Niles edged by Marshall 20-18Published 9:58pm Saturday, September 5, 2009
By SCOTT NOVAK
Niles Daily Star
The way Friday night’s game between Niles and visiting Marshall started out, one would have expected more points on scoreboard than 38 when all was said and done.
But neither team scored in the second half of the Big 16 Conference non-divisional game and the Redhawks came away with a 20-18 victory.
The two teams lit up the ailing Niles scoreboard for 26 points in the game’s first 12 minutes.
By the time the contest was just under nine minutes left in the second quarter the scoring was nearly complete.
Marshall struck first, capping off a quick drive with a 6-yard run by Jamar Wimberly with 8:48 showing on the portable scoreboard.
The kick failed however, and Niles felt like they could recover quickly from that.
Perhaps quick wasn’t quite the right word.
Less than a minute later, Niles quarterback Cameron Sly found receiver David Garner breaking loose behind the Marshall secondary and hit him in stride for a 66-yard touchdown.
The extra point kick was wide left and the game was knotted at 6-6.
Marshall turned in a big play of its own on the following possession as Wimberly raced 44-yards to paydirt.
The Redhawks went for two and Caleb Vincent hit Kyle Waidelich for the 2-point coversion to make it a 14-6 game with 3:11 remaining in the opening period.
Once again Niles struck quickly, this time on the ground as Aaron Davis took a handoff deep in his own territory, broke through a huge hole created by the offensive line and went 74 yards to cut the lead to 14-12 after the conversion pass failed.
Wimberly picked up his third touchdown of the game with 8:27 to play in the first half on a 1-yard run to extend Marshall’s advantage to eight points, 20-12.
It looked as if the Redhawks were going to take on another touchdown moments later when Wimberly returned a punt 48 yards to the Vikings’ 8-yard line.
But the Niles defense stiffened and on fourth and goal, Kevin Gross sacked Vincent to give the Vikings back the football.
It didn’t take long from there for Niles to score as Sly hit Garner again and he raced 81 yards to the end zone to once again make it a two-points game after the conversion pass failed.
That’s the way the half would end, although it was anything but boring for the final five minutes.
Marshall threatened to score again before halftime, but Niles again rose up on defense to keep the Redhawks out of the end zone.
On the Vikings’ final possession of the half, after stopping Marshall on downs, Niles their starting quarterback when Sly was sacked in the closing seconds and dislocated his shoulder.
Niles coach Dan Brawley said he didn’t know the extent of the injury.
Things only got worse for the Vikings in the second half.
Early in the third quarter while playing defense, wide receiver Myles Busby was ejected from the after game referees said he threw a punch at a Marshall player.
Already down a quarterback, Niles now faced the loss of one of its two outstanding wide receivers.
“Those are two key players in our offense,” Brawley said. “We’ll have to have other kids step up next week (at St. Joseph).”
Marshall threatened repeatedly in the final 24 minutes, but couldn’t penetrate the Vikings’ defense.
Niles had a great scoring opportunity midway through the final quarter after Gardner intercepted a Vincent pass and returned it 41 yards.
A late hit on the play tacked on 15 more yards and the Vikings set up shop on the Redhawks’ half of the field.
Nick Lucero, who replaced Sly at quarterback, tossed a 29-yard pass to Garner, who tooked the ball out of the defender’s hands, giving Niles a first and goal at the 10-yard line.
But this time it was Marshall’s turn to create a big play with its defense as Lucero’s pass was intercepted by Andrew Feasal.
“We actually were running a slant-out (to the tight end) and figured that everyone would be going with David,” Brawley said. “A few more seconds were needed to get the play to develop.”
Marshall did move the ball a bit in the final five minutes of the contest, but Niles did not allow it to get anywhere near the end zone.
The Vikings couldn’t muster much of an offensive threat after that and the game ended with Marshall running out the clock.
Garner finished with 177 yards on three catches and the two touchdowns.
Sly was 4-of-8 for 166 yards and Lucero 3-of-5 for 62 yards.
Davis finished the gam with 76 yards rushing on seven carries.
Wimberly led all rushers with 190 yards on 42 carries. Marshall finished with 297 yards rushing.
Cal Poehlman, Kevin Gross, Jordan Potthoff and Ricky Briand were the top tacklers for the Vikings, who are now 1-1 on the year.
Marshall 14 6 0 0 – 20
Niles 12 6 0 0 – 18
M – Jamar Wimberly 1 run (kick failed)
N – Cameron Sly to David Garner 66 pass (kick failed)
M – Wimberly 44 run (Caleb Vincent to Kyle Waidelich conversion pass)
N – Aaron Davis 74 run (pass failed)
M – Wimberly 1 run (run failed)
N – Sly to Garner 81 pass (pass failed)