All-around effort leads to football victory
The fans will be talking about this one for a long time.
Goal-line stands, breakaway touchdowns, an intense home crowd, and a program record broken.
This game had it all.
The Marist football team defeated Davidson, 34-21, on Saturday at Tenney Stadium, in the Pioneer League opener for both teams. The Red Foxes received outstanding efforts on offense and defense in the victory, and for the first time in their PFL history, the team is 1-0 in conference play.
"The guys really came out, and played excited as a group," head coach Jim Parady said. "We did enough in all three phases of the game to come out with a very impressive victory."
The performance certainly was impressive. The star of the game was wide receiver Michael Rios, who set a new single-game record with 244 receiving yards. Rios also tied the Marist record with three touchdown catches, and on the day, he totaled eight receptions.
Rios, who missed all but two games last season due to a hamstring injury, was thrilled to make such an impact after what he has had to endure.
"Last year was miserable. To have the game that I had, after what I went through....it was awesome." Rios said.
Parady shared a similar excitement for his wide receiver.
"I was very happy for him. It was his reward for working so hard to come back after last year. It was great to see," Parady.
Watching Rios use his sharp route running abilities to torch Davidson's secondary was, yes in fact, awesome. But the awesomeness would not end with him.
Chuckie Looney was also awesome. The junior quarterback continues to mature every game, and Saturday's contest proved no different. Looney tied the program record for passing yards in a game (403 yards) and touchdown passes (four). He did not throw an interception.
As a coach, when your quarterback amounts for that kind of production without throwing the ball to the opponent, and one of your best wide receivers has a record-setting day, you have to feel pretty good.
"One of things that we [the coaches] talked about going into the game was that our production on offense, for the first three games, a lot of it was guys making plays after things had broken down," Parady said. "In this game, more often than not, the play that was called was executed. That was nice a step forward for the offense."
Switching sides, the defense too had an awesome game. The Red Foxes forced five Davidson turnovers on the afternoon, and recorded a huge goal-line late in the fourth quarter, when the Wildcats were threatening to steal the game.
Davidson forced Looney to fumble, and took over possession with 4:03 remaining in the game, and with Marist leading by two touchdowns. Despite the gap, they could have scored quickly, and then attempt an onside kick, which, if they recovered, really could have put Marist in a suddenly losing situation.
But the Marist defense, so strong throughout the entire game, would not break. Not this game.
Despite starting at the Marist 13-yard line, Davidson was unsuccessful in putting the ball into the end zone, and the drive ended when linebacker Paul Sakowski intercepted a pass at the one-yard line.
"We played with a lot of different people [on defense], because of injuries. Because of that, players had to play new roles that they were not really used to," Parady said. "I thought those players handled their different roles very well and it showed."
Finally, the home crowd was awesome. Playing in front of your own fans always creates an advantage for a team, but the Red Fox faithful were loud and proud throughout the contest, and players and coaches both took notice.
"The crowd was so instrumental [for us]," linebacker Darius Hill said. "They caused two penalties for Davidson in crucial points of the game."
Parady said that he hoped that people realized how much of an impact the crowd had on the game.
"The crowd changed the momentum of the game with their involvement in it," Parady said. "The players noticed, the staff noticed. It was a great thing for us, and I think the fans had a great time. That is the most important thing; that, and the fact that we were able to give them [the crowd] something to get behind."
Now, the Red Foxes turn their attention to Jacksonville, another PFL rival who defeated Marist last season, 21-9. The team has to build off of their momentum from the Davidson victory moving forward. Saturday's game served as a reminder as to how good this group is capable of being.
As the crowd filed out of Tenney Stadium, a similar sentiment was shared among the fans.
"Wow! That was an awesome game!"
That is what they were talking about on Saturday, and this is what they will continue to talk about for seasons to come.
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