When a tornado approaches, the rule of thumb is to run for cover. Instead, facing an evening-long barrage of passes, Marion-Franklin opted to run right at Dover Tornadoes quarterback Merrick Mamarella.
“I’ve never gone up against somebody that throws 60-some times, but you can do one of two things,” Red Devils coach Brian Haffele said. “You can either sit back in zone coverage, or you can try to pressure the heck out of him and make it harder for him to find those windows to throw to. I’m a lot more comfortable with the second approach.”
Using a gaping size and speed advantage up front, host Marion-Franklin disrupted Mamarella’s rhythm and made big plays on both sides of the ball last night for a 34-14 victory in a Division III regional quarterfinal.
The Red Devils (10-1) advanced to meet City League rival Brookhaven in the second round on Friday.
Mamarella completed 31 of 62 passes for 315 yards but was intercepted three times. Using five receivers spread from one sideline to the other, Mamarella tried to attack Marion-Franklin with screens and quick sideline passes, but ultimately, he was under siege more than the Red Devils’ secondary.
“We haven’t have seen speed like that before,” Dover coach Dan Ifft said. “It wasn’t just skill-position speed, it was overall speed on both sides of the ball. In our scheme, you hope to throw for a higher percentage and hit a few big ones. We had some opportunities to connect, but we just didn’t have the time.”
Red Devils cornerback Shannon Royster said he and his teammates weren’t overwhelmed by the challenge.
“The game plan was just to handle our part of the field and stay focused,” he said. “It was kind of different seeing somebody throwing on every play, but our guys got him often enough that he didn’t have much time.”
Royster had an interception in the third quarter, when Dover (7-4) seemed to be gathering momentum.
Marion-Franklin quarterback Justin Tyler had his way with Dover.
He completed his first 10 passes and finished 12 of 17 for 212 yards, including an 83-yard pass to Royster for a touchdown late in the third quarter that made it 27-7.
With the Red Devils’ two top running options, Landon Yeartie and Jhulyis Monroe, injured, Tyler picked up the slack. He ran for 170 yards on 19 carries with touchdown runs of 4, 10 and 51 yards.
“When two of our key guys went down, I told Justin, ‘It’s on you,’ and he played really, really well. The offensive line did a nice job pass-blocking and Justin was able to make a few of those runs on his own.”
Although the size discrepancy was apparent, Tyler said the plan was for Marion-Franklin to take advantage of its speed and wear down Dover.
“On those scrambles, the field was just wide open, and I just tried to use my speed,” he said.