MARQUETTE — The Marquette football team fell to Traverse City Central 37-28 at William R. Hart Stadium on Friday night.
It was a strong first half for the Redmen (0-2), who managed to gain the lead three times before settling for a 20-20 tie at halftime.
Unfortunately for Marquette, the Trojans (1-1) came alive and wore the home team down in the second half, holding the Redmen to just seven points for the rest of the night.
“We got tired,” Marquette head coach Eric Mason said. “They came out, made adjustments, and we just can’t come out like we did (in the second half). But the kids battled hard through the entire game and that’s all I ask of them.”
A particular bright spot for Mason was sophomore quarterback Austin Ridl, leading the offensive attack for Marquette with four touchdown passes, going 15 of 38 through the air for 270 yards and three interceptions.
“He just continues to grow,” he said. “He’s a smart kid, he picks things up quickly, and he battles as you can see. He’s not a very big kid, but he’s tough as nails and you can’t ask anymore out of him.”
TC Central head coach Eric Schugars knew about Ridl’s abilities going in, and planned accordingly.
“Coming into the game, that was an emphasis,” he said. “They throw the ball well. Their quarterback was very accurate and Marquette has a great team of receivers. They can throw the ball up top and I’m really impressed with (Ridl), he puts the ball in the right spot for them.
“We worried about that and they made us pay early. We can’t give up big plays. You let teams in the game by giving up big plays and I thought we did that early. We didn’t execute on offense early.”
A late score from the Trojans made it a 20-20 game at halftime after senior quarterback Peyton Smith found senior receiver Trey Searles for a 15-yard TD with 6 seconds on the clock.
“I was very happy with the way our offense executed right before halftime,” Schugars said. “For us to score right before the half was huge for our football team.
“I think that kind of set the tone for the second half. It kind of gave us a ‘Woof, here we go,’ because it wasn’t a great first half for us.”
The Trojans defense held Marquette scoreless in the second half until Ridl connected with senior receiver Collin Hicks for a 12-yard TD pass with 1:12 remaining.
TC Central managed 17 points in the second half, the first a 22-yard field goal from senior kicker Alex Parks with 3:55 remaining in the third.
Smith then rushed for a 63-yard TD as time expired in the third frame, putting the Trojans up 30-20 entering the final 12 minutes.
With 2:58 remaining in the fourth, sophomore back Josh Burnham took a 7-yard run to the end zone on a 3rd and goal, all but taking away any chance for a Redmen comeback.
MSHS managed the first points of the night on a 25-yard TD pass from Ridl to sophomore receiver Justin Jurmu with 2:21 remaining in the first. The score was 7-0 after one.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the second, with Central getting all 20 of its first-half points on rushing TDs from juniors Ryan Royston and Austin Bills, plus the Smith to Searles connection with six seconds remaining.
The Redmen went up 14-7 in the second on a 78-yard pass from Ridl to senior receiver Drew Wyble, and eventually 20-14 with 1:18 remaining in the half on a 23-yard connection from Ridl to senior back Isaac Johnson.
Each team finished with 19 first downs apiece. Marquette finished with 54 yards rushing to complement Ridl’s air attack, with junior running back Brady Wright leading the ground game with 13 yards on 11 carries. Ridl was 15 of 38 through the air.
The Trojans were more successful on the ground, rushing for 348 yards. Bills led that category with 124 yards on 52 carries.
Smith finished 9 for 20 through the air with 76 yards and two interceptions.
Traverse City Central hosts South Lyon East next weekend, while Marquette begins a three-game road trip with Sault Ste. Marie (2-0).
Mason said it’s business as usual for his Redmen team moving forward.
“This will be easy to move forward from,” he said.
“We played a very good team (tonight). We’ve just got to build off of some of the things we did well, and for some of the things we didn’t do well, we’ve got to get corrected and we’ll do that. We’ll make it happen.”