AURORA – The role of special teams will never be undervalued in a football game.
Even when not intentional, the kicking game carries a significant magnitude.
Dane Pardridge played an instrumental role in Marmion overcoming a two-score fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Fenwick 20-19 Saturday afternoon in Catholic League White play in Aurora.
Moments after Marmion halved its deficit, Pardridge recovered an unplanned pooch kick deep in Fenwick territory.
Paddy Fitzgerald, the Marmion quarterback who torched the Friars’ defense with 275 passing yards, called his own number from seven yards out an equal number of plays later to give the Cadets their only lead of the game.
“I actually wasn’t supposed to get the ball,” Pardridge said of his recovery at the Friars’ 37-yard line. “I sprinted down as fast as I could. I was fortunate it bounced right in my hands.”
“(The kickoff) got caught in the wind, and our guys were out of place,” Fenwick coach Matt Battaglia said.
“It was a bit of luck, but big-time players make big-time plays,” Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said. “Dane Pardridge is a big-time player.”
Marmion (1-1, 1-0) failed to make it a 3-point game with a 2-point pass, but the Friars (0-2, 0-2), who lost starting quarterback Kaden Cobb two series earlier on a first-down scramble, were stopped for a fourth time in the game short of the desired marker on their last possession.
It was a particularly painful loss for Fenwick.
The Friars scored all of their points in the first half, allowed a mere six yards to Marmion on the ground in the same span and forced three turnovers either inside or narrowly outside the red zone.
Two other Fenwick drives were sabotaged by holding penalties. The Friars also missed two extra-point kicks.
“The penalties stopped us from putting 50 on them,” Cobb lamented. “Every time we went forward we went back. Penalties are a team thing, and we all suffered from them.”
Isaac Novak scored two short touchdown runs for Fenwick; Cobb connected with Eian Pugh on a 5-yard fade route to give the Friars a 19-7 lead entering halftime.
Pardridge and Fitzgerald accounted for all 65 yards on the Cadets’ three-play, second-quarter scoring drive. The former turned a simple hitch play into a 55-yard gallop.
“It really got us going on offense,” said Pardridge, who had 111 of his 116 receiving yards in the first half.
Fitzgerald connected with Luke Kuhn for a crucial 29-yard completion to launch the Cadets’ second-half comeback.
Two plays later, Josh Lim narrowed the Friars’ lead to 19-13 from a yard out with 6:25 remaining.
Martin Paris and Nick Polston sandwiched a Harry Kenny fumble recovery with interceptions to flavor the Friars’ three forced turnovers.