STATE CENTER – The showdown between two top-10 Class 2A teams for 2A District 7 supremacy never materialized when No. 9 North Polk faced No. 2 West Marshall Friday in State Center.
The Comets nearly tallied as many yards and they had more first downs than the Trojans. But a 3-1 turnover deficit and the inability to stop the big play proved fatal for North Polk in a 35-14 loss.
West Marshall (5-0, 2-0) managed to control the game over the first three quarters, despite a good job by the Comet defense on all-state Trojan tailback Duncan Ferch. The Trojans took away the North Polk running game to make the Comets one-dimensional on offense, and that had an adverse affect on the Comets ability to sustain drives.
North Polk (4-1, 2-1) was held scoreless over the first three quarters as West Marshall built a commanding 28-0 lead. The Comets started to find a groove in the passing game during the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late to make a difference.
"West Marshall is a very good team and they played steady all night," North Polk head coach Evan Groepper said. "We made way too many mistakes and never gave ourselves the chance to see if we were the better team."
The first half was competitive despite North Polk’s offensive woes. The Comets held West Marshall to one touchdown in each of the first two quarters to only trail 14-0 at the break.
With the Comets focused on Ferch, West Marshall quarterback Matt Van Metre stepped up to finish each Trojan scoring drive in the first half. Van Metre found the end zone on a 7-yard run in the first quarter and he capped another drive with a 2-yard run across the goal line early in the second period.
In the second half Trojan fullback Devin Chesler killed North Polk. Chesler broke a 50-yard touchdown run two minutes into the third quarter and he added a 28-yard scoring scamper midway through the fourth quarter to give West Marshall a 35-7 lead and ice the game.
Ferch had the other Trojan score of the second half with an 11-yard run late in the third quarter.
North Polk quarterback Cole Jackson and receivers Russell Greene and Landon Schuessler showed great fight and determination in the fourth quarter. The trio refused to let the Comets roll over as they keyed two touchdown drives.
With 8:04 to go in the fourth Jackson connected with Schuessler on a big 37-yard touchdown pass to prevent a shutout. Jackson directed another touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game, hooking up with Greene on an 8-yard touchdown pass followed by a 2-point conversion with 20 seconds left.
For the game Jackson completed 21 of 34 passes for 213 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Greene had a monster game at receiver in snaring 13 of Jackson’s passes for 137 yards and Schuessler made two grabs for 41 yards.
Matt Cox added three catches for 14 yards, Grant Schiltz had two for 13 yards and Blake Brauer made one 8-yard reception.
"We did some nice things in the passing game," Groepper said. "But we were way too inconsistent offensively to get scores."
North Polk only picked up 83 yards rushing on 32 carries in finishing with 296 total yards. Garrett Moeckly ran 15 times for 40 yards, Cox had 23 yards on eight attempts and Jackson picked up 20 yards on nine carries.
West Marshall ended up with 373 yards, including 278 on the ground.
"The defense played well slowing down their tailback plays," Groepper said. "But we gave up too many big plays to the rest of their guys."
Ferch still ended up with 156 yards rushing on 25 carries despite North Polk’s solid defense. Chesler piled up 87 yards on 14 carries and he also caught two passes for 22 yards.
Van Metre completed 5 of 9 passes for 95 yards with one interception and he ended up with 14 yards rushing. Elijah Streeter totaled 25 yards receiving and 21 rushing and Nick Juel made a big 48-yard reception for the Trojans.
Braedon Ingersoll came up with the only turnover for the North Polk defense when he intercepted Van Metre.
Though North Polk is now facing an uphill climb for the district championship, the Comets still have plenty to play for the last four weeks of the regular season. The Comets still have three district games left and with a win in all three they wrap up second place in the district and home field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
"We have to bounce back and play a physical Nevada team," Groepper said.
Nevada (1-4, 0-2) is coming off a 49-20 non-district loss to Collins-Maxwell-Baxter. The Comets’ game against the Cubs will take place at 7:30 p.m. this Friday in Alleman.
West Marshall 35, North Polk 14
NP 0 0 0 14 – 14
WM 7 7 14 7 – 35
WM – Matt Van Metre 7 run (Rafael Rodriguez kick), 4:00
WM – Van Metre 2 run (Rodriguez kick), 11:11
WM – Devin Chesler 50 run (Rodriguez kick), 10:00
WM – Duncan Ferch 11 run (Rodriguez kick), 1:07
NP – Landon Schuessler 37 pass from Cole Jackson (kick failed), 8:04
WM – Chesler 28 run (Rodriguez kick), 5:37
NP – Russell Greene 8 pass from Jackson (Greene pass from Jackson), 0:20
Team statistics NP WM
First downs 19 16
Rushes-yards 32-83 43-278
Passing 21-34-1 5-9-1
Passing yards 213 95
Total yards 296 373
Fumbles lost 2 0
Punts-average 4-32.8 2-41.0
Penalties-yards 5-37 6-50
Rushing: NP – Garrett Moeckly 15-40, Matt Cox 8-23, Cole Jackson 9-20. WM – Duncan Ferch 25-156, Devin Chesler 7-87, Elijah Streeter 4-21, Matt Van Metre 6-14, Jared Johnson 1-0.
Passing: NP – Jackson 21-34-1-213. WM – Van Metre 5-9-1-95.
Receiving: NP – Russell Greene 13-137, Landon Schuessler 2-41, Cox 3-14, Grant Schiltz 2-13, Blake Brauer 1-8. WM – Nick Juel 1-48, Streeter 2-25, Chesler 2-22.
Interceptions: NP – Braedon Ingersoll.