West Marshall snuffs out Comets’ chance for a comeback

STATE CENTER – North Polk has had a knack for winning close games late this season.

And while the Comets made a couple big plays to close out Friday’s contest, West Marshall took the final outcome out of the question long before.

Jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the third quarter, the No. 4 ranked Trojans cruised past No. 9 North Polk, 35-14, in a Class 2A District 7 showdown.

“The only negative late is that we gave up the one pass that led to a touchdown and the blocked punt,” said West Marshall coach Ken Winkler. “Other than that, I thought our kids played a really good football game overall.”

Duncan Ferch churned out 156 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and Devin Chesler dashed for 87 yards and a pair of scores on just seven rushes to help West Marshall (5-0, 2-0) close the door on the Comets (4-1, 2-1) and gain an upper hand in the district race.

Chesler’s 50-yard cutback sprint stretched the Trojans’ advantage to 21-0 early in the third, before Ferch tacked on a 10-yard score with just over a minute left in the period.

North Polk finally got on the board with a 37-yard strike from Cole Jackson to Lane Schuessler with 8:04 to play, though Chesler negated the score with a 28-yard scamper less than two and half minutes later.

The Comets made the final margin a bit closer with a blocked punt and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Russell Greene in the closing seconds, though Jackson was held in check through much of the contest. The senior completed 19-of-35 passes for 216 yards – many of which came late – while also throwing a pair of interceptions after being picked off just once in four games.

Greene was Jackson’s primary target with 12 receptions for 136 yards.

“At times we had pretty good pressure on (Jackson), but overall our coverage was pretty good and we ran to the ball really well,” said Winkler, whose defense sacked Jackson twice and limited him to just 32 yards rushing after he broke loose for 17 on his first carry.

“We just played good team defense for the most part.”

Matt Van Metre more than held his own in the quarterback battle finishing 5-of-9 for 90 yards, while also rushing for a pair of first half touchdowns. Van Metre completed 5-of-7 passes in the first half, though one of his incompletions was picked off in the second half.

“With the exception of one play, Matt made really good decisions all night long and played very well,” said Winkler. “He threw the ball well, ran the ball well and made some audibles throughout the game that were really good decisions.”

Van Metre put the Trojans ahead with a 6-yard option keeper on the team’s opening 80-yard drive with four minutes left in the first frame. Ferch did most of the damage on the drive including a 29-yard rush following a 16-yard connection from Van Metre to Elijah Streeter.

The senior signal caller kept West Marshall’s ensuing drive alive on 3rd-and-9 with a 47-yard rollout pass to Nick Juel, moving the ball down to the Comets’ 3, before Van Metre plunged in for his second score with 11:11 left in the half.

The Trojans’ offense stalled on its next three drives though the defense countered with a fumble recovery from William Ohrt and an interception by Streeter.

Though the final outcome wasn’t in doubt, Chesler said finishing stronger will be a key for the team moving forward.

“On defense we kind of got lazy toward the end, so we need to pick that up next week,” said Chesler.

“The only one we couldn’t guard was (Greene). We could stop the run, but we couldn’t get (Greene) for some reason.”

West Marshall extended its district win streak to 26 games and finds itself alone atop the standings, though the Trojans aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“We’re in first place by ourselves but there’s still four games to go,” Winker said of the significance of Friday’s win.

“It’s another step toward doing what we want to do, but there’s still a lot of football left.”

The Trojans continue their four-game homestand against South Hardin Friday at 7:30 p.m.