SHAWANO, Wis. — Familiar issues again cropped up to doom the Marinette Marines football team in a 46-6 blowout loss to the Shawano Hawks in Friday’s WIAA Level 1 playoff game on Friday.
Coronavirus issues caused the Marines to cancel the regular season’s final two games and the players to quarantine for two weeks, resulting in a rusty performance in all three facets of the game.
Breakdowns on special teams coupled with defensive struggles and turnovers have defined the Marines’ (0-3 North Eastern Conference, 0-6 overall) 2020 season and those issues continued to haunt Marinette in Friday’s game, with a punt returned for a touchdown giving Shawano (4-1 Bay Conference, 5-3 overall) an early first-quarter lead that it would not relinquish over the duration of the game.
For the sixth consecutive week the Marines’ defense allowed over 40 points but did manage to force two turnovers, an interception by Adam Lemery along with fumble recovery by Jameion Cross. Marinette also lost two fumbles of its own while fumbling a kickoff return to lose the turnover battle by a 3-2 margin.
Marinette had its best game of the season offensively against the Hawks on Oct. 16, with the Marines racking up over 300 yards of total offense, but Shawano was better prepared for the Marines’ single-wing attack, limiting Marinette to just 149 total yards.
The Marines’ took the lead on their first drive in the teams’ first meeting a month ago and appeared poised to do so again after a 3-yard gain by Cross moved the ball past midfield and into Shawano territory. Lemery picked up five yards on a second down and 12 after a holding penalty against Marinette wiped out an 8-yard run by Cross, but two straight incomplete passes forced the Marines to punt on fourth down. Brett Whiting dropped back to kick but his punt was blocked by the Hawks and returned for a score at the 7:54 mark in the first quarter to give Shawano the lead. A successful 2-point conversion run from Kaleb Lowney made it an 8-0 game.
A quick three-and-out gave Shawano a first down at the Marines’ 45-yard line and Kaleb Lowney cashed in four plays later after dashing up the right sideline untouched for a 29-yard touchdown run. Another 2-point conversion put the Hawks up by 16 with 4:25 remaining in the quarter.
Marinette’s next drive began at its own 31-yard line and a huge 30-yard gain down the right sideline by Lemery on a 4th-and-four pushed the Marines’ into Hawks’ territory once again. An 8-yard pickup from Cross and another three yards from Lemery gave Marinette a first and goal from the Shawano 9-yard line, and Lemery found the endzone two plays later on a 5-yard rushing touchdown that cut the Marines’ deficit to 10 early in the second quarter.
Shawano needed just five plays to push its advantage to 18 after Gage Timm found Elliot Lowney for a 23-yard touchdown catch while Kaleb Lowney powered in the 2-point conversion. The Marines’ fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Hawks fell on the loose ball to give themselves a first down at the Marinette 35-yard line. Five plays later, Timm scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper and another 2-point conversion made it a 32-6 game with 7:10 left until halftime.
Another three-and-out by Marinette gave the Hawks a fresh set of downs in Marines’ territory, but two holding penalties and two whistles for false starts put Shawano in a 3rd-and-36 situation and Lemery squashed the drive with a leaping interception of a Timm pass that he returned the Hawks’ 35-yard line. However Marinette’s offense once again stalled out in four plays, giving Shawano the opportunity to tack on another score thanks to a 39-yard scoring toss from Timm to Elliot Lowney with just 0:25 remaining in the half. A kneel down by the Marines made it a 38-6 game at halftime.
The Hawks wasted little time in continuing to score by opening up the third quarter with a quarterback draw by Timm that went 58-yards to paydirt. Timm successfully tacked on the 2-point conversion run to push Shawno’s lead to 40 and institute a running clock throughout the remainder of the game.
A fumble by Whiting on the first play of Marinette’s next drive once again gave the Hawks great field position but the Marines’ defense was able to hold Shawano to a four-and-out to regain possession. Marinette was able to move the ball to its own 47-yard line thanks to a 7-yard completion from Lemery to Whiting but a loss of nine yards over the next two plays forced another Marinette punt.
Marinette’s defense once again came up with a big play to start the fourth quarter as Cross scooped up a fumble by Carson Popp but after driving into Hawks’ territory with a lengthy 10-play drive, a fumble by Cross was recovered by Shawano to put the game on ice.
Lemery led Marinette with 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground along with seven yards passing while Cross carried the ball 11 times for 46 yards and Whiting chipped in 25 yards on six carries while hauling in one pass for seven yards. Elliot Lowney led Shawano with three catches for 87 yards and two scores while Kaleb Lowney paced the Hawks on the ground with 11 rushes for 109 yards and a touchdown.