West Allis - After two nail-biters to open the season, West Allis Hale football coach Brandon Ehret wouldn't have minded a Friday night that went a little easier on the nerves.
Of course, getting the team's first victory in the Greater Metro Conference was the goal, regardless of the stress level.
The Huskies, however, instead ran into a determined Marquette squad that pitched a 25-0 shutout and stifled quarterback Nick Sotiros in a GMC contest on Friday night at the West Allis Athletic Field.
Corralling the quarterback
The senior had averaged more than 200 yards and 14 completions in his first two games of the season, but against the Hilltoppers, Sotiros completed just eight of 21 passes for 78 yards and one interception.
"It was a combination of the pressure, because they were forcing him out of the pocket, and some of our kids had drops," Ehret said. "Against good teams like this, you can't afford to have those types of mistakes."
Hale (1-2, 0-2) was hampered by offensive miscues most of the night, especially at critical junctures of the game.
After linebackers Alex Schwab and Mitch Chevremont stuffed Marquette running back Alex Klestinski on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the first quarter, the Huskies gave up a safety on the next play.
Marquette (1-2, 1-1) extended its lead late in the second quarter when quarterback Charlie Greif connected with Andy Krueger for a 17-yard touchdown.
Down 9-0 at halftime, Hale was well within striking distance, but went three-and-out to open the third quarter.
"It just seemed like we were off and couldn't get a flow going," Ehret said. "We'd have a few plays here and there and we just couldn't get some momentum going."
The Hilltoppers took advantage and drove 50 yards on 11 plays on their first possession of the second half, capped by a 6-yard touchdown strike from Greif to tight end TJ Novotny.
Hale again had two opportunities to shift momentum in the third quarter, but was unable to capitalize on either.
Senior defensive back Richard Magray recovered a Marquette fumble late in the third quarter, only to see the Huskies give it right back on the next play when running back Zach Smith was stripped on an option play.
On the ensuing offensive series by Marquette, Schwab picked off a Greif pass and returned it 40 yards to put Hale near midfield.
The drive stalled at the Marquette 41-yard line and Sotiros came up a yard short of picking up the first down after a 10-yard scramble.
Marquette head coach Jeff Mazurczak credited his team's ability to make the most of its opportunities while holding the Hale offense in check after turnovers.
"The momentum swung very quickly in this game from that goal-line stand that they had to the safety we put up to the interception and the fumble transition," Mazurczak said. "I think our defense kept us strong this game and gave the offense opportunities to get their feet under them."
Greif, in just his second start at quarterback, went 19-for-34 for 251 yards and three touchdowns, the last a 32-yard strike to Krueger late in the fourth quarter.
Visiting unbeaten team
The Huskies now visit unbeaten Sussex Hamilton at 7 p.m. Sept. 14. The Chargers improved to 3-0 with a 38-21 triumph over Brookfield Central on Friday. Running back Drew Patterson collected four touchdowns to lead the Hamilton effort.
Ehret hopes his team can rebound after what he said was a lackluster week of practice leading up to the Marquette game.
"We've got to understand that in the GMC, you can't take anything for granted," Ehret said. "These last couple of weeks we've had some recognition, right, wrong or indifferent. But we've got to do a better job of preparing ourselves to play."
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