The biggest thing the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team needs is time and game experience to get comfortable in a brand new offense under first-year TMP coach David Bowen.
Unfortunately for the Monarchs, Smith Center wasn’t the ideal season-opening opponent to work out the kinks against.
The Redmen's staunch defense smothered TMP from start to finish, holding TMP to just two first downs in a 45-0 rout in Friday night’s opener at Lewis Field Stadium.
The Monarchs, making the transition from a spread offense to the triple option, struggled mightily to gain positive yardage against Smith Center, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A after winning the Class 2-1A state title last year.
“Nobody in the world can learn the triple option in a month,” Bowen said. “It takes some time.
“We need to have our team ready and I believe we were. As soon as it got going the other way, I think we kind of fell apart. That’s part of being a young team. We have to grow together and stay positive and work forward.”
While the Monarchs are trying to make the adjustment to smash-mouth football, the Redmen have already perfected that concept with their patented wishbone offense. They gashed TMP for 269 yards on the ground.
“They want to get three yards in a cloud of dust, we want to get three yards in a cloud of dust,” Bowen said. “I tried to tell my guys at halftime, ‘If you would just buy into this. They’re doing the same thing we’re trying to do and they’re beating us 30-zip right now.’
“These guys have been throwing the ball around the last five, six years here. It’s a big mentality change.”
TMP totaled 12 yards of offense as Smith Center swarmed to every ball carrier.
“Really happy with our defense, that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” Smith Center coach Darren Sasse said. “I thought those guys played really well.
“Offensively we did a lot of good things, too. Some first-game mistakes and mistakes with new guys plugging in some holes, but we got a game under our belt and we’ll watch film and improve.”
After seeing a kickoff return for a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty, Smith Center opened the game on an eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped off by a 25-yard touchdown run from Ethan Peterson. The Redmen then tacked on a safety after a botched TMP snap in the end zone.
Smith Center pushed its lead to 16-0 on a 1-yard plunge from Aaron Moss late in the first quarter and added a 29-yard touchdown run from Peterson and a 13-yard TD from Colby Benoit in the second frame.
“When these young boys get down on themselves, that’s half the battle right there, just staying in it,” Bowen said.
Benoit had a 1-yard TD and Colton Shoemaker scored from three yards out for the Redmen in the third quarter. The fourth frame was played under a running clock.
Peterson led Smith Center with 111 yards on 13 carries with two scores.
Seniors Kaleb Hagans and Alex Schwartz were the only two Monarchs to finish with positive yardage. Hagans had nine yards on seven carries while Schwartz managed nine yards on five attempts. TMP couldn’t get anything going through the air, with junior quarterback Carson Jacobs going 0-for-6 passing.
The defensive highlight for the Monarchs was a fumble recovery by Grant Ginther in the second quarter.
TMP will play host to Ellis next Friday.
“We’re going to watch film in the morning,” Bowen said. “We’re going to run a little bit and we’re going to learn a lot. Next week when we play Ellis, I hope that we’ll look like a better team out there.”