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Tritons outlast Bulldogs, 29-20
October 6, 2017

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Both Mariner and Ida Baker had things to be happy about, and to be unhappy about, when Friday night's game ended

The Tritons (2-2) jumped out to a big early lead, then did enough to hold that lead for a 29-20 win against the Bulldogs.

"A win's a win," Mariner coach Travis Smith said. "We've got to be better. We'll take it, but we've got to get better for sure."

As for the Bulldogs, they still don't have a win (0-5). But they do have reason for optimism after battling back from a big early deficit to make Mariner work for its homecoming victory.

"They fought, they came back," first-year Ida Baker coach Todd Nichols said.

"They got shell-shocked. The last three games, they'd gotten to a point where they believed that bad things were going to happen. Tonight they started to think we can fight through this."

On Mariner's first offensive play, Jaiden Critten raced for 48 yards and a TD. Rashawn Hunter added a two-point conversion for a 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.

Hunter, playing both ways, picked off a Chris Kovacs and returned it for another touchdown. With his second two-point run, Hunter and the Tritons were up 16-0 with 6:43 in the first quarter.

"That's two weeks in a row the defense has helped us with a score," Smith said.

Ida Baker had problems with its punting game early, and Mariner took full advantage. A short punt set up Critten's TD run, and another punting miscue led to Kibler's field goal.

Then the secondary, which had already put a touchdown on the board, got Mariner going again. Anthony Arsenault intercepted an Evan Hubbard pass to set up a short drive, capped by Zachary Parker's 1-yard run.

Then Shomari Mason jump-started the Ida Baker offense.

Down 26-0 with 3:37 left in the first half, Mason ignited the Bulldogs with a 79-yard kickoff return to the Mariner 13. Two plays later, Hubbard hit Tommy Morrell for a 13-yard touchdown.

Ida Baker pulled off a successful onside kick. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, the Bulldogs advanced quickly down the field before Hubbard passed to Mason for a 21-yard score.

In less than a minute, the Bulldogs had sliced 14 points off the Tritons' margin.

"That's what we can't do," Smith said. "If we get somebody down, we can't let them get back up and give them the opporunity to get back in the ball game.

"I give coach Nichols credit. He's doing a good job with those kids. That's a tough row to hoe when you're coming in new. He's getting those kids riled up, so I give him credit."

Nichols said, "We got down in a hole with turnovers and big plays. We dig those holes and we have to claw to get out. Shomari is one of those players who can ignite us and give us a little spark, and we've got to have that."

Kovacs, who split time at quarterback with Hubbard, connected with Patrick McCabe on a 20-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. That brought the Bulldogs within 29-20, which is where they would stay despite making two more trips into Mariner territory before the night ended.

Between the two Ida Baker quarterbacks, the Bulldogs gained 209 yards in the air. On the ground, meanwhile, Ida Baker netted fewer than 40 yards.

The Tritons' defense, while giving up three touchdown passes, held up its end. Mariner intercepted four Baker passes, including Hunter's return for six points, and recovered a fumble.

"The defense did an outstanding job," Smith said. "We got beat a few times in the secondary. We had trouble adjusting. That's just youth."

For Ida Baker, living by the pass also meant dying by the pass. Four interceptions were too much to overcome.

Meanwhile, the Ida Baker defense, after falling behind 26-0 (eight of those points weren't the defense's fault), allowed only a 22-yard Kibler field goal the rest of the way.

Mariner's bread and butter, the running game, slowed down after a spectcular start. The majority of the Tritons' 252 yards on the ground came in the early going when Mariner built its 26-0 lead.

Mistakes kept more points from lighting up Mariner's side of the scoreboard.

A Mariner 22-yard Christian Butz to Elijah Butz touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty. In the final moments of the game, Mariner was turned back from inside the Ida Baker 2, and wound up with nothing after a missed field goal.

"We left 14 points on the board," Smith said. "We can't do that in the games we've got coming up.

"Our O-line's got to get better. We're banged up right now. These kids have to step up and do the job."

Critten led Mariner in rushing with 92 yards on 18 carries, while Christian Butz gained 87 yards on nine attempts.

"We're banged up," Smith said. "We're playing one of our slots at quarterback right now (Hunter). Christian came out and did a heck of a job. He rose to the occasion and he played well."

Both sides caused too many yellow flags to fly. Ida Baker had 84 yards in penalties, and the Tritons had 75.

"They're getting better," Smith said. "Every day they're learning. Right now it's progress just to get to a process.

"We're getting there."

IDA BAKER 0 14 0 6 20

MARINER 19 7 3 0 29

1st quarter

M: Jaiden Critten 48 run. Rashawn Hunter conversion run. 10:50.

M: Hunter 61 interception return. Hunter conversion run. 6:43.

M: Andrew Kibler FG 30. 2:23

2nd quarter

M: Zachary Parker 1 run. Kibler kick. 3:37.

IB: Tommy Morrell 13 pass from Evan Hubbard. Michael Sheehan kick. 3:10

IB: Shomari Mason 21 pass from Hubbard. Sheehan kick. 2:44.

3rd quarter

M: Kibler FG 22. 1:42.

4th quarter

IB: Patrick McCabe 20 pass from Chris Kovacs. Conversion failed. 11:53.

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