McKinney Lions on Friday night, 27-10.
McKinney running back RJ Carver opened the season against Plano last week by rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns. But Friday, a stingy and aggressive Marcus defense limited Carver to just 46 yards on 17 carries (2.71 yards per carry). McKinney's lone touchdown came with just 4:18 remaining in the game.
Junior CB Zach Morris thwarted one McKinney drive with an end-zone interception, and another with a right-place, right-time fumble recovery. The Marauders' front seven remained locked in all game long and repeatedly turned McKinney away with a bevy of big sacks, bigger hits and a handful of fourth-and-short denials.
Offensively, QB Garrett Nussmeier was at his gunslinging best once again, passing for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He also paced the team in rushing for the second consecutive week with 24 yards. Nuss' favorite targets on this night -- Tyler Schott (six receptions for 120 yards and two scores), J. Michael Sturdivant (11 catches for 94 yards) and Connor Vaughn (10 grabs for 86 yards and a touchdown) -- combined for 27 receptions, 300 yards and all three touchdowns.
It was another quality win for a Marcus team that has won 13 of its last 14 games dating back to last season. The Marauders have a short turnaround this week with a Thursday road game looming against Keller Central.
In his two previous season-opening starts with Marcus, senior QB Garrett Nussmeier was on the losing end twice – and he was determined not to let it happen again Friday night against Jesuit. He gave an impassioned pregame speech to that effect, and then went about doing his part to start his senior season the right way -- and he got a LOT of help from his teammates on both sides of the ball along the way. The result: A stirring 48-31 triumph during which Nussmeier threw for 364 yards and four TDs, and ran for a team-leading 34 yards and another score.
Receivers J. Michael Sturdivant (113 yards and two TDs), Dallas Dudley (99 yards) and Tyler Schott (90 yards and a TD) accounted for 302 receiving yards, and H-back Connor Vaughn chipped in with 49 receiving yards and a TD. On the ground, four Marcus ball-carriers recorded 28 or more yards rushing (including junior Gabe Espinoza, who scored Marcus’ final touchdown on a 4-yard run late in the game).
On defense, senior CB Christian Espinoza delivered a leaping, one-handed interception for the ages, the undeniable highlight for a unit that remained relentless and resilient all night long. Junior kicker John Wegendt was a perfect 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts and booted all six of his extra-point tries. In the end, it was a fun, festive opening night for the Marauders – and the first time Nussmeier’s ever been 1-0. Next week, it’s on to McKinney.