COOS BAY — With the de facto Sky-Em League championship game looming at Marist Catholic next week, it was important the Marshfield Pirates play well against the visiting Elmira Falcons on senior night at Pete Susick Stadium.
They did just that, scoring 49 first-half points behind a smothering defense and perfect passing game and went home with a win by that same score after the second half was played with a running clock. Grant Woolsey threw touchdown passes on six of his nine attempts and Marshfield held the Elmira defense to 10 first-half yards.
“That was kind of the goal of tonight, to go into that game (next week) with some momentum and feeling good about our performance,” Marshfield coach John Lemmons said. “And I think everyone’s feeling pretty good about it.”
Marshfield improved to 3-0 in league play and 6-1 overall. The Spartans also are 3-0, meaning the winner in Eugene next week is the league champion, though both squads already are guaranteed spots in the Class 4A playoffs.
The Falcons finished 1-3 in league play and fell to 4-3 overall, but after Marshfield’s first offensive drive Friday, seemed to be hanging tough.
Though the Pirates marched right down to the Falcons 11 on the opening possession, a Josiah Nibblet fumble ended it without points, as Elmira's Rowdy Ramirez recovered, flipping momentum over to the Falcons with 8:09 left in the first quarter.
Elmira claimed its only first down of the half two plays later, but fumbled on the next, with Greg Stump pouncing on the loose ball at the Elmira 20.
Marshfield promptly scored four plays later when Woolsey hit Cory Stover, the first four touchdowns between them, and it only started a flood.
“All the guys look and see I’m going to Oregon State and they’re kinda judging,” Stover said. “I like to prove ‘em wrong and show ‘em what I’m about. In film they’re gonna see they’re always throwing to me and they’re gonna double or triple up on me and that gives other guys open spots.”
In Elmira’s next seven drives, the Falcons totaled minus-11 yards of total offense with two more fumbles (recovered by Aidan Adams and Sirus Robie).
Athletic and talented Falcons back Brady Nagel had next to no running room after his 11 yards on Elmira’s initial first down-gaining drive and finished with 8 yards.
“Their running back, 42, he's a quality back," Lemmons said. "He's one of the best running backs in the league. I thought he'd be a little harder to contain, but the kids came out and kept him in the cage."
“I think we got the best defense in the state for sure,” Stover said. “Stump got that fumble recovery and that just set the tone for the rest of the game. We just got that attitude. Before every game we set a goal (of allowing just) 5 yards every quarter and we might’ve got that. I’m not sure.”
Meanwhile, Marshfield’s offense was literally unstoppable.
Between Devin Benson, Nibblett, Robie, Tev’n Woods and Tristin Lemmons, Marshfield has a bevy of running backs to call upon. Add them to receivers including Stover, Jacob Carpenter and Tyler Thornton, and Woolsey has so many options he can barely choose.
Though the simplest and easiest option is looking for his 6-foot-9 Oregon State-bound tight end Stover, which he did with great success.
Following an Elmira punt that Nibblett returned to the Falcons 23, Woolsey hit Stover two plays later on 28-yard seam route for a 14-0 lead with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
After another Elmira punt — on a fourth and 1 from the Marshfield 41, no less — that bounced into the end zone for a touchback, Nibblett took a backward swing pass eight plays later that looked well-defended until the junior running back found a crease and exploded through it for a 32-yard touchdown three minutes into the second quarter.
“It’s nice when you can throw about a 5-yard pass to a receiver and they can run 50 yards and call it a touchdown,” Woolsey said. “It’s good, and Marist is seeing that and they’re gonna want to spread out and we can run up the middle like we always do.”
Just two minutes later, Woolsey hit Stover on an 18-yard go route for a 28-0 lead, then the senior passer hit Thornton on a little bubble screen and the junior, who’s listed as both a quarterback and wide receiver on the roster, beat everyone up the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown on Marshfield's next drive. Thornton also had a 54-yard punt return touchdown called back on a block in the back penalty.
Woolsey later hit Woods on a 30-yard deep post and found Stover one last time for a 28-yard touchdown on a tight end screen, with Stover catching at the line of scrimmage and weaving through the Falcons defense for the game’s final score just before halftime.
Woolsey finished 9-of-9 passing for 184 yards and six touchdowns. In his last two games, Woolsey hasn't missed on a pass, going 12-for-12 last week, as well. Stover caught six passes for 102 yards and four touchdowns. As a team, Marshfield passed for 195 yards and rushed for 162.
“We have a lot of firepower,” Woolsey said. “A lot of firepower. Everyone contributed. Stove, Tev’n, especially the offensive line. Josiah, Sirus had a couple good runs. Tristin, getting back in his groove had a couple good runs. Just firepower.”
Marshfield, now, prepares for that de facto league championship game at Marist in the regular season finale.
“Next week we just gotta prepare like we prepare and treat it like the state championship game,” Woolsey said. “Practice like its state championship week and play like it. I think we’ll come out on top.”