MARENGO – The opening night of high school football in Marengo had two teams looking to create an identity. Wilimington, the top ranked team in the preseason Class 3A Associated Press poll, and Marengo had experienced players returning in key positions, but it was the newcomers that both coaches were anxious to see under the lights.
In the end, though, the visiting Wildcats used a strong second half to earn the 23-0 win.
After a sluggish first half that saw a combined three punts, two fumbles, a turnover on downs and no points, it was Wilmington that quickly created a second half spark. Senior Ryan Banas took the opening kickoff and raced 86 yards for the first touchdown of the season, a score that set the tone for the half.
“I found a hole, my blockers were awesome and we needed that, it definitely turned the tide,” Banas said.
“Early in the year, special teams can be a big part of the game and that definitely set us up, great way to start,” Wilmington coach Jeff Reents said.
With Marengo’s defense stifling the vaunted Wilmington ground game in the first half, the Wildcat offense found its rhythm in the third quarter. After the kickoff return, the Wildcats marched 52 yards on seven plays on their next possession to extend the lead to 13-0. Junior Running Back Colin James capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run, James led the Wildcats in rushing 105 yards on 15 carries.
In the fourth quarter, Wilmington added an 18-yard field goal from Allan Richards and Jacob Friddle punched in a 3-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring. Friddle finished the night with 94 yards rushing on 15 carries.
“Once we got the momentum from the great return, our line really stepped up, we kept communicating, kept our assignments and we pounded the rock,” said senior lineman Nick Sanford. Wilmington finished with 272 yards rushing on 49 carries.
For Marengo, its defense made quite an impression with its head coach.
“We have a lot of young guys playing, and I was thrilled with how we played defensively,” Margeno coach Paul Forsythe said. “We played them as well as we could play them, but offensively, we didn’t help ourselves.”
Marengo was most effective throwing the ball. Quarterback Josh Holst completed 12-of-25 passes for 95 yards. Collin Aubry caught five passes for 32 yards, and Dylan Stolz led the Indians in rushing with 12 yards on nine carries.
The passing game is something to build on.
“It was nice to string some completions together, we clicked for a bit, but unfortunately, tonight didn’t end well,” Aubry said.
Overall, it was a win to build on for the Wildcats.
“For us to come up here to get this win against a really tough team is huge for us, we went through some growing pains, but I’m proud of the progress tonight,” Reents said.
Wilmington 23, Marengo 0
Wilmington 0 0 13 10 – 23
Marengo 0 0 0 0 – 0
W–Banas 86 kick return (Richards kick), 11:46
W–James 6 run (kick failed), 5:01
W–Richards 18 field goal, 6:20
W–Friddle 3 run (Richards kick), 1:43
RUSHING–Wilmington: James 15-105, Friddle 21-94, Banas 6-41, Hansen 7-32. Totals: 49-272. Marengo: Stolz 9-12, Holst 7-10, McCormick 1-0, Kentgen 2-minus 6. Totals: 19-16.
PASSING–Wilmington: Humphries 0-2-0-0. Marengo: Holst 12-25-0-95.
RECEIVING–Marengo: Aubry 5-32, Miller 3-34, Meyer 2-3, Stolz 1-11, McCormick 1-7.
TOTAL YARDS–Wilmington 272 , Marengo 106.