KINCAID — Darrell Angleton could be forgiven if he thought he heard the Twilight Zone song drifting through the air Friday in his team’s regular-season finale against South Fork. Marquette Catholic High’s 16-6 victory was one of the weirdest of the season.
“It means a lot to these kids,” Angleton said. “It was a weird one – so many penalties and unusual things. But the team had winning the conference as a goal and it’s been accomplished.”
The explorers finished the regular season 7-2 overall and 7-0 in the conference.
“It’s a tier approach,” Angleton said. “The layers wanted to win one of the nonconference games, but they also wanted to win the conference and they wanted to be unbeaten in the conference.”
South Fork, which would have laid claim to at least a portion of the PSC title with a victory, finishes the season 5-4 overall and 6-1 in the conference.
Marquette, despite winning the statistical battle by a wide margin, still found itself clinging to a 9-6 lead late in the game. But when D’Avion Peebles rambled 38 yards for a touchdown with 3:26 remaining in the game, it was finally the icing on a league championship cake.
Marquette will wait until Saturday night to find out the details of its postseason.
“We have a shot at a (4A) home game,” Angleton said. “We’ve been looking at things and projecting possibly against Herrin. It’s something we’ll deal with when we find out who and where we play. The players would like to savor this one.”
The conference championship is the first for Marquette since 2013.
“It means a lot,” Angleton said. “Not just because of the playoff implications, but because it shows what a hard-working group we have. They worked their tails off and they have earned it.”
Peebles, a junior running back, was a one-man wrecking machine on offense. The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder slashed his way to 189 yards on 39 carries.
“Tonight was (Pebbles’) night,” Angleton said. “He really stepped up.”
Given the unusual circumstances the Explorers experienced, every one of Peebles’ yards was needed as it turned out. Marquette failed to capitalize on a pair of golden scoring opportunities – and was whistled for 100 penalty yards on 13 infractions.
“A lot of penalties,” Angleton said. “Way too many.”
Despite being dominated by Marquette in the first half, South Fork found itself leading at halftime, thanks to an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Ponies’ Griffin Smock. He picked off a Brady McAfee pass with 4:54 remaining in the first half and raced all the way into the end zone, making it 6-3 and erasing a 3-0 Expl0rers lead on a Liam Maher 31-yard field goal.
As Smock raced through 50 yards of Marquette turf on his way to the TD, it was the only time in the first half a South Fork player had the ball in Explorers territory. In fact, the Ponies had minus 3 yards offense in the first half. Peebles alone had 88 yards rushing in the first half.
But Marquette reclaimed the lead on the opening possession of the second half. The Explorers put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive to go ahead 9-6.
But that’s the way the score remained until Peebles’ insurance touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
On defense, the Explorers throttled the Ponies offense much of the night. In the second half, Jayce Maag pulled off a pair of interceptions consecutive South Fork possession. One stopped a potential rally that started at the South 45-yard line and the other came with 2:34 remaining in the game to finally ice it.
“I can’t say enough about how our defense played,” Angleton said. “We only gave up one rushing touchdown in the conference all season.
“This wasn’t easy tonight, by any means,” he said. “We had the penalties and we had a some dropped passes, the pick-6 and some mishandled snaps.
“But now we get to wait and see who we play in the playoffs,” Angleton said. “It’s a pretty nice feeling.”