MARINETTE—Get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game. That’s what Marinette fans need to see during tonight’s homecoming game at Higley Stadium when their Marines take on Little Chute in North Eastern Conference play.
Little Chute enters the game with a 2-4 record (1-4 NEC) through six games. In three of those games, a 38-6 win over New London, a 31-27 win over Denmark (The Vikings’ only loss this season) and a 22-21 loss to Fox Valley Lutheran, 6’4” junior quarterback Kade Van Asten threw for 539 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
“They’ve got a nice quarterback,” Anderson said. “He’s a tall kid. He’s just a junior but he started for them last year, and he throws a nice ball.”
Against Denmark, he threw for 153 yards and four TD’s while putting up 31 points against a defense that has allowed 12.5 points per game to all other opponents and handed the Vikings (6-1) their only loss of the season.
Last week, in a 22-21 loss to Fox Valley Lutheran, Van Asten was hot, going 20-of-26 passing for 286 yards and three scores while his Mustangs held a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
This might spell trouble for a Marinette squad that got burned in the passing game last week against Wrightstown. The Tigers’ Eli Nelson connected on 9-of-13 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns on his way to a 27-19 win. However, a look at Little Chute’s other three games seams to lay down a blueprint for beating the Mustangs.
In those remaining three games, Van Asten was just 14-of-49 (29%) for 90 yards, zero touchdowns and six interceptions. He was sacked 12 times and his offense produced just seven points total across the three contests.
The lesson: get to the quarterback.
“If you allow him to sit in the pocket, he will pick you apart,” Anderson said. “When he struggles, it’s when you get him out of the pocket and on the move.”
Anderson believes he can exploit a size advantage to break through the Little Chute line and disrupt Van Asten’s game.
“Like every team we play, they have good athletes,” Anderson said, “but they are undersized. They still have guys that are quick, but they don’t quite have the big tough line that they normally roll out.”
When he’s going well, Van Asten spreads the ball out. In each of his three quality outings he hit eight different receivers. Cade Kerrigan leads the Mustangs in receiving yards at 180 on 12 catches while Nolan Thiel has 15 catches for 147 yards.
On the ground, Jacob Melendez leads the pack with 361 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Marinette fans should also keep an eye on their own Adam Lemery. With 143 yards rushing last week, the senior quarterback eclipsed 1,000 yards total offense for the season. With 789 of his 1,055 total yards coming on the ground, he has a chance to reach 1,000 yards rushing with two games remaining this season.
“He is just doing what’s best for the team,” Anderson said. “He just puts his hard hat on, gets to work and desperately wants a win like we all do. That’s who you want to have the ball in crunch time. It would be great to see him get over 1,000 yards rushing because that hasn’t happened here in a while, but that’s the kind of thing we look at after the season. Right now, our kids just want to get a win.”
If the defense can disrupt Van Asten, the Marine’s should be able to use their size advantage on the line to get Lemery, Darik McMahon, Brett Whiting and company space to maneuver on the ground.
“We are finally getting to a point where we can matchup in the trenches with a lot of teams,” Anderson said, crediting offseason work for the improvement. “Now it’s just a matter of turning all of that work into wins.
“Stop the big plays. Control the ball and don’t turn it over. That’s what we need to do. We’ve been so close, and these kids play with a lot of heart. It’s time for us to break through.”
Tonight’s game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.