110th M&M Classic
Maroons March to M&M Victory
Another year of football is getting started and with it another entry into the log book of the historic M&M rivalry game.
This year's contest took place at Higley Stadium in Marinette where Menominee employed a huge third quarter to propel themselves to another M&M game win, pushing the game count further toward the Menominee end.
This one certainly had its up's and down's for both teams. In the early going, Marinette found themselves on the board first with momentum on their side, but a slowly building Menominee power surge eventually zapped the Marines for a 31-14 Maroon victory.
"This is the 110th time we have played one another," said Menominee gridiron boss Joe Noha. "It's a game that our grandparents have played in. We are proud to be here and are pleased with today's outcome."
So it's been 110 games of the M&M Classic, and still the rivalry burns hot and tradition runs deep. "It's great for the community. It's just one of those games. Home games are important to your season but for this one you're able to just put everything aside for a second and just focus on these guys," Marine Head Coach Andy Walters stated. "It's personal, they have relationships on and off the field whether good or bad, this game is personal for them because they know the guys across the line from them. I am hungry for our program to get back to being competitive against these guys."
A shaky Menominee start was highlighted by early turnovers on the Menominee end of the game. With an interception and a few fumbles, Marinette looked as if they might just be able to build that crucial first half lead that seems to be so necessary for the Marines in recent M&M game history. But a tough Menominee defensive unit insured that no turnover lost would result in any unrecoverable lead.
Though the defensive engines seemed to be firing on all cylinders from the get go, the offensive gears were in need of a bit of grease. Nothing surprising, since it was Menominee's season beginning quarter, just a few cobwebs needed to be shaken off.
"Rasner, Mileski, McKenny, Hass and Larsen, are all guys who can carry the mail so to speak," said Noha. "It was our first game out so expect us to get better.
Well, it certainly didn't take long for those cobwebs to work their way off the gear of the Maroons, and it quickly became evident as the yardage began to amass over the half, eventually ending the night with 336 yards to Marinette's 142.
"Our kids put so much time into this sport," said Noha. "We put a lot of time in this offseason. This game means a lot to us."
Through the air, Menominee piled up an additional 84 yards on five completions, while the Marines posted 73 yards on eight completions.
The turnover battle was won by the Marines, who recovered three of four fumbles while pulling down one interception to the Maroons one interception and two recovered fumbles.
To start the game, Menominee elected to receive the opening kick. It truly looked as if the Marines had the Maroons number to start, as Marinette's Spencer Hipke pulled down a Kiefer Rasner pass on the third play of the drive. After reeling in the pass on the 28-yard line of Marinette, Hipke slipped his way to the 33-yard line of Menominee.
After the pick, the Marines looked like they might have the momentum needed to score. Conner Nelson got the drive moving with a hard fought four-yard gain followed by a couple James Jagielski runs that brought Marinette to a first down.
"We knew that they would come out tough," said Noha. "They have guys like Jagielski, Nelson and Eldredge who are very proud and when you are a true athlete your competitive nature will always come out in big games like this. I thought they competed very well, the score may not give that impression at first glance but they should be proud of how hard they played today."
On the sixth play of the drive, Jagielski hit an open Conner Nelson near the Menominee bench for an eight yard passing gain. Nelson definitely had to work for the reception. Extending out, he reeled in the pass one-handed before being forced out of bounds at the Menominee 48-yard line. But an incomplete pass on the following third down left the Marines stalled out on the 42-yard line, forcing them to punt.
After the punt, it was Menominee's turn to get on the board first but Marinette was ready to end the drive short, forcing the Menominee offense to a three and out.
On fourth down with eight yards between them and the first down marker, Menominee decided to punt. Jagielski waited down field for the punt which he quickly zeroed in on. After catching the ball, he was off to the races, finding a seam and slipping his way through the special teams coverage. He covered 52 yards on the way to the score.
Marinette's extra point kick was unsuccessful, resulting in a 6-0 lead.
Menominee's next drive definitely had some steam behind it. On second down with six yards needed for the first, Sam Larson blasted his way to a nine-yard gain. But a couple plays later, the gains made by the first few plays of the drive were erased as two consecutive false starts were called on the Menominee offensive front. Luckily for the Maroons, the Marinette defense would give them five of those yards back a couple plays later on an offside call.
After the offside flag, Larson broke another big run gain rolling out toward the Maroon sideline for a 12-yard pickup. On the next play, Rasner hit an open Ethan Mileski who caught the ball at his own 36-yard line before fumbling. Again a little luck was on the Maroons side as the ball was declared dead on the 41 of Marinette.
The next play was one of the evening's biggest rushes. Rasner took the snap and shot through the right side of the line before cutting up field and finding a lot of daylight on his way to a 41-yard touchdown run. Larsen tagged on the extra point kick for the slim 7-6 Menominee lead.
Marinette got off to good start on their drive following the score, with Jagielski getting a first down off an eight-yard run. On second down, Menominee's Jacob Laatsch bull rushed pass his blocker to drag down Jagielski one yard behind the line of scrimmage to end the first quarter.
Two plays later, the blitz got Marinette again as Jagielski was dragged down for a seven-yard loss by Christian Suchan and Jacob Rivard. Facing fourth and 17, Marinette was forced to punt.
Menominee's next drive would again be cut short by a turnover. After a first down by Josh Hansen, Rasner looked to run but fumbled the ball on his own 37-yard line, where it was recovered by Marinette's Riley Thill.
The turnover would not result in any significant gains for Marinette as Menominee forced a three and out.
Those three and outs started to take their toll on the Marine momentum, which quickly became apparent on the ensuing Menominee drive. Four plays was all it took for Menominee to kick in the door
"I kept thinking they were going to throw more," said Noha. "But they stuck to the run game, probably to shorten the game up a bit, I'm very proud of the way our front seven played on defense tonight."
Both coaches seemed to have a similar idea about how to control the flow of the game. "I don't think it would be a good idea to start winging the ball all over on them. We want the ball in their hands for the least amount of time as possible. They're a hell of an offensive team and have been for years. The more time they have the ball in their hands the more opportunity you're giving them." Walters commented on their gameplan.
After an incompletion, Rasner handed the ball off to Hansen who picked up a five-yard gain. A false start set the Maroons back on the next play, but any losses from the flag were quickly eroded on the following play. Rasner dropped back and looked toward Mileski who had just cut up field on his route. Rasner didn't hesitate on the opportunity, sending the shot out to Mileski who reeled in the pass on the 44 of Menominee. With only one man out to beat, Mileski found an extra gear, winning the foot race to the 56-yard teedee. Larson's extra point kick went wide left giving the game a 13-6 tally.
Marinette struggled to get out of the three and out rut on their next drive, and once again were forced to punt after three plays. On third down, the Maroon's Larsen knocked down a pass that could have broken Marinette's rut. After the punt, Menominee's offense resumed on their own 25-yard line.
Marinette had another golden opportunity on the next Maroon possession, forcing a fumble four plays into the drive on their own 20-yard line. But Menominee's defense was ready to pick up the slack, forcing yet another three and out.
"When they only have five guys in the box we have to be able to run the ball inside. Obviously, they have two pretty darn good athletes at linebacker that we had a tough time blocking," stated Walters talking about his offense.
Menominee took to the air on their next drive as Rasner hit an open Mileski for a 15-yard gain. The two repeated their success a couple plays later for another first down.
This time it was Marinette's turn to make a stand, and Matt Eldredge was their man as he swatted down the Maroon's fourth and one passing attempt to force a turnover on downs.
Marinette had just enough time to run a single play for a two-yard rushing gain before time expired in the half.
After the intermission, Marinette was set to receive the kick. Seven plays into the drive they broke one of its biggest gains of the day when Jagielksi dropped back to pass. He found an open Nelson who went for a 23-yard gain.
Two plays later, Marinette found themselves on the Maroons 33-yard line facing a third and long. This time the turnover bug nipped the Marines, as Maroon Jacob Rivard intercepted Jagielski's pass which he then carried to the 47-yard line of Marinette.
The drive would only consist of two plays, both of which were carried by Rasner. The first, a three-yard run and the second a 41-yard blast by Rasner, which found his way into the end zone. The extra point kick again went left, leaving Menominee with a 19-6 lead.
"Just that third quarter, we thought coming out after halftime we would be able to do some things," said Coach Walters.
From that point on the Maroons took hold of the momentum of the game, furthering their lead with two more third quarter touchdowns.
Marinette's drive following the score was stopped short by a fumble on third down. Two plays after the fumble, Menominee scored again thanks to a Sam Larson 11-yard rush. The two-point conversion throw was incomplete, setting the score at 25-6.
The Maroon defense was able to force yet another fumble on the ensuing Marine drive, recovering the ball at the 35-yard line of Marinette.
After six hard hitting runs by the Maroon backs, Menominee capitalized on the turnover opportunity as Rasner punched his way into the end zone from 17 yards out to give Menominee their final touchdown of the evening, 31-6.
It was three and out for the Marines on the first drive of the fourth quarter. But not on the second drive, which found pay dirt on a 33-yard run by Trey Bretl to bring the score to 31-14 after the successful two point conversion.
The game ended after Marinette's next offensive position, which was ground down to a fourth and two attempt on the Menominee 34-yard line.
Rasner led the Menominee passing offense with 84 yards on a 5 of 10 showing with one teedee and one interception. On the ground, Rasner piled up 141 yards on 13 carries with three touchdowns. Larson added 67 yards to the rushing total on nine carries while Marcus Mckenny chipped in 49 yards on two carries.
Mileski led the receiving category with four receptions for 83 yards and one teedee.
Jagielski led the Marine attack passing for 46 yards off a 6 of 11 showing. He rushed for 58 yards on 19 carries while also scoring one of the touchdowns off a punt return. Bretl had 36 yards on three carries with one touchdown.
"I was proud of our kids, they played hard. We've had some games where it's been pretty ugly and today besides that third quarter I thought our kids played pretty tough against them," Walters said of his troops.
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