Displaying explosiveness both on the ground and in the air, the Marian Colts on Friday night scored four touchdowns on long yardage plays that dictated the game's momentum, winning the seasonal opener over the host Lehighton Indians by a score of 28-17.
In a game that featured close to 800 combined yards of offense (399 for Marian and 392 for Lehighton), it was the Colts who controlled the tempo, initially taking a 14-0 lead but then having to come up big after their hosts cut that margin to four by scoring 10 unanswered points.
In the end, it was Marian's ability to get into the endzone that made the difference. While they did that twice in both the first and third quarters, the Colt defense thwarted a pair of Indian possessions that, if successful, could have made the outcome closer than it actually was.
"Our defense did a great job," said Stan Dakosty of the winning Colts. Even though the Indians, behind the passing of Josh Agosto (16-33-256) and a 200-yard performance by back Giuseppe Caruso, amassed 392 yards and 19 firsat downs, "it was a bend but don't break type of thing" that pleased the winning mentor.
On the other hand, tailback Paul Martin, a 1,000-yard rusher as a sophomore last year, returned to his talented form, picking up 205 yards on 19 carries and a pair of TDs to pace a Marian assault that netted 399 yards.
His presence in a nine-play, 79-yard drive on the first possession of the game set the table for another soph, Corey Quick, to go to the air for the game's first tally, a 37-yard pass to Eric Baker, giving Marian a 6-0 edge with 8:14 on the clock. Then, after Lehighton went three-and-out, Martin burst through the middle of the line, made some nice cuts, and outraced the Indians for an 88-yard TD. When Quick passed to Baker for the two-point conversion, Marian had a 14-0 lead with 6:41 stll left to play in the opening stanza.
"Offensively, you saw some big play kids. We think we have some people who can come up big. As a coach, you hope for that. Tonight, it showed." said Dakosty.
For Lehighton, it was a case of "too many mistakes," said Coach George Ebbert. "We're a 1-9 team (last year's record) and when we got down like that, the kids' heads went down. We dug ourselves a rut."
The hosts managed to dig out of it, although only temporarily. They pushed to the Colt 7 yardline on the next series, from where sophomore Jacen Nalesnik booted a 24-yard field goal with 11:02 left in the half, and then took the opening possession of the second half and marched 58 yards on six plays. When Caruso bolted 35 yards for a six-pointer with 7:45 left in the quarter, and Nalesnik added the PAT, the Indians sliced the Colt lead to 14-10.
"We did some things well," Ebbert said of his offense. "We crawled into it, but they hit the big plays. That's the killer. We just can't afford to give up big plays like that."
After the Lehighton score, the Quick-to-Baker combination struck quickly. In fact, on the first play from scrimmage, after Dylan Quirk returned the kickoff from the Marian 6 to the LHS 43, Quick threw his second TD pass to Baker. He added the conversion on a pass to J.T. Keer, giving Marian a cushion at 22-10 with 7:25 on the clock. Before the end of of the stanza, the Colts exploded again. This time, it was Martin on a 63-yard run at the 1:01 point, making it 28-10.
"The kids did a great job, my coaching staff did too," Dakosty stressed. "They implemented the game plan very nicely."
The Indians got their final score with 7:25 left in the game, when Agosto threw to Caruso out of the backfield for 64 yards.
Marian lost its Division I recruit Brandon McGowan on the first possession of the second half. The 6-4, 267-pound lineman left the game after suffering an apparent dislocated elbow injury. Later, Quirk exited the game due to an injury.