Marist football drops another nailbiter
Last Saturday's football game between Marist and Butler had all the makings of a Pioneer League classic. The Red Foxes were among the leaders in several defensive categories in the conference, while the Bulldogs had the top offense.
With the top offense going up against one of the top defenses, this game was going to be a dogfight. When the final whistle was blown Saturday afternoon at Tenney Stadium, the game had certainly lived up to its hype. But it was the home team that came away with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Marist dropped a 17-14 contest to Butler, their second straight PFL loss. The team's conference record is now 1-2, and 2-4 overall.
The game was close throughout its entirety, and the Red Foxes performed well on both sides of the ball, totaling 326 yards of total offense and holding the high-scoring Bulldogs to two touchdowns and a field goal.
But in the end, there were some inconsistencies from both units that could not be overcome.
"It is so hard [to lose a game like that], because the players and the coaches put so much effort into winning football games," head coach Jim Parady said. "The disappointment is there for everybody."
Containing Butler's offense was the focus for Marist entering the game, and the defense would be tested early, with the Bulldogs striking seven minutes into the first quarter. A 10-play, 96-yard drive ended in a two-yard touchdown run by Trae Heeter, the PFL's leading rusher.
The defense would surrender another touchdown to the Bulldogs before the end of the half, a 35-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-7. The only other points that the Red Foxes allowed would be on a 20-yard Butler field goal with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Parady said that the defense, despite allowing several lengthy drives and a high amount of yardage, impressed him with its effort in the game.
"We bent a little bit, but we didn't break. When you give up 17 points to the number one offense in the league, that is a good day," Parady said.
Offensively, Marist had worked on several aspects of its attack during the bye week, and those improvements were shown during this game. However, there were other areas that the unit struggled with, resulting in missed opportunities throughout the game.
"We were cleaner in a lot of the little things of the particular plays that we ran," Parady said. "We moved the ball [well], we had no turnovers. But when we would get down to the 40 and the 30 [yard lines], we could not convert and get ourselves into field goal range. We need to be better in that area."
Marist was within reach of pulling ahead at the start of the fourth quarter, only down by three and possession to begin the frame. But Butler would dominate time of possession in the final quarter, maintaining the ball for 10:00 minutes to seal the victory.
Parady said that both the offense and the defense performed well enough in the fourth quarter, but gave credit to the Bulldogs for their ability to make big plays when they needed to convert.
"Their [Butler's] kids made some unbelievable plays at the end on third down conversions. At that point, you got to just tip your cap sometimes and say 'that was a good play.' It is frustrating to watch that happen, but they made the right plays [when necessary]," Parady said.
It is natural for any team to feel disappointed and discouraged after a tough loss like Marist had on Saturday. But Parady and the rest of the coaching staff remind their players to keep their heads high, and to move forward with the progress that they have made so far.
"You can't sit there and think about the tough losses. It is so easy to get caught up on the record," Parady said. "There are a lot of games left in the season. This team has made so much progress, and we want to move forward, not backward."
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