Spartans Advance Past First Round of 5A Playoffs, Pioneers Sent Home Disappointed

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The Marist Spartans continued their season-long trend by once again dominating their competition.  This time, they throttled to the visiting Sandy Pioneers 47-7 on Friday night.

The Spartans controlled the game in every facet, playing far superior offense, defense and special teams. Marist Quarterback Kamerun Smith torched Sandy’s secondary by throwing five touchdowns in the first half alone. Smith has been one of the most efficient 5A quarterbacks this season, passing for 34 touchdowns to just six interceptions (regular season). He’s also completed over 60 percent of his passes.

The game looked like it was going to be a close one early on as Sandy’s Zack Nisbett recovered a Marist fumble on the opening drive of the game. The Spartans defense held strong and forced the Pioneers into a fourth and 13 when Marist’s star defensive back Taylor Walcott picked off an errant throw by Sandy’s Justin Adams. Walcott ran it back to the end zone and that gave the Spartans a 7-0 advantage. The Spartans are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers, coming up with 28 (14 picks, 14 fumbles) in the regular season. This game was a prime example of what the swift hands of the Marist defense can do.

After a three-and-out by the Pioneers’ offense, they returned the ensuing punt 52 yards to give them field position at Sandy’s 26-yard line. The Spartans would later score on a 19-yard TD pass to Marist’s James Banks to give them a 14-0 advantage.

Later in the first quarter, another huge punt return (41 yards) gave the Spartans a short field to work with, as Smith and Walcott hooked up for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Smith’s most popular target, Walcott, has been a terror for defensive backs to cover. Walcott has making the best defenders look silly with his 921 yards and 14 TDs in the regular season.

The second quarter is when the game got out of hand, as indicated by the first play being an interception to Marist’s Walcott (his second of the game). Smith and wide receiver Austin Baird would connect on a 33-yard pass for a Marist touchdown. The extra point was unsuccessful, bringing the score to 27-0 Spartans. Marist would score three more times in the second quarter.  The first one came on a 6-yard touchdown run by Banks.  The second one came on a 29-yard pass to Josh Paiement.  The third time around happened on a 9-yard touchdown reception by Baird, his second of the half.  The Spartans’ 47-0 lead at halftime matched that of their previous game against Summit, which they had won 53-8.

The second half featured far fewer big plays, as both teams worked to run out the clock and end the game. With about three minutes remaining, Adams and junior receiver Blake Robinson connected on a 65-yard bomb to give Sandy its lone score on Friday. With the victory, Marist advances to round two to face the winner of 7-3 Corvallis and 8-2 Wilsonville.

After the game, head coach Frank Geske talked about Marist’s next game.

“They’re (Corvallis and Wilsonville) both good teams,” said Geske. “They can turn the field on you. We need a good week of practice.”

The Spartans’ closest game of the season came in week one when they defeated the Corvallis Spartans 16-14 in a game decided by turnovers. Both teams’ quarterbacks threw three interceptions in the game, but Marist was able to take advantage of Corvallis’ mistakes for another score.

Marist did not face Wilsonville this season whose two losses are an 8-point game to Lebanon and a 5-point loss to Sherwood, both home games. When asked about next week’s game, Walcott said the team will be ready.

“We have a week to get ready,” he claimed. “We have a good team and we can go a long way.”

The second round of the 5A OSAA football playoffs continues next Friday with the winner advancing to the semifinals.

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