EVERETT — Mariner calls its defense “Blue Thunder” and it dropped the boom on Cascade Friday night.
The Marauders held the rival Bruins scoreless for the first 46 minutes of the game and to just 185 yards of total offense in a 36-7 victory in the Wesco South 4A opener for both teams at Everett Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
“We’ve been working all year for our defense to play aggressively but play smart and as a team; everybody carrying out there assignment and their keys and putting it all together,” said Mariner head coach John Ondriezek. “So we put a lot of emphasis on defense right from the start.”
Mariner forced Cascade into four punts, a safety and a turnover on downs in its first six possessions to take a 15-0 halftime lead. In the second half the Marauders ratcheted up the pressure, picking off two Cascade passes and returning one for a touchdown to open up a 36-0 lead.
“We really worked on defense during the week,” said Mariner QB/DB Dan Nadat, who had both Mariner interceptions, including one he returned 58 yards for a touchdown and a commanding 22-0 lead early in the second half. “That was our main focus this week. We play as brothers. Defensively we knew (Cascade) had a great week last week passing so we wanted to make sure that our corners stayed in their deep thirds and we wanted to stop their sweep.”
Cascade actually ran 21 more plays than Mariner, but the Bruins averaged 3.3 yards per play while the Marauders averaged more than twice as much. The Bruins were held to just 65 yards rushing for the game.
“They’re big and physical up front,” said Cascade coach Joe Cronin. “When they’re getting penetration it makes it tough to move the ball. There were times we just couldn’t throw the ball because they were in our face. Definitely by far the most physical team we’ve faced so far.”
Offensively Mariner showed flashes of brilliance, but it was the steady running of Kiante Ahmad-Woods and Josh Williamson that battered the Cascade defense and ultimately led to victory. The two running backs combined for 239 total yards of offense and carried the ball on 22 of Mariner’s 35 offensive plays.
“Knowing I’ve got those weapons in the backfield it just makes me even better because I know all the pressure isn’t just on me,” said Nadat, who is in his first year as the Marauders’ starting QB. “I know I’ve got my brothers with me. Josh is a hard runner. He runs hard on every play. Kiante is fast and quick and as you can see he’s hard to tackle.”
The Marauders struck first early in the first quarter when Nadat hit Ahmad-Woods on a 39-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0. Two possessions later a strong punt by Mariner’s Malcolm Manson pinned the Bruins inside their own 1-yard line and led to a quick eight points for Mariner. On the following play after the punt, Mariner tackled the Cascade ballcarrier in the end zone for a safety. Mariner’s Keelan Degamo then took the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown and a 15-0 lead.
Despite Mariner’s defense, Cascade had its chances to score. The Bruins put together two good drives that fizzled inside the Marauders’ red zone, turning the ball over on downs both times.
But despite being in a 36-0 hole, Cascade didn’t throw in the towel late in the fourth quarter. The Bruins marched 44 yards on 10 plays, capped by a Steven Gallardo 16-yard touchdown catch with less than 2 minutes to play, for the team’s only score. Cascade converted two fourth-down plays, including the scoring play, to keep the drive alive.
“That’s all we care about,” Cronin said of his team’s never-give-up attitude. “We’ll build on this. We’ll learn from our mistakes and hopefully next week get a little better and then the next week get better and better and better and hopefully by the end of the season we’re rolling.”
A bright spot for Cascade was the play of KJ Brady. The junior wideout/defensive back intercepted the first Mariner play from scrimmage and made a number of solid catches, finishing with five catches for 24 yards. He also had two 40-plus yard kickoff returns in the second half to give the Bruins the ball inside Mariner territory. Brady finished with 199 yards in kickoff returns on four returns.
“He plays hard all the time,” Cronin said. “His effort is always there. And he’s only a junior which is nice.”
At Everett Memorial Stadium
M—Ahmad-Woods 39 pass from Nadat (Manson kick)
M—Degamo 60 kickoff return (run failed)
M—Nadat 50 interception return (Manson kick)
M—Williamson 21 run (Manson kick)
M—Salva 9 run (Manson kick)
C—Gallardo 16 pass from Lukas (Birnbaum kick)
Records—Mariner 1-0 league, 3-1 overall. Cascade 0-1, 2-2.