POLO – After a 40-14 blowout win over East Dubuque, it was hard to tell what was more satisfying to the Polo Marcos – beating their opponents, or proving the doubters wrong.
“The newspaper said East Dubuque was supposed to go 9-0 and beat us,” Polo running back Kevin Cheeseman said. “But, we smacked them in the mouth.”
“That was motivation for our kids. We want to be in the top tier of the conference,” Polo coach Andrew Hofer said. “Looking in their eyes before the game, I could tell we were ready.”
Ready, they were.
Using a stable of five different runners, Polo started the game by marching 72 yards on nine plays for an easy score. Cheeseman crashed over from 3 yards out.
Both of East Dubuque’s first two possessions resulted in three-and-outs, and Polo made it 14-0 early in the second quarter on a 19-yard pass from Brody Grobe to Brad Cavanaugh. A 40-yard punt return by Brooks Grobe set up the score.
“What impresses me is the athleticism and team speed Polo has,” said EPC coach Randy Asche, who was scouting the weather-delayed contest. “It’s a pretty tight unit playing like they’re friends.”
“We have been together with each other for so long. We are friends,” said lineman Ethan Cain, one of a multitude of juniors making an impact.
The speedy Cavanaugh upped the advantage to 20-0 on Polo’s next possession on a 65-yard pitch sweep, and the rout was on. Alec Monahan, a 6-3, 210-pound linebacker, had Cavanaugh collared at the sideline, but like both an escape and tightrope artist, Cavanaugh broke free and outran the rest of the defense down the sideline.
“We didn’t play well coming off the bus,” said ED coach Terry Breitbach, refusing to make excuses for his team having to make a return 160-mile round trip to play on Saturday. “We were letting Polo dictate all phases of the game in the first half.”
Following two consectutive penalized hits to the head by Polo defenders and a 32-yard run by Monahan, the Warriors had a first and goal. The Marco defense rose up, making both a stop and statement.
“They are very quick on defense,” Breitbach said. “This is an excellent team that will challenge for the conference.”
Brody Grobe promptly led his team on a 90-yard drive, and looked to make it 26-0 just before halftime, but Cheeseman fumbled the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
Monahan cut the lead to 20-7 on a 48-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Grobe and Cavanaugh put it back to a three-score game a few plays later on a 5-yard scoring pass.
Another Monahan touchdown closed the gap to 26-14 midway through the third quarter, but on the ensuing kickoff, Cavanaugh went 95 yards off a Grobe reverse for a 32-14 Polo lead.
“We had the wall set up, and I shot the gap and took off,” said Cavanaugh, who had more than 200 all-purpose yards.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brooks Grobe stripped an ED receiver, and Polo was on its way to another score. Cheeseman went over from 2 yards out for the final margin of victory.
Richie Bartnick then had an interception, and the Marcos nearly scored again before time expired.
“We have a lot of athletes,” Hofer said. “When you spread them around as much as we do, you’re bound to make big plays.”
Polo 40, East Dubuque 14
Star of the game: Brad Cavanaugh, Polo, 2 TD receptions, TD run, kickoff return TD
Key performers: Kevin Cheeseman, Polo, 2 TD runs; Alec Monahan, ED, 2 TDs
Up next: Polo at AFC, 7:30 p.m. Friday