Marquette sophomore Jakob Jarden bats down a pass from Bunker Hill quarterback Jacob Mueller on Friday at Public School Stadium.
ALTON – Brady McAfee brought the Marquette Catholic High running game back to life Friday at Public School Stadium.
The sophomore did it in a rush as the Explorers scooted by Bunker Hill, 35-0, in a Prairie State Conference football game at Public School Stadium. Marquette improved to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in league play. Bunker Hill is 4-3 and 3-2.
“Brady has played a lot of positions for us and he is a jack of all trades,” Marquette coach Matt Bucher said. “No matter where you put him, he gives you a good effort. He's a sophomore who plays like a senior."
The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder rambled for 105 yards on 17 carries and tallied on an 8-yard score less than three minutes into the game. His TD gallop at 9:46 set the tone for the Explorers.
They rushed for 299 yards – their highest total of the season – in controlling the ball against the Minutemen. Marquette led 21-0 at half and never look back.
The Explorers ran for five touchdowns with Liam Maher (7 yards), Danny Holtz (10 yards), Jesse Simmons (43 yards) and Trey Aguirre (1 yard) also scoring. Holtz, a highly touted receiver, ran for his first score of the season. Simmons pitched in with 55 yards rushing and Maher converted five PAT kicks.
“Getting our running game going is something we worked on in practice,” Bucher said. “We were more patient, and as far as preparation, everybody was on the same page.
“We looked more relaxed and confident.”
Marquette’s defense exuded equal confidence. The Explorers, posting their second shutout of the season, used fumble recoveries by Sam Stemm, Jeremy Strebel and Aguirre to frustrate the Minutemen. Aguirre’s recovery setup Holtz’s score with 21 second remaining in the first half and put the Minutemen in a precarious position.
“Those fumbles hurt us,” Bunker Hill coach Tom Haynes said. “They (Explorers) played well, but we need to regroup and win our last two games. Our backs are against the wall. We’re going to need six wins to get into the playoffs.”
The Minutemen have qualified for the IHSA grid playoffs only once – in 2007 – during the history of their 16-year-old program. That team went 6-4. This squad, logging four victories thus far, is the second-most winning one in school annals.
“When you were 4-1 like we were,” Haynes said, “finishing 5-4 or 4-5 isn’t that good. You want to get to six wins and go into the playoffs.”
The postseason is also on Marquette’s agenda, but the Explorers need wins over Metro East Lutheran and Mount Olive the next two weeks to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Bucher doesn’t know if MELHS will have enough players to compete against Marquette next Friday in Edwardsville. If not, the Explorers may try to schedule another foe, possibly McLeansboro, in lieu of a forfeit.
“We want to play a game next week, especially for our seniors,” he said. The Explorers, who entertain Mount Olive in Week 9, intend to rely on their defense for a playoff push.
“Our defense has been there all season long,” Bucher said. “We have been flying around on defense and pursuing the football.”
Bunker Hill, which has Pawnee and Kincaid South Fork remaining on its schedule, managed 170 yards rushing against Marquette. Christian Summers, a 180-pound sophomore, ran for 90 of those yards.
“He’s a hard-nosed player and very competitive kid,” Haynes said. “He’s always going to give more than 100 percent.”
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 35, BUNKER HILL 0
Bunker Hill 0 0 0 0 – 0
Marquette 7 14 7 7 – 35
M – McAfee 8 run (Maher kick), 9:46
M – Maher 7 run (Maher kick), 5:26
M – Holtz 10 run (Maher kick), :21
M – Simmons 43 run (Maher kick), 5:11
M – Aguirre 1 run (Maher kick), 9:37