AURORA – Muddy matinees make Marmion's Mike Montalbano merry.
He appreciates the pageantry of Friday night football, but still can't help grinning about days like Saturday.
Playing bruiser on both sides of the ball, Montalbano sported a blade of grass on his cheek to go with his smile after Marmion's season-opening 25-7 victory against Plainfield Central. Itching to go after lightning postponed Friday's kickoff, the senior running back/linebacker's teammates happily followed.
"I don't know about anybody else, but I like playing in the rain," Montalbano said. "Obviously, I think playing Friday night's a lot better, the atmosphere and everything, but today was just a great team effort. We hit hard. We were fast, you know. Did what we needed to do to get the win."
It started and finished with the ground game. Marmion rushed for 397 yards – including 173 on 19 carries in the first quarter – while limiting the Wildcats to 42 rushing yards and 107 yards of total offense.
Playing behind an offensive line breaking in three new starters and with a backfield missing Jordan Glasgow to a high ankle sprain, the Cadets simply shrugged everything off – Wildcats tacklers included.
Marmion stormed to a 4-play, 74-yard scoring drive in 57 seconds on the opening possession, capping it with Montalbano's 13-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Brock Krueger scored on a 2-yard keeper less than three minutes later, as the Cadets capitalized on Plainfield Central quarterback Tim Smiles' fumble.
The first half featured seven combined turnovers. Marmion was guilty of three, including a fumble and interception inside the Wildcats' 10-yard line.
For as much as the front five of Oscar Garza, Zach Siwiec, Andy Matthews, Luke Juriga and Tim Clohecy composed itself, the Cadets still weren't too miffed about mistakes that likely would have swelled the halftime score to better than 14-7 in their favor.
"I feel like a good team knows how to finish at the end," said Garza, a senior left tackle and returning starter with Juriga. "We got the job done, I'm just proud of that. I'm not really going to get down too big on things like that."
The Cadets intercepted Smiles and backup Matt Gurke six times in the game. Gurke entered early in the third quarter when Smiles twisted his right knee while escaping the pocket and was held out for precautionary reasons.
Junior defensive back Noel Abraham – who missed last season with a shoulder injury – snagged three of the interceptions, a feat Cadets coach Dan Thorpe called an unofficial school record.
"Just right place, right time," Abraham said. "Everyone did their assignments. The QB just made a couple bad decisions."
Marmion knows it got away with a few gaffes of its own. The Cadets threatened to break the game open in the third quarter, but twice turned the ball over on downs deep in Wildcats territory.
A Joe Talbot safety helped soothe the frustration of one of those near-misses.
Talbot also was part of the rotation on the offensive line, as Cadets coaches kept alignments fresh. The constants: guards who can run and hit and backs adept at down blocking.
Montalbano (152 yards, one touchdown), Lucas Warren (89 yards, one touchdown) and Josh Meyers (71 yards) brought everything back to the O-line.
"We're a pretty big line. We're decent," Garza said. "We're really good at communicating, so that makes us good. So we know what to do. We know our plays."
On a day made for tough mudders, it all added up.
MARMION 25, PLAINFIELD CENTRAL 7
Plainfield C. 0 7 0 0 – 7 Marmion 14 0 2 9 – 25
HOW THEY SCORED
M – Montalbano 13 run (kick failed), 11:03 M – Krueger 2 run (Montalbano run), 8:10
P – Rios-Sterr 21 pass from Smiles (Latarewicz kick), 7:36
M – Talbot safety, 6:06
M – Warren 3 run (run failed), 11:55 M – DeMoss 28 field goal, 6:29
RUSHING – Plainfield Central: Rios-Sterr 9-14, Aikins 7-8, Smiles 7-7, Thigpen 1-6, Gurke 3-4, Rech 3-3. Totals: 30-42. Marmion: Montalbano 8-152, Warren 13-89, Meyers 8-71, Olabi 12-29, Krueger 12-24, Campbell 2-11, Breen 1-10, Joyce 3-7, Feltz 3-4. Totals: 57.
PASSING – Plainfield Central: Smiles 3-6-59-1-3, Gurke 1-7-6-0-3. Marmion: Krueger 4-14-54-0-1.
RECEIVING – Plainfield Central: Allen 1-20, Rech 1-20, Thigpen 1-19, Montgomery 1-6. Totals: 4-65. Marmion: Sevenich 2-36, Bacorn 1-9, Eberth 1-9. Totals: 4-45.
TOTAL OFFENSE – Marmion 442, Plainfield Central 107.