MAROA - Even Maroa-Forsyth's players couldn't quite believe how dominating the Trojans' defense was in their 34-0 win over Tuscola on Friday.
Playing against the No. 1 team in Class 1A - a Warriors team that had averaged 37.3 points per game coming in - Class 2A No. 1 Maroa allowed 27 total yards in a 34-0 romp.
"I'm blown away," Maroa senior Jante Newbern said. "I was nervous (about Tuscola) before the game, but once we got going the butterflies went away."
The Trojans (7-0, 3-0 Okaw Valley Blue) were especially tough on Tuscola quarterback Philip Meyer - a run-pass threat who had yet to be slowed down this year. Meyer had no time to throw the ball and no holes to run through. He finished with 16 carries for -24 yards and was 4-of-22 passing for 33 yards and two interceptions.
"We'd heard a lot about their front seven and they looked good on film, but they looked even better in person," Tuscola coach Rick Reinhart said. "We tried some different protections, but we couldn't get anything going. Up front, they manhandled us."
Maroa coach Josh Jostes said he thought his team's talent on defense and defensive game plan would lead to good results.
"I thought going in Tuscola was sort of one-dimensional offensively, and if we shut down Philip Meyer, where are they going to go?" Jostes said. "The credit goes to our defensive line. They put some pressure on Meyer and made him do some things he didn't want to and make throws he didn't want to make."
Though Tuscola stiffened defensively later in the first half, Maroa scored on two of its first three possessions to further deflate the Warriors' confidence. On the first drive, the Trojans used the read option out of the spread formation to perfection. Quarterback Logan Stelzriede had a 26-yard run, running back Tim Yuenger had a 24-yard run and Stelzriede finished the drive with a 14-yard scramble up the middle for the score.
Two drives later, Stelzriede hit Drew Aschermann down the sideline for a 48-yard gain to set up a 7-yard TD run by Stelzriede, who finished with 88 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
The scary part is Maroa didn't have its best night offensively. Stelzriede threw for 178 yards, but missed wide-open receivers down the sideline on at least five occasions. Also, after the running game's hot start, Maroa struggled to pile up yards on the ground.
"We left four or five big plays on the field that we normally wouldn't, but I'm not going to trade (Stelzriede) - he's still pretty good," Jostes said. "And for being as undersized as Tuscola is up front, their linebackers are a great group - T.J. Onstott and Josh Brookins. We wanted to line up with our size advantage and mash the ball, but we couldn't."
Player of the game
Newbern. He led Maroa with eight tackles from his defensive line position, and was around the ball on seemingly every play. The entire Maroa defense played well, but Newbern was the star. If there's a better defensive player in the area, I haven't seen him.
"Outside contain was the main thing in this game and I was able to take care of that and our linebackers did the rest," Newbern said. "We just had to stop the quarterback because we knew he could run, but I just stayed outside and stopped him every time. I thought this was one of my best games by far."
Play of the game
With 15 seconds left in the third quarter and Maroa facing a fourth-and-11 at Tuscola's 37, Stelzriede hit a swing pass to Jack Hockaday on the right side, then ran a wheel route to the left side. Hockaday hit Stelzriede for a 30-yard gain on the play. Two plays later, Yuenger plunged through the middle from 5 yards out for Maroa's final TD.
Though Maroa didn't suffer any major injuries on Friday, it played without kicker Aaron Memar and was forced to go for two after every touchdown. The Trojans converted two of their five chances.
Tuscola fell to 5-2, 2-1 in the Blue. It was a deflating loss, but Tuscola has taken its regular-season lumps before and still managed long postseason runs. The Warriors have reached the state title game in four of the previous five seasons and won two state titles.
"You let this bother you for the weekend, and then you regroup," Reinhart said.