Team comes up short in Season Opener

Bennett Gross

Coming off of ACL surgery during his sophomore season, Marshal Cohen ’16 had finally fully rehabbed from the gruesome injury he suffered against St. Paul High School two years ago.

To begin the season against Loyola Aug. 28 at Ted Slavin Field, the Wolverines’ opening drive culminated in a Cohen interception on what ended up being his only pass attempt on the evening.

The Wolverine defense subsequently gave up Drake Beasley Jr.’s ’17 first touchdown of the night.

Down 7-0, the offense started at the 20-yard line after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff. On the first play from scrimmage, on a read option play, Cohen ran for a 42-yard gain to set the Wolverines up for what would be their best drive of the game.

A few plays later on what appeared to be a triple option, Cohen threw a jump pass to wide receiver Max Robertson ’17 in the end zone. The referees initially called the play a touchdown, but after a discussion overturned the call and ruled the play an incomplete pass.

Just after the overruled touchdown, Cohen ran to his right, and he was hit hard in the knee by Loyola defender Kelly Blake ’16. Not only did Blake cause a fumble, he may have caused Cohen’s season to be over.

The Wolverines were eventually defeated by the Cubs 34-0.

“We had a couple of guys injured today, but it is a next-man-up mentality, and we are handing this team to the younger guys and letting them know that it is their time now,” defensive back Alex Barnum ’16 said.

On the following play, Beasley scored his second touchdown of the night with a 92-yard carry.

Costly penalties and some sloppy offensive possessions were the story of the rest of the game for the Wolverines. The defense ended up allowing Beasley to score two more times before the Cubs decided to pull their starters.

With Noah Rothman ’16 in at quarterback, the offense had trouble stringing together first downs without Cohen in the game.

Rothman, who is known more as a pocket passer compared to Cohen’s scrambling ability, had issues throwing the ball down the field against two of the premier defensive backs in the state, David Long Jr. ’16 and Myles Bryant ’16.

During the second half, with Loyola’s starters out of the game, the second string offense for the Wolverines had some promising drives for both the rest of the season and for the future of the program.

“I actually take away a lot of positives from this game,” Senior Captain Mike Mapes ’16 said. “Loyal Terry ’19 was running against the 17th ranked team in the state and was incredible. On defense, they scored three touchdowns on the same mistake. That is fixable. We have a few easier games coming up so that should give us time to improve and be ready for league play.”

As there is no junior varsity team this fall, all 14 of the freshman in the football program have the opportunity to play varsity. Several underclassmen such as Terry, Garnett March ’19, Thomas Glover ’18 and Josh Johnson ’19 got a lot of playing time in their first game.

“When the freshmen came here, they probably didn’t expect to see a lot of playing time against Loyola,” Head Coach Scot Ruggles said. “It is good for us that they got a lot of reps, and it will be fun to see how our team improves weekly as the season progresses.”

The defense stymied the Loyola offense in the latter part of the game, as the Cubs only managed to score three points in the final two quarters against the young, scrappy Wolverine defense.

“I don’t care who you are. If you are thrown into a varsity game as a freshman it is tough,” Ruggles said. “But when you get playing time against Loyola, that is not an easy thing to do, and the underclassmen performed very well.”

The squad will try to avenge the loss in next week’s battle against the Jefferson Democrats at Ted Slavin Field.

“We just have to come back next week and not worry about what happened against Loyola,” Terry said. “It was one team, and we are just looking to win the rest of the way and eventually make the playoffs.”

Coming off of a grueling offseason, the Wolverines are looking to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year after last season’s first round lossw to Crescenta Valley.

Led by 25 seniors, Ruggles guided last year’s squad to the playoffs after failing to earn a postseason bid in 2013.

After the graduation of several key contributors in 2014, including Hassan Smith ’15, Desmond Butler ’15 and Garrett Robinson ’15, the squad was fighting an uphill battle from the beginning of spring practice.

Along with the transfer of Ryan Dominick ’17 and Carter Begel’s ’17 choice to focus on basketball, the Wolverines needed some added depth.

While All-American lacrosse player Phil Thompson ’16 joined the squad, along with some incoming freshman, the squad’s thin numbers entering the season and Cohen’s apparent knee injury should present some early season adversity that the team will have to overcome if they plan on getting back to the playoffs.

“I was really nervous before the game, but I just took it one play at a time, I played really aggressively, I ran down hill on offense, and on defense I focused on fundamentals and tried to get in the backfield as much as I could,” Thompson said.