By Mike Deak
AKRON – A fair amount of hubbub follows around the Mishawaka Marian football team. And for good reason.
The Knights, ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 3-A, brought down a big crowd, at least three television crews and a lot of hype. Its play, though, justified all of the circumstance as Marian throttled Tippecanoe Valley, 41-24, in the sectional football semi-final Friday night at Smith-Bibler Memorial Field at Death Valley.
While the final score was separated by just 17 points, it was 41-0 with more than five minutes remaining in the first half. And it could have been uglier.
Marian scored in all sorts of ways, most of which were stunning in measure. The Knights scored on the ground – two rushing scores by Malcolm Anderson of 13 and three yards, the 13 yarder of the bruising, pounding variety usually Valley produces on its side of the ball. Anderson finished with 75 yards on just seven carries.
The Knights scored through the air, with quarterback Maddix Bogunia throwing a pair of beautifully placed balls to Jayson Johnson and Davion Taylor for 13 yards apiece. Bogunia passed just five times, completing four, for 47 yards.
The Knights scored on special teams, Greg Atkinson taking a Valley punt early in the second quarter and finding the edge to speed past the Vikings for a 55-yard return score. The Knights also scored on a blocked punt, the kick batted into the air and falling into the paws of Setefano Sete, who returned it untouched for a score. At 41-0, the Knights had proven their point.
“It’s the best team I’ve seen in five years on film,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Steve Moriarty. “I knew coming in they were awesome. There’s a reason they beat Penn at home. They are a very talented group.”
The blitzkrieg that was the first half had Marian only amass 128 total yards in the first 24 minutes. But four turnovers – two fumbles, an interception by Gavin Stefanek, a turnover on downs, plus the blocked punt – plagued Valley’s chances. For the game, Valley would outgain Marian 217-148, hold the ball for five more minutes, acquire three more first downs and hold Marian to just 1-6 third down conversions while making six of its own.
The stats, though, were mostly stacked in the second half with majority of Marian’s starters in parkas on the sidelines. To Valley’s credit, it didn’t quit, and made the contest more respectable in the second half.
Joel Cisneros scored on runs of 17 and 34 yards and converted a two-pointer. Cisneros had 16 carries in the game for 105 yards. Jamasyn Virgil added the other score, a 24-yarder in the fourth. Dalton Alber and Lucas Goble added two-point makes for the Vikings.
“We sat down at halftime, literally on the floor of the lockerroom, and I said OK so we’ve got two things that need to happen, one is we are going to finish like Death Valley football,” Moriarty said, his team bowing out at 7-4 overall. “We are going to finish with pride. We’re not going to walk to the huddle. We are going to hustle and we’re going to go hard. And we’re going to do it because that’s the way we started.
“I think they did that. And that made me very proud of the seniors and the rest of the team. They came out and fought all the way to the bitter end. That senior group is a very special group.”
Marian (9-0) moves on to the Sectional 26 final, where it will visit Jimtown (7-3) in a sectional championship rematch. The two Northern Indiana Conference teams did not play this year, and played to a 14-13 Marian win in 2019’s sectional final. Marian would go onto to the semi-state last season.