The Marquette Catholic Explorers knew they had their work cut out for them in the first round of the Class 4A IHSA playoffs against 5-time 4A state champion Rochester on Saturday.
In the end the Rockets proved too much for the Explorers, rolling past them 52-7 to open the playoffs. The loss concluded Marquette's season at 6-4, while Rochester improved to 9-1 and will face Murphysboro (9-1) and former East Alton-Wood River head coach Gary Carter in the second round.
“I thought we had the type of game plan we were going to have to have,” first-year Marquette head coach Darrell Angelton said via telephone. “When we had the ball we wanted to try and control it and use up the time. We figured the rain would be useful for us, but unfortunately it didn't get really bad until the second half and by that time it was decided.”
The final score was the halftime score, as a running clock and treacherous conditions kept either team from moving the ball well in the second half.
Marquette began the game on a high note. After deferring the kickoff to the second half, the Explorers were able to recover an onside kick to start the game, but couldn't do anything with it against the Rockets.
“The game plan is you have to keep the ball away from their offense,” Angelton said. “They can score. They've got a 1,000-yard running back and a quarterback whose thrown for 2,400 yards, so we tried to keep them off the field as long as we could.”
Marquette's lone score came in the second quarter when senior wide receiver Jesse Simmons ran back a 70-yard kick return for a score. The score cut it to 35-7 at the time.
Turnovers plagued the Explorers, too. Losing running back/defensive back D'Avion Peebles early to injury didn't help Marquette's cause either.
Simmons is one of five seniors who will depart the Explorers' program. Simmons is joined in the senior class by quarterback Trey Aguirre, Sam Dooling, James Jerrigan and Brock Terry, who missed the season due to injury.
Angelton couldn't complain about his first season. Marquette was second in the Prairie State Conference and returned to the playoffs after a year's hiatus and with a young squad he expects more of the same out of his squad next year.
“There were a whole lot of positives,” he said. “We were short on numbers for our seniors, but those kids set the tone. Those four (that played) worked hard. They had a really good work ethic which fed down to the underclassmen. The first goal was to win the conference, we didn't do that, but the second goal was to be a playoff qualifier and they did that.
“Next year my numbers are much much better. I should have 12, 13 seniors and 17 juniors. When I'm pushing 20, 30 kids junior and senior level I think we're going to be OK.”